Tam! Tam! What the fuck are you
I opened the window wider to to get a
better view of Tam taking another run towards his car. Thud! He hammered into
it, full speed.
Tam! I shouted down
He looked up at me from the wet, dark
tarmac: Awright Ritchie, how you doing?
He waved up at me from down there, a
surprised smile on his face.
Aye, fine and dandy, he
replied picking himself up, walking away from the car. He was gearing himself
up for another run. I just sat there, elbows on the windowsill and watched.
Id known Tam for many years. No idea how old he was but he looked late
50s. Coming from this area though, he could have been in his 30s. Time worked
fast on the features around here.
He did it again. Full speed run, right
into the back of his car. Thwack! He bounced off it. Not like a rubber ball
coming back off a wall, not as graceful as that. It was more like if you threw
a cricket ball against a brick wall. It just hits hard and drops flat. I
watched him pick himself up again, ready to have another go. He hadnt,
but Id had enough.
Wait there Tam! Im coming
I put my shoes and coat on and jogged
down the stairs just in time to see him at the start of his next demented run
up, scraping one foot on the ground, like a skinny, upright bull.
Tam, Tam, stop!
I ran over to him and grabbed a hold
of his arm before he could unleash the energy he had been building up in that
What the fuck are you up? Are
He just looked at me and broke into a
smile: Told ye Ritchie, fine and dandy. Im glad you came. You could
be about to witness something remarkable. Youre witnessing an experiment
in full flight.
He started scraping his foot again,
building up the kinetic energy for another bodily assault on the
An experiment? What do you mean
The foot stopped scraping; he turned
to me again, stood upright. Sighed.
Aye, an experiment. You know, a
scientific experiment. I was watching this programme on the telly last
night about how the universe started and how it will end all that kind of
stuff. Not usually my thing but there was one bit that really got
He told me how the presenter had been
explaining that matter, the stuff that stuff is made up of, doesnt really
exist - its all just energy. Not in the hippy sense where we are all just
one energy wave and we should love each other and learn to be one. Tam was
clear on that: None of that hippy shite - this is science ma boy. Proper
According to the presenter as relayed
by Tam on a grey, damp day in a neglected corner of Glasgow, every time
scientists try to look for the basic building block of matter, the thing that
is total substance, all they find is a nucleus surrounded by energy. When they
look into that nucleus, they find another nucleus surrounded by energy. And so
on and so on. No matter how deep down into particles they go, says
presenter/Tam, they find the same thing - all particles are mainly energy. That
was gist of it.
So you see, said Tam
starting to assume the crouched position again, scraping that foot.
Im conducting an
experiment to prove what the scientist fella was saying last night. Living
science! If he is telling the truth, I should just be able to mix my energy
with the energy of my wee Fiat Punto over there. Nothing is solid, all energy
And with that he was off again. It
took a wee while to get some speed up but just before he rattled into the back
of the car again, he was at full pelt. Smack! Right into it. No pulling back at
the last minute, no hedging his bets. He hit the car with total
He was on the deck, again. I ran over
to him, offered him a hand and pulled him to his feet.
Tam, you need to stop this,
youre going to do yourself an injury. Is it not sore?
Aye, course it is. Ive just ran into a fucking car, he
replied. But its OK, its not really pain. Its just the
energy that Im made up of smacking against the energy that the motor is
made of and they are bouncing off one another. It creates a friction and
its ma brain telling me its sore but it cant be. Its
Look, Tam. This is all very well
and Im all for people trying new things and stuff but youre
seriously going to do yourself an injury. Look, why dont you call it a
day, do a bit more research on this and get some rest?
He protested for a bit, had a wee
swear and a mutter to himself but finally agreed to go home to fine tune his
experimental approach. I watched him walk away towards his flat, hands in
pocket, occasionally scraping his foot backwards, like a bull, as if still
conducting his experiment in his head, finessing it as he went.
I didnt see Tam for the next few
days which was unusual. He was one of the guys in the area you would see
regularly - in the pub, coming out of the local shop, in the bookies, chatting
to a mate on a corner. He was like so many around here - older, unhealthy,
surplus to modern requirements. I would look at these old boys and wonder what
they were like when they were younger. I wondered if they had ever thought of a
life beyond here, beyond Glasgow. Or had they been born into a well-worn
groove, established by their fathers and their fathers before them. Work a
lifetime, be thankful for it and when you are done, kill the time while it
Tam fitted the groove well. Hed
been here since I arrived about 12 years ago. Its a long story and I
dont have the time or the patience to tell it just now but I had to start
a new life, a cheaper life and this place wasnt as bad as some others. It
would do for a while. 12 years and counting.
So, Tam. He was just one of the old
boys youd see out and about, nothing special about him at all. Nice
enough, usually quiet, didnt seem to have a wife or family, close
friends. Just a face on the streets. Ten a penny around here.
Since his wee bout of experimenting,
and his absence, I had been a bit worried. I thought maybe he had been taken
into care or that he had really done himself some damage. But he reappeared as
suddenly as he had disappeared. I was walking to the shops one day, down past
the park, when I saw someone taking a runner into the wrought iron fence that
circled the park. I knew it was Tam. I ran over.
Fucks sake Tam! You at it
Fresh from ramming himself into the
fence, Tam turned and looked at me, red-faced, determined looking.
Ritchie. I took your advice.
Ive been researching this stuff. Its all very interesting but it
wasnt getting me anywhere so I started to do my own thinking. You know, a
wee bit of experimental thought, let the mind run, see where it takes you. Stop
listening to others for a change, think for myself.
I read and re-read all the
theories about this matter thing and do ye know what? These scientist fellas
are just repeating each other. None of them has an original thought in their
head. All theyre doing is piggy-backing on someone elses hard work.
Just following the crowd, saying and doing the same things.
So I thought to myself, - here,
Tam, why dont you give some of this experimenting a go? Have a good old
think about it and see where that takes you?
And it brought you here,
smashing yourself into a fence?
Dont pretend youre
not intelligent boy, Tam replied. Youve got brains, I can see
that much. So engage a couple of those braincells and ask yourself, what am I
I didnt say it to him but as far
as I could see, Tam was here because hed lost it. Hed had enough
and had decided to go for a particularly painful and protracted way out.
Turning himself into a fleshy battering ram, looking for a way through it
Honestly, Tam, I havent
got the faintest clue beyond the fact that youre experimenting
Thats exactly right!
he replied triumphantly. Im experimenting and today, I intend to
break new ground because I, Tam Beattie, have figured out all by myself how to
sort this whole matter and energy issue. Its a matter of proportion. With
the car, the proportions were all wrong. Too little energy trying to join up
with too much energy. The resistance was obviously too strong.
But this, he said,
pointing towards the fence, will be different.
And with that, he turned his back on
the fence, took several big steps, stopped and spun round to face it
Tam, no. Dont do it
As I reached to grab his jacket, he
was off, building up speed as he had with the car experiment until finally he
was a full speed. And then BAM!, full faced into the fence. He remained
upright, briefly, before he crumpled to the ground. I ran up to him and
crouched beside him, touching his shoulder.
Tam, Tam. You
He didnt look up. Just mumbled
an irritated Aye! before he picked himself up off the ground,
again. As I helped him up, he looked at me. He looked a wee bit ashamed, like a
dog that has been caught eating something it shouldnt. But the
determination was still there too.
I dont understand it, just
dont understand it, he finally said, once again upright. It
should work. The car, its made up of too much energy, theres
too much of it for the energy of my body to merge properly. Thats why I
kept bouncing off it. But with the fence, theres not that
much of it. I should be able to go right through it. The speed and
the balance of energy should see me sail right through! I just dont
I managed to get Tam back to his flat,
persuading him that his experiment needed a bit more thought, more research. He
agreed, on the face of it. Then he turned to me, grabbed my arm.
Its all a matter of scale
Ritchie. This is about proportions and so far, Ive got them wrong. But
when I get them right, itll change everything. Well all see the
world differently when I get my experiments right. Tam Beattie, showing all
those scientists what its all really about. Theyve left the
breadcrumb trail but theyre stuck. Its up to me to find the way
through. Create the path for others to follow.
Its all about perception
my boy. That car and that fence, at the moment, they are barriers but soon they
will be no more barriers, none that are any more trouble than the air Im
breathing. Once Ive proved the concept, got the proportions right
The last time I saw Tam, he was a
changed man. He looked as rough as ever, particularly with the cuts and bruises
that decorated his face, but the enthusiasm flowed from him. I could feel it as
he rolled up the street towards me, all legs and arms.
Ive got it Ritchie,
he said, short of breath. No more smashing myself about anymore.
Ive been doing it all wrong, the wrong way about. He grabbed my
arm, to emphasise the point.
Good Tam, good. I dont
think you could take much more of that anyway, I said, nodding towards
his bruised left eye.
Right, so, anyway. Ive
been going about it all the wrong way. Ive been trying to get into it
but its the other way around, he said. Its not me
thats the problem, its everything else. Its no wonder I
cant get through things, that I cant integrate with them.
Theyre designed to be solid, hard, sore, to not let me be part of them so
theres a natural resistance that defies the logic. You
He was breathless and fidgety. He
touched his stomach several times and I noticed what looked like little
pinpricks on his hands.
Em. not really Tam but humour
me. Im listening.
Well thats the thing. I
cant tell you just yet. Im in the early stages of my experiment and
if I tell you what it is, youll think Im mental. So no, I
cant tell you what Im doing, but I can give you wee hint. See if
you can figure it out.
He told me that the theory of his
experiments was sound but that hed been approaching it from the wrong
Its not me into it,
its it into me, he said several times. Its not a
big bang but little stages, one by one and patience. Thats what will see
it through. Patience. And eventually, I will merge with the other energy and
once Ive done that, who knows what will happen?
Look Tam, I said,
whatever it is you are doing, just please take it easy. Youve
already done enough damage to yourself. I honestly admire the effort but
youre just a man - these are big ideas youre playing about with and
you know what they say, ideas are dangerous.
Thats exactly it.
Thats the FUCKING POINT!
He was suddenly screaming at me. His
face was contorted, angry, red and strained.
Of all the people, the one
person I thought would get it, get what Im trying to do and you are no
better than the rest. You stay here, in this shithole with all the other arses.
But Ive had enough. No more fucking bruises and cuts and picking myself
up of the ground. Ive had ENOUGH!
I tired to apologise but he
wasnt having it. He was off and I never saw him again.
They found him in his flat, dead,
about a month later. Been dead for a week. Apparently he was found in the
middle of the living room floor, on his back, star-shaped. I was told that the
autopsy showed he had died from some kind of poisoning, from metal. They found
over a thousand pins, your standard sewing needles, that kind of thing, in his
stomach, in his arms, his legs, his arse, everywhere they looked, they found
pins and needles. They said it must have taken him weeks of almost constant
self-pinning to get to that number and eventually his body just gave up trying
to fight these alien objects. Just gave up, he gave up.
I took a detour by his flat on the way
back from the funeral. His car was still there. The same one he had been
throwing himself against. I looked at the back of it and could see some small
dents which I assumed were created on that first day of
I touched one of the dents feeling
that cold metal against my soft flesh and for the first time I understood what
it was to feel two energies interact. I got a glimpse of what Tam meant. I
finally got a glimpse of Tam.