Perceptive Norm

Norman was tootling happily along on his moped one crisp and sunny morning when the entire world suddenly
flipped like a pancake.  The poor fellow nearly crashed as everything rolled 180 degrees, so that the tarmac
road took the place of the sky and the sky ended up on the floor.

"Stone me!" he exclaimed as he wobbled his moped to the side of the road. "What’s happening here?"

He dismounted unsteadily and struggled to remove his helmet before it got wedged, for the blood was already
rushing to his head, swelling it and turning his cheeks crimson.

He took a look around, beginning to feel nauseous, and sure enough everything was now upside down; he was
dangling by his feet from the road, which was now a ceiling, with his floppy hair standing on end and clouds
passing underneath him.  Cars drove past stuck to the road, trees held onto the grass verge by their roots
and an upside down paperboy cycled by on his upside down bike.  The whole thing was like some incredible
superglue joke, but more than that, because apart from his hair and his blood, gravity had reversed too.  He
experimented by holding out his helmet and letting go and saw with mounting fear that instead of dropping
into the sky, it flew up and hit the road with a crack.  This is insane, he thought, the whole world has flipped!

There was no time to ponder the unusual turn of events at that moment though, because his eyes were
beginning to bulge from the pressure.  Bright lights assailed his vision like red carpet flashbulbs and his ears
rang loudly, throbbing to the beat of his heart.  It was becoming quite unbearable just standing there and he
knew if he didn’t do something soon he, would pass out, so he tried bending forward at the waist and tucking
in his chin.  Sure enough this alleviated the roaring in his ears and the paparazzi retreated somewhat.  
Experimenting further, he found if he stood with his head between his legs (and thus the right way up) and
hugged his knees, the symptoms were altogether better and his lovely locks flopped back down around his

Norman remained at the side of the road like this for several minutes wondering what to do next, but it was all
rather harrowing.  He was generally a shy, unassuming fellow and the compromising position he had arrived at
left him a trifle embarrassed.  His flea-bitten Blues Explosion t-shirt had joined the gravity revolt and gathered
under his armpits, exposing his hairy alabaster paunch.  His trousers, which were a little on the baggy side,
had slipped to reveal two inches of underpant (not in a cool hip hop way – they were not cool hip hop
underpants) and about four inches of densely hairy arse-crack.  As a result a he was effectively standing in the
road and mooning the public.  He frowned unhappily as he felt the morning breeze tickle his bum fuzz and,
between his knees, he saw a young woman walking her children to school yelp with fright and cross the street
at the sight of him.

This will never do, he thought to himself, I shall be arrested imminently on the most awful charges if I stay like
this.  He had an idea; he lifted his head just enough to wrestle his t-shirt all the way off and folded it up on the
floor/ceiling in front of him. He then rested his head on the t-shirt and gingerly raised his Doc Martins skyward,
achieving a wobbling headstand.

"Now that’s more like it!" he pronounced happily.  He was still hanging from the ceiling but at least he was now
hanging the right way up.  The redness disappeared fully from his cheeks and he felt his blood flowing in the
normal fashion once more.  He was a little disappointed he had forgotten to tuck his trousers into his socks
however, as the hems were now around his knees which he expected looked a little ridiculous (he was self-
conscious about the thin hairy sticks he used for calves).

Once again, Norman’s chance to ponder was cut short, this time by the screeching of tyres and an angry car
horn.  He wasn’t exactly in the middle of the road but he wasn’t exactly at the side of the road either, and a
BMW had just come very close to running him down — or up.  He heard the slamming of the car door and saw
a neat pair of brown Brogues come marching towards him from the driver's side.

"What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?  I nearly ploughed straight into you you damn fool!" barked
Brogues Man.

Norman tried to peer down at him without loosing his balance and glimpsed a thirty-something in a sharp suit
with gelled hair before giving up and deciding to simply address the shoes.

"Sorry about that mate, when everything flipped I nearly came off my bike, and then the pressure got so bad I
had to get myself the right way up sharpish."

