In The Pub
The town has seven hills. All the villages that make up the town start on a hill and fall down to the river.
He let me order him a seventh pint and said I walked up everyone o’ those buggers, lugging the coal-pickings like a ruddy labourer.
I were born on a Rag and Bone cart. Anyroad Old Bobby O’Neil. and his mares Max and Miller were dragging up Winter Lane. My mother bawling in labour and father shouts out front door for Bobby to stop. Folk like that round here, do ought for you. Anyway with mam in hospital up yond hill where workhouse used to be, Bobby told me father. ‘You owe me one: Me glass is empty. lad.
Pissing Doctor told me not to go on the ale, you know. I knew. You’ll ‘ave me plugging it.
I bought him his eighth and wondered what it would bring.
They’ve knocked the Hayloft down for that bloody roundabout now at Townend. It’ll be the the end of this town. That great Western Relief Road leading to roundabout. Whose it relieving that’s what I’d like to know. It’s a new world now .kld, No room for living in the past, eh! Whoa. ‘Ave to go for a piss lad. Wait up before you get another round in. These Hayloft T-shirts are rare , you know.
I bought him his ninth.
Your mother lived down Winter Lane, didn’t she? He asked. At last we were getting somewhere. Aye, did she? I sounded coy. I wanted to sound coy. A rare piece of skirt your mother. I’ve not offended you, have I ? He was testing the waters seeing how far he could go. I shook my head but my fists were curling into balls and the knuckles whitening.
I bought him his tenth.
I went with your mother, you know. I knew. She was going with ought in trousers. How could I say no. Such a tight arse, such a tight skirt. This was deliberate. He knew what I was after. She had a bairn, you know. This was it. Nowt to do with me. She’d leg over with dozen since me. The expected denial. The bell for last orders.
I bought him his eleventh, with a whisky chaser. We left and I forced him to climb the steepness of Winter Lane towards the hospital.
The ambulance came too late.
OLD WIVES TALES
When you wonder why they bother it’s like a scratch. It keeps on coming back and you contort yourself trying to get rid of it. It’s like my wife Ash. Why she stays with me I’ll never get straight. So I asked her mother and her grandmother. They each told me the same tale and I’m still trying to work out what they meant by it.
Her grandmother still lives in the Thirties. She sat me down by the coal fire and said:
Before she met you Ash was safe at your mothers but sad because she could not find a man that treated her right. Till an old woman came to the door one day. The woman was crook-backed and wrinkled. Ash thought she was a gypsy selling pegs and said
”Sorry we don’t want … ‘ while dosing the door.
But the woman said you may not buy my peg~ but I have an apple here you have not tasted the likes of. ’
We get our apples from Asda’
‘There ‘s nothing like as granny apples. my dear. They are succulent. See how it shines. Eve never gave Adam such a one. It will refresh you, give you strength. It is like a kiss from a man you have always wanted ’
And it costs nothing but your smile. ’
Ash smiled, took the apple and bit into it. Instantly she could think of no one but you. she had not noticed you till now. She had fallen into a deep sleep and only your presence would wake her. All people have a disguise you know .
I had the feeling Ash’s grandmother was the old crone. I wanted something clearer. I asked Ash’s mother. She took me into the through kitchen and dining room, sat me down at a pinewood dining chair and said:
Ash lived at mine before she met you. One day an old woman came to the door while I was out. She saw Ash in rags, like as if I was dead.
She said: ‘Poor child what is it you wish for more than anything elsei’
:A decent man who will care for me, support me. who will let me be myself. ’
And the old woman pointed her stick at a tree in the garden. A tree that had sheltered birds for years, that shed blossoms to make the rest of the street envious, that provided apples and conkers for the kids in the neighbourhood and a form and shade for the elderly in summer. It transformed itself into you. Things are not always what they seem.
Again I sensed that the old woman was Ash’s mum.
I want a straight answer not a cryptic clue. I’m no wiser for the asking. It’s just old woman’s prattle, and a scratch that won’t go away.
