DOI link for Parentheses
DOI link for Parentheses
Parents separated he the girl called sister out of school on a bus to the woman called mother’s parents’ Birkenhead pub nothing said under empty dark roof room of a Victorian building instructed to “behave” not go down into the pub bar relief of a week or two away from the grey box the mother caged animals crept around finally down to the ground floor through urine beer fog-filled dark wood bar littered sawdust cigarette ends sailors Teddy Boys workmen smoked singing drunk asleep. Didn’t trust these any surroundings The Woods exception even there winter biting rainstorms no rules expected the worst. Parachuted without explanation dangerous backwater The Woods miles away did what he did in a crisis walked the streets. Pub side 28door slipped out people called grandparents asleep plod pavements Birkenhead bomb site interesting building appearing accidentally out of a wrong turn into a food market corrugated steel brick outside open air part sold clothes hardware cheap toys uniform lines of trousers tea towels can-openers batteries transistor radios dull except the men who sold things from backs of vans the same sing-song shout performance spat out fast:
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammm … nogonnorraskapound … Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaamm … nogonnarasktenbob … norrevenfivebob … noladies … t’youladies … speciallyyouluv … norreven’alfacrown … comeonluvamgivinthestuffaway … allaaaaammgonnaraskis … [crescendo: claps thumps table or side of van] two-bobthelot! … thassitluv … twobob … thereyerareluv … anyouluv?”Build-up swerved before the climax threat of the man losing money giving stuff away had to sell at this price the tone defeat brimmed with pain anger don’t steal food the mouths of children no money stole away avoided outdoor market. Indoor food market different scrum of big women men in white coats painted lit-up signs stalls everything to eat corned beef chickens fish cheese bread cakes vegetables anonymous in the throng tacked up and down the aisles gaped stacks of food drink in hubbub aromas wafting into each other invisible entertainment people crowd round a stall nibbling bits of cheese stealing? He got it the man put out bowls of cut-up cheese to sample no money the man busy with customers sidled by grabbed a handful of “lancashire” cheese melted into the dense crowd no need to run bodies coats bags prams camouflaged mouth exploded taste invisible and food mind exploded nothing like luscious white crumbly 29creamy damp with shivery tang stuff meal drink sweet all in one or two hours alive mouth body tingle lights chatter drift aisles close enough to people to touch red peppers rabbits pigs’ heads raspberries green things he’d never seen. Visit each week busiest time wait for his moment complimentary handful once or twice a fallen grape or plum collected odd pennies around the pub bomb site enough for a quarter pound wedge of lancashire cheese eat in one sashaying trip down the aisles with the change bought a banana the effect as transporting not quite such a high class problem not why cheese and bananas tasted good why they tasted so different. This was the life. Walk back from the market on a banana cheese day a dark figure marching up the hill trilby glinting overalls swished stopped embarrassment stared at each other speechless the man called father broke the silence fished a two shilling piece from the pocket of the overalls.
“Here,” he said.Two shillings. A lot of money. At a loss for words the woman called mother ordered him to have nothing to do with the man called father open mouth nothing came out it said.
“I … I can’t …”Defeat rippled across the man called father’s face curled lip of contempt he knew.
“Right!” he rasped,Shoving the coin back stalked off unable to get away fast enough the child called son horribly wrong hadn’t cared about the money too much did know he was in trouble 30with both of them week later move to a tiny terraced house in back menai street by birkenhead docks safe house prevent the man called father from getting at them? Room downstairs back kitchen coal bunker outside toilet room upstairs no blade of grass people dirty angry looks the truth was neither he nor his sister harmed by any of them only by the people called the mother and father. Move another strange place too much think only of what next knew was bad didn’t know what did what he did under siege walked streets sleepwalked waking dreams if he was lucky after enough walking he felt nothing.