You Can Jump by Mat Coward – a review
. . .The only contact he had with people was when he shoved their heads down toilet bowls, and he couldn’t do that to the teachers.
As an adult, looking back, I understand that the reason everyone was frightened of Karl wasn’t because he growled but because we could all see where he was going and at some single-cell stratum of our evolved souls we were afraid that if he touched us, or looked at us, or got too near us, we’d have to go with him.
From the short story, If All Is Dark.
As a postscript to one of these stories Mat Coward explains how he set about writing short stories for themed anthologies during the initial years of the 21st century: I generally tried to make my stories fit into the theme as completely as possible in all aspects – the title, the setting, the plot, the jokes, the clues and twists, everything – and at the same time, just to add interest and emphasis, to find a way of making everything in the story work against the theme, too.
There are twelve stories collected here, introducing us to a passionate affair which remains unconsummated; a guy who created an entire religion based on chips; a military Captain and supporter of King Richard on the eve of the assassination of Mat Tyler. In addition there is a barman used by a world-weary policeman; a kind of detective called Doggo and his vile partner, Vincent; Rocket, a kid brought up in the back of a car; and very large Harry, a detective sergeant in the Metropolitan Police.
But the title story is the gem of the collection, in which Steve organises a reunion party for his old punk palls from the seventies. The narrator sets about trying to analyse what his experiences as a young man have meant in the totality of his life, leading to a calm, serene, moving and reflective piece of fiction:
Let me tell you about punk rock. For an exhilarating few months the kids controlled the music. The business, the media, they had no influence over what was happening. They recovered quickly, of course, and re-established the status-quo, and they learned from it – they determined never to let things get out of hand again.
They learned from it; but so did we.
“No future” was the big slogan back then, and it’s only taken me half a lifetime to figure out what it means. The future never arrives, and the past never departs, and what matters in between isn’t how you dance – it’s why you dance. And the day you realise that, is the day you go punk.
We’re still out there, us old punk rockers. We don’t bother with the safety pins any more, or the bondage trousers, or the gobbing. But you’ll know us when you see us. We’re the ones jumping up and down.