“I’m sorry but I know only one person who wears a coat like that. My mistake.’ “Stop!’ the glistening eyes said “You are destined for something marvellous, if you would but wait. “
I had no time to wait. I wandered back into my home in the floorboards. Perhaps I was not to get a new coat this summer. All I could see was the discarded coats and skins of my companions. The coats as hard as shells and shiny, the coats as soft as wool and easily blown by the wind.
When was I to get mine? I had been so happy last year when my new coat grew out of my nakedness. It felt good to be so close to something so warm and I felt I belonged, because everybody else Was getting theres.
Now I felt exposed. The light was bright and warm outside while I watched from under the house. I could here the mass activity: scratchings and searchings, clash of mandibles, sucking of probosci, rattle of claws over stone and longed to join them. I had not moulted. I was still dressed for winter.
I decided to try on the discarded coats of others. First I tried the hard shell of a scarab beetle but it was too brittle and cracked whenever I bumped into wood or metal. Next I tried the woolly coats, but I had trouble keeping it together and felt even hotter than I was already.
felt my eyes heavy as I looked up at the distant floorboards and slipped into dreams of a new coat. When I awoke I felt the floorboards pressing into my skin. I was scrunched up. I had grown too big for under the house. I looked at my hands and was surprised to find two. I also had two feet. I felt my face and I only had two eyes and a single ,nose. I wanted to stand on my feet, instead of going on all fours. Something marvelous had happened. I heard voices above me, coming through the floorboards and understood them.
“Where’s that stupid bastard of a boy?’ And I knew it was me.
Heart Of It
This was the heart of it all. It was a two up, two down terraced house. The two down breathed out all the Badness, distributing the wealth of waste from the houses toilets, bathrooms, and collected rubbish. The two up breathed in fresh air, providing the house with the vital spark, the urge to live.
Knave lived in the downstairs flat. while Ivanova occupied the upstairs.
Every morning Knave went out with the rubbish. Took the Bin van to the Tip.
It was a landfill site that stretched for miles. The rubbish where he could
find his meals. He was a bagman, rummaging for half eaten tins of beans, bacon
rinds and unwanted cereal. A discovery was a breath of fresh air and he stuffed it into his black bin bag. You collected your meals here. You did
not eat them. First you had to make yourself sick to dissolve the rubbish and
then suck it up the black tube, always carried as a night stick against your
thigh. If you had been a fly on the wall you would have agreed with Knave.
It was the only way to consume. The food was expelled as air out of his backside.
Ivanova, flying above him now, made his air breathable with the rapid flapping of her wings. She remembered their Allotment Day. This was the occasion when Two Ups and TWo Downs found their mate. Each had to tell the other a secret and if the both were entertained then each was allotted the other.
Ivanova told Knave the following tale:
I will tell you my secret if you will tell me yours.
Once I flew and flew and flew over the Tip till I came to the edge of it. There I saw a Fluid that took part of the Tip away every time it washed over it. I was afraid that the Tip would disappear and nothing would be left but the Fluid.
In my fear I flew and flew and flew over the Fluid till it came to the point where it touched upon the Tip again. Here I saw the tip being put back by the Fluid. I was afraid that the Fluid would disappear and nothing would be left but the Tip.
I flew and flew and flew upwards so high I could see the part which took away the Tip and the part which gave it back. I could see the shape of the Tip always changing.
This is my secret
Knave told Ivanova:
You have told me your secret I will tell you mine
Once I shat upon the Tip and sat to watch it. After a few weeks a tiny green stalk appeared. I watched it a further week and it grew wings like yours. Then it began to rain acid and I feared the stalk would die. The wings began to yellow at the edges and I wanted to step on it.
Then the sun came out and shone and the yellowing went and the wings became green again. But the sun shone week after week and the wings began to turn brown and I wanted to step on it. Then the rain came again and it turned green again.
This is my secret.”