"What?"  The shoes adopted a defiant stance; far apart and toes pointing outward.

"The pressure," said Norman, "doesn’t it bother you?"

"What pressure?  What are you talking about?"

"You didn’t notice it?"  Norman was surprised but then, he reasoned, it had happened very quickly.

"Notice what?"

"You can’t feel it now?"


"How strange," said Norman.  And it was; Brogues Man appeared to be completely oblivious to the current
crisis.  Well perhaps some people are better at being upside down than others, he thought.

Just then Norman heard the approaching clip-clop of female shoes accompanied by the scurrying patter of a
dragged child.

"Don’t let him get away, I’ve called the police!"

A pair of smart black ladies shoes with smart grey trousers clattered to a halt in front of him.  A tiny pair of
sandals over thin white socks hid behind the shoes, writhing sheepishly.

"Exposing himself he was!" cried Smartypants.  "And right by a school!"

"Now look I can explain," began Norman, a little panicked by the accusation.

"Paedophile!" she screeched.

"No no no, my trousers were falling down that’s all," he protested, "I felt dizzy and I had to bend over, but
then I decided to stand on my head so that, well, it wouldn’t look strange."

"Good job mate, good job," said Brogues Man sarcastically, looking Norman down and up.  He turned to
Smartypants, "You know I nearly ran the guy down, and then I ask him what he’s doing and he starts babbling
on about pressure."

"Excuse me madam," said Norman, trying to swivel on his head to face the woman’s feet.  "I take it you saw
the world turn over?  For some reason this gentleman doesn’t seem to have noticed."

"Don’t you talk to us!" she hissed, clamping her daughter protectively to her thigh.

Another pair of legs entered Norman’s field of vision, a rather nice pair as it goes, wearing open-toed shoes
and a sparkly gold anklet.  Two rows of cherry red nail varnish on cheery pink toes shone in the morning sun.  
A fine pair of feet, thought Norman appreciatively, who had until now thought of himself as more of a breast

"Is everything alright?" she asked.  "I teach at the school."

"Don’t you worry Miss," said Brogues Man turning to point his shoes at Twinkle Toes.  "We’ve got an oddball
here causing a disturbance, but I’ll keep an eye on him until the boys in blue arrive."  He had suddenly
developed a warm, authoritative and slightly seedy tone of voice; obviously a fellow toes man, thought Norman.

"Eww, his legs are all hairy!" piped up the young girl, full of childish wonder.

"Yes, thank you young lady," grimaced Norman.  "Run along now please."

"Why are you standing on your head?" asked Twinkle Toes in a polite but puzzled manner.

"Because he’s bonkers," observed Brogues Man flatly.

"May I say madam, you have the most wonderful toes," said Norman, trying to change the subject before they
got bogged down again.

"My god, he is a pervert!" screeched Smartypants again, inexplicably clamping a hand over her daughters
eyes.  "Call the police!"

"Here they come now," said Twinkle Toes, who was blushing slightly and wiggling her toes with pride.  A police
car pulled up behind the BMW and black boots emerged, gleaming proudly as they creaked over to the incident.

"’Ello ‘ello ‘ello", said the policeman somewhat unbelievably.  "What seems to be the trouble here?"

"This man was bending over with his trousers practically around his ankles!" squawked Smartypants.  "And
then he started taking his clothes off and then he stood on his head, right by a school!  He’s quite mad; if this
brave gentleman hadn’t intervened he’d be running around naked by now!"

"I had to do something," said Brogues Man with all the self-effacing modesty his vanity would permit.  "Children
are the future."

"Is this true sir?" asked the policeman sternly.

"Not in the least," said Norman.

"Well let’s be a good chap and stand up now eh?  Then we can discuss this properly."

"I’m afraid I can’t do that."

"Oh?  And why is that?"

"Everything’s upside down; it makes my hair stand on end and I get dizzy."

"That’s because you’re standing on your head mate," said Brogues Man

"No no, before that, that’s why I’m standing on my head.  If I don’t then I shall pass out within minutes.  The
world’s turned upside down; surely one of you has noticed?"

"What’s he on about?" asked Smartypants.

"Ah, perhaps it’s a metaphor," said Twinkle Toes thoughtfully.  "Is that what you mean," she asked kindly,
leaning forward with her hands on her knees, "that the whole world seems upside down these days?  Because
that’s quite understandable really."

"Metaphor?  No of course not, how could a metaphor make my hair stand on end?" said Norman.  "But thanks
for the effort," he added gratefully.

"Are you a Yogi or something?" asked the policeman.

"What’s a Yogi?" asked Norman, suddenly interested in case he was one and that would explain things.

"Like a Buddha or something, you know, are you meditating?"  The policeman was concerned, there might be
rules about this kind of thing; he could move the guy on and end up with a Hare Krishna riot on his hands.

"Meditating?  Lord no!  It’s just what I already told you a million times; the world flipped, we’re all upside down,
so I stood on my head.  End of!" Norman was beginning to get exasperated.

"Now you just mind your temper sir or I’ll arrest you for disturbing the peace."

"Oh God look, I just want to go home, if I try and go on my moped my head’ll pop before I get half way.  Is
there any way you and Brogues Man could carry me by the legs and somehow arrange me in the squad car?  I
only live around the corner."

"Who’s Brogues Man?" asked Brogues Man.

The policeman got down onto his hands and knees and attempting a sympathetic smile tried to turn his head
to match Norman’s.

"IS THERE SOMEONE AT HOME WHO LOOKS AFTER YOU?" He asked loudly and slowly as if talking to a child;
there were rules about dealing with mental patients too.

"Jesus wept," muttered Norman.

"But if everything’s upside down then why haven’t we all fallen into the sky?" asked Twinkle Toes, who seemed
at least to be giving it some thought.

"Well I think gravity must have turned upside down too."

"So everything’s the same then!" snapped Brogues Man, who was becoming increasingly annoyed with Twinkle
Toes’ attitude.  "How can you even tell?"

"Because I just can.  Plus I saw it happen, plus I felt it happen."

"Well I didn’t see anything," said Smartypants.

"Neither did I," said the Policeman.

"Everything seems perfectly fine to me," conceded Twinkle Toes.

"Me too," agreed Brogues Man.

"Well all the blood went to my head and my hair stood on end.  Is anyone else’s hair standing up, I can’t really
see from here?"  Everyone glanced over everyone else, Norman wobbled pensively.

"Not mine."

"Nor mine."


"Oh…" frowned Norman, "…are you sure?"

"Yes," in unison this time.

"Hang on," said Brogues Man snapping his fingers, "if gravity is upside down then why isn’t it affecting you?"

"That’s a good point," said the policeman.  He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "care to explain that sir?"

"Well I don’t know officer.  I was wondering about that when you all turned up.  It doesn’t really make sense."

"It’s inconsistent that’s what it is," said Smartypants.  "Doesn’t that prove to you that it’s all in your head?"

"But it isn’t though.  I’m not mad or anything."

"Prove it then."  The hem of Brogues Man’s trousers lifted indicating he had just tugged on his belt
challengingly.  "Go on, stand up and let’s see.  You’ve got a fair old barnet by the look of it, if that bloody mop
reaches for the sky I’ll be half way to believing you."

"Okay, okay, I’ll do it," said Norman huffily.  He really didn’t see any way around it and the crowd of bystanders
was building by the minute so he was keen to get his T-shirt back on.

As he hung himself by his feet once more his hair rose until it was at full stretch, making him four inches taller
than usual.  He stood there swaying queasily as the congregation gazed at him open mouthed.

"My god!" said Brogues Man.

"That’s incredible!" gasped Twinkle Toes.

"It’s drugs!" exclaimed Smartypants.  "It must be; he’s a druggie!"

"Madam, I really don’t think doing drugs can make your hair stand on end, not literally," said Norman.

"I wouldn’t know I’m not a druggie," she retorted haughtily.

"Hmm… I think he might be right about that," said the policeman, thoughtfully recalling his police college
training manual.

"Look he’s going all red!" said Twinkle toes.

"Well for his sake I hope it’s with shame at the scene he’s caused."

"There," said Norman folding his arms with satisfaction, "just like I told you."

"I really think it’s best if I just arrest you," said the policeman, unhooking the handcuffs from his belt.

"What for, having a red face and high hair?" said Norman woozily.

"Yes.  And causing an obstruction and indecent exposure and… loitering."

"And he’s illegally parked," piped up Brogues Man.

"Oh shut up." Said Norman, and passed out cold.

* * *

Norman was scooped up by an ambulance and driven to hospital, where he regained consciousness just long
enough to explain himself and get sectioned under the mental health act.  The next time he woke up he found
himself in a secure psychiatric unit, where over the following weeks he caused quite a stir, being what the
doctors regarded as something of a psychiatric novelty.  The clipboard mafia would huddle around him and
prod him and play with his hair, and then go away for an hour and come back and prod him a bit more.   At
one point, despairing of all else, they even tried gluing everything in his room to the ceiling while he was asleep,
presumably in an effort to trick his brain.  But to no avail; his hair still stubbornly refused to behave itself.  In
fact, he protested so vehemently whenever they tried to stop him standing on his head that in the end the
doctors strapped his feet to the foot of a bed and stood it on its end, only putting him the right way up at
meal times and for the purposes of study.  Before they let him out of his straightjacket he looked rather like a
white bat.

Eventually, after the interest in him had all but died out, his doctor (a man who, Norman noted, exhibited a
very lacklustre approach to shoe maintenance) came to see him and told him they had reached some

"Let’s hear it then," said Norman.  Who had by now heard just about everything.

"It is your own mind that is causing the phenomena you are experiencing and nothing more.  There are no
conceivable physiological causes for your red face or your.… umm…. hair issue, so you must simply be willing it
to happen."

"It doesn’t sound very probable," Norman mused.

"What sounds more likely," the doctor sighed patiently.  "That the whole world is suddenly upside down and
you’re the only one who can tell and is affected; or that you are sub-consciously complimenting a delusion you
are experiencing, probably brought on by plain old stress, by psychosomatically manipulating your follicles,
causing your hair to stand on end?"

"Hmm, they both sound pretty unlikely, Doc."

"Indeed," he smiled benevolently, "and that is what makes you such a fascinating case."

"Terrific.  What do you suggest I do about it then?"

"Well, I think we should try shaving your head."

"Ah…. and how will that help?"

"Never underestimate the emotional healing power of a good haircut," he chuckled.  "It’s a secret women have
known about for years, you know."

Ha bloody ha, thought Norman.  "And what about all this blood in my head, what about that then?"

"Low cholesterol diet," said the doctor, resetting his glasses in a manner that hinted uncertainty.

For want of a better idea Norman did what the good doctor told him, and over the next few weeks came to the
conclusion that the world may well be upside down, but if it was then it wasn’t worth the trouble of trying to
fight the fact.  He thought his crew cut actually looked rather dashing, and the low cholesterol diet had done
wonders for his waistline and complexion.  The roaring in his ears was still apparent but no longer bothersome,
a prescription for beta blockers to decrease his blood flow had left it sounding quite pleasant in fact; like living
near the sea he convinced himself in the end.

After he conceded to the doctors that the problem had all been in his head and that the world was in fact fine,
they let him out.  He went back to work at the chicken soup factory down the road and saw a psychiatrist for
an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  He would reiterate to the shrink that he believed he and the world were
the same way up these days and the shrink would smile, write prescriptions for little yellow pills and shake him
firmly by the hand.  It was all very pleasant.

The only trouble was, no matter how comfortable and normal these little alterations made him feel, he still knew
for a stone cold fact that the whole world was upside down.

"Say laa vee," Norman would say to himself as he kick-started his moped in the mornings and putted off to
make chicken soup for the masses, "as long as it doesn"t turn inside out I’ll be fine."
Malachey was born with a forked tongue, and as such cannot be trusted.
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