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  • Writer's pictureEric Rushton

Paper Boy

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Woke up in the middle of the night with anxiety coursing through me precious little veins. Fair play to me.

Anxiety is a weird feeling, init? It was about 4:30 am and I suddenly became wide awake and started worrying that I’m a terrible person who has no future to look forward to and that everyone will realise I’m a little bitch and I’ll be left to spend my remaining years alone until eventually I die of food-poisoning because I’ll no longer have the self-respect to cook meat all the way through.

Good stuff.

I felt proper panicky. Then a random memory entered my brain that made me feel even worse. It was a memory of when I was 13 years old. I have no idea how it came into my head. I guess our brains are always kind of on shuffle mode and occasionally the brain chucks out a memory from ages ago, and you’re like, “Shit, I forgot I even had this on the playlist.”

The memory that was blasting through my skull was from when I was a Paper Boy. Not a boy made of out paper -- laugh my fucking ass off – no, I mean a boy that delivered newspapers. Newspapers, back in the day, were primitive forms of news-websites. People would read them to stay informed and entertained. Like news-websites, the contents on the papers were often influenced by the economic interests of the people in charge of the papers. However, due to their physical limitations, these newspapers weren’t quite as sophisticated as modern news-websites when it came to harvesting people’s data and using social media to radicalise their readers precisely when they’re most vulnerable.

Bit annoying. Maybe if I was placing more demagogues in power when I was delivering the Stone Post then I wouldn’t feel so terrible now. Or maybe I’d feel like a worse person. Dunno. The agenda of the owners of the Stone Post just seemed to be to advertise Car Dealerships. It was basically a car-magazine with the odd story of a local-murder sprinkled in-between. Almost like the murders were the advertisements. “Hey, we know you’re enjoying reading about cars right now, but have you ever thought about murdering someone in your local area? There are hot, single mums nearby, and YOU could be killing them too.”

Anyway, being a Paper Boy was my first job. Because these papers were physical rather than online, one of the best ways for the companies to distribute them was via a large network of children working for below the minimum wage. As little child slaves, we got paid £10 a week to deliver around 300 papers. It would take me around 5 hours to deliver the papers, which brought me a sweet sweet £2 an hour, but I didn’t care because I had my own money and I felt like a man. If I wanted to, I could buy an Xbox game once a month. Maybe I could even ask a girl out to McDonald’s or something, although I never did because girls have cooties. Yuck.

I was well pleased to have a job, and it was the first time I felt cool. It must’ve shown, because my younger brother Danny would always ask to come with me to deliver the papers. Danny is 5 years younger than me, so if my maths is right, and you bet your ass that it is, then he would’ve been 8 at the time. He was a nice little fella and he just wanted to hang out with his older brother.

But I said no. Every time.

We all bullied Danny. I’m one of 8 siblings in my family and Danny was the youngest. So, it was a rite of passage that he got bullied. I was the second youngest and all my older siblings bullied me. It’s just how it worked. One of my brothers called me Smellic, because my name’s Eric and I smelled. The Rushton’s have always been good at wordplay.

So, of course I wasn’t gonna allow Danny to come with me to my super cool child-exploiting job. I had to maintain the hierarchy. I was already second-bottom of the league table, who knows what would’ve happened if I had started forming a bond with the only person ranked below me.

Then one day, Danny followed me.

I was midway through my route, just going through the motions like the blokey labourer I was, an overworked 13-year-old that gets no respect and whose wife no longer fucks him, and then suddenly I turn around and Danny’s there.

“Hey,” he said. “Can I help?”

I ignored him.

“How’s it going today?” he asked.

I carried on ignoring him.

I didn’t want him there. This was my thing. So, I decided to give him the silent treatment. And so, for the next half-hour he followed me round and I didn’t reply to anything he said. How mental is that?

Then he went home, and I carried on. I delivered the rest of the papers by myself, despite the fact that it would’ve actually been very useful to have had some help.

I haven’t thought about this for 11 years but when I was writhing in my bed at 4:30 am last night, I couldn’t get over how psychopathic that behaviour was. All he wanted to do was help. He didn’t even want any money. And I just ignored him, like he was someone I accidentally swiped right on on Tinder. But he wasn’t a 51-year-old woman from Coventry, he was my own flesh and blood. And he just had to walk back home alone after trying to do something nice. And he probably cried. Let’s be honest, he probably cried his little 8-year-old eyes out.

And I cried about it last night. Probably sounds mental but I did. What was I playing at? He was already bottom of the league table of siblings and I could’ve bonded with him. I knew what it was like to be one of the younger ones; I should’ve had more empathy. I keep thinking about how I wish I could go back to when I was 13 and be kinder. I could’ve said, “Yes Danny, you take 150 papers, I’ll take 150 and let’s be best buds and I promise not to be a dickhead ever again.”

I dunno.

I feel sad as well as anxious.

I know what I should’ve done in that situation now, but what about the current situations I’m fucking up? I’m probably doing stuff right now that will make me anxious in the future and make me wake up in the middle of the night. I think that’s what’s getting to me. I won’t know until it’s too late. Life is just constantly trying to make up for the prick you were in the past.

I suppose I’ll figure it out. I don’t really have a conclusion or an ending. I still feel anxious and thought it would be good to write while I still feel like this, while I feel like a little fragile boy made out of paper, ready to blow away at any moment.

I should probs try get some sleep.


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