When I was a kid there was an old man called Mr Kelly who used to live at the top of the street. He spent most of his time in his garage cutting large reams of paper into smaller pieces of paper, mostly A3, A4 and A5 sizes. We never knew what he did with the paper but every afternoon after school he would let us look at him cutting the paper and any pieces he had left over he would hand to us and tell us to draw something or write a story and whoever wrote the best story or drew the best picture would get a prize off him.
I was never any good at drawing so I used to take the paper home with me and sit at the kitchen table, writing stories. I never won a prize from Mr Kelly. In fact I don’t think any of us ever did but I don’t think that was Mr Kelly’s intention. To give the local kids prizes. I think he really wanted us to all use our imagination. To imagine a world outside the smog filled streets and avenues we lived on with every third house having a father unemployed.
I can’t remember when Mr Kelly died but I know he did because after he died his family sold the house and moved to another part of the city. His old cutting presses where left on the street for collection but no one ever came to collect them and after six months the council came with a truck and took them away. Most likely to dump them in the city landfill.
Another thing I noticed about Mr Kelly was that he called all of us by our first names. Even though he knew our surnames name he never used them. It was always Jack or Paul or Raymond or Anthony. Never our surnames. That always struck me as strange because in school we were all addressed by our surnames.
It was only when I was moving home myself and clearing up my bedroom that I came across something that I had written on some of the paper that Mr Kelly had given me. I had called the story Mr Kelly’s Job and had written how he spent his day cutting paper into different sizes so that others could write on the paper. I had signed it and put my age in the bottom right hand corner. Twenty five years later I have the same story framed in my hallway of my home and most people who visit the apartment don’t notice it. Just as most people didn’t notice Mr Kelly.
But occasionally someone will notice it, usually friends of my children, read it and ask about Mr Kelly. Who was he and why did he give paper away for free. I usually tell them the same thing. I don’t know why Mr Kelly gave paper away for free but I have paper too if you’d like to write or draw something and who knows you might right a classic or draw a masterpiece. It’s always handy to have paper in your home.