1980’s Newspaper Round

This is an excerpt from the memoir I started writing last year. This particular vignette is set in the early eighties…

The boy was about thirteen when he started his early morning paper round. He’d creep out of the house when it was still dark and deliver newspapers seven days a week to the wealthy residents of Hutton Mount. When the AIDS crises hit, he knew all about it from the headlines in the Daily Mail or The Sun. ‘Britain Threatened by Gay Virus Plague’, ‘My Doomed Son’s Gay Plague Agony’, ‘AIDS is the wrath of God, says Vicar.’ The centre-spreads were a gorge-fest of photographs showing AIDS patients looking skeletal, covered in the skin lesions of Kaposi sarcoma. Attending hospital staff and ambulance workers wore protective suits and giant helmets with visors, like astronauts in space. He would burn with shame delivering those newspapers, and would shove them through the letter box like he was shoving through a big, dirty secret about himself. He had more of an inkling that ‘gay’ had something to do with those wet dreams he was having about Tarzan in his leopard skin loin cloth swinging through the jungle. But what he couldn’t quite figure out was what those photographs of young men ravaged with AIDS had to do with him squirting his stuff in the middle of the night. What did that deadly virus have to do with Tarzan beating his hairy chest with his fists and releasing an almighty, ululating yell before swinging so heroically on those hanging vines? Still, his Gran reckoned she’d figured it out. To her it was simple. AIDS was God’s punishment. For queers going against God.



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