I think I forgot what half believe meant when I got old. As a kid I would tape bits of motor and other junk from Dad's shed to a cardboard box. Then I'd sneak a big old battery with wobbly spring contacts out and connect everything up. Thing is, it was real stuff not toys, so when I sat in the box, Dan Dare off to battle the Mekon I half believed something would really happen. Never did.
One day, Mr. Price from next door saw me at it. He leaned over the fence and sneered.
'That's a waste of time. Do something that's really fun, go and stare into shadows in your garden at midnight, then you'll see. Bright boy like you. You've got young eyes. What I'd give for young eyes.'
I ignored him. I wasn't supposed to talk to him. Dad said he was a weirdo. He did that spiritualism.
I don't think Mr. Price liked being ignored.
'Don't know why I bother. You and your family. I tell you something useful. Presents for peasants, pearls before swine.'
I went on ignoring him.
Except, one day.
My little sister, Jane, had annoyed me all morning. I went out to play tennis against the wall on my own, but she followed me.
'Can I play?'
'Can I play'
And so on, with her trying to grab the ball every so often. The previous day she'd been spoiled rotten with her new dress and shoes for a party and it was all Jane this and Jane that with no time at all for me. As I wacked the ball and she grabbed at it, a tight little knot of anger grew inside me. Right then I heard a familiar sarcastic voice.
'Are you counting, boy? It's important to count. There's power there, boy. There's power in numbers.'
I don't know why, but for once I half believed him and I began to count. At which point Jane dodged in and caught the ball. She stood there, all smiles and the knot inside me exploded. My hand shot out, fingers splayed.
I screamed, 'Four, four, four, four!'
The colour drained from her face. She ran.
'Now you've done it, boy.'
Jane died four days later. There was disbelief, guilt, confusion and pain beyond endurance. I remember little of the aftermath, and not much of Jane really. When I see a photo of her the picture is familiar but the person is not. For good or bad we leave a lot of our childhood behind us.
Except just now.
I worked all night on this presentation, and Beth, my own darling daughter, crept in as quiet as a mouse and sneaked onto my laptop while I studied some papers. When I looked up she had deleted my spreadsheet and was drawing a picture and somehow I muttered, 'Four, four, four, four'.
And now I hold her close and I only half believe that my tears will help.