Excerpt from A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Long Way Down

By Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down

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I'm not sitting here now because I suddenly saw sense. The reason I'm sitting here now is because that night turned into as much of a mess as everything else. I couldn't even jump off a fucking tower block without fucking it up.


MAUREEN

On New Year's Eve the nursing home sent their ambulance round for him. You had to pay extra for that, but I didn't mind. How could I? In the end, Matty was going to cost them a lot more than they were costing me. I was only paying for a night, and they were going to pay for the rest of his life.

I thought about hiding some of Matty's stuff, in case they thought it was odd, but no one had to know it was his. I could have had loads of kids, as far as they knew, so I left it there. They came around six, and these two young fellas wheeled him out. I couldn't cry when he went, because then the young fellas would know something was wrong; as far as they knew, I was coming to fetch him at eleven the next morning. I just kissed him on the top of his head and told him to be good at the home, and I held it all in until I'd seen them leave. Then I wept and wept, for about an hour. He'd ruined my life, but he was still my son, and I was never going to see him again, and I couldn't even say goodbye properly. I watched the television for a while, and I did have one or two glasses of sherry, because I knew it would be cold out.

I waited at the bus stop for ten minutes, but then I decided to walk. Knowing that you want to die makes you less scared. I wouldn't have dreamed of walking all that way late at night, especially when the streets are full of drunks, but what did it matter now? Although then, of course, I found myself worrying about being attacked but not murdered - left for dead without actually being dying. Because then I'd be taken to hospital, and they'd find out who I was, and they'd find out about Matty, and all those months of planning would have been a complete waste of time, and I'd come out of hospital owing the home thousands of pounds, and where was I going to find that? But no one attacked me. A couple of people wished me a Happy New Year, but that was about all. There isn't so much to be afraid of, out there. I can remember thinking it was a funny time to find that out, on the last night of my life; I'd spent the rest of it being afraid of everything.

I'd never been to Topper's House before. I'd just been past it on the bus once or twice. I didn't even know for sure that you could get onto the roof any more, but the door was open, and I just walked up the stairs until I couldn't walk any further. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that you couldn't just jump off whenever you felt like it, but the moment I saw it I realised that they wouldn't let you do that. They'd put this wire up, way up high, and there were curved railings with spikes on the top...well, that's when I began to panic. I'm not tall, and I'm not very strong, and I'm not as young as I was. I couldn't see how I was going to get over the top of it all, and it had to be that night, because of Matty being in the home and everything. And I started to go through all the other options, but none of them were any good. I didn't want to do it in my own front room, where someone I knew would find me. I wanted to be found by a stranger. And I didn't want to jump in front of a train, because I'd seen a programme on the television about the poor drivers and how suicides upset them. And I didn't have a car, so I couldn't drive off to a quiet spot and breathe in the exhaust fumes….

Copyright Nick Hornby 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced by the permission of Putnam Publishing. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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