Try before you buy… short stories in scots

The Stabbin’ O’ Rizzio is available here for FREE and if you like it you might want to purchase VOICES IN MA HEID for Kindle or epub readers 

The Stabbin O’ Rizzio.

Princess. H aye ca’d me Princess when he wanted something. Which wis affen enough. He nivver treated me like wan but. If yer wunnerin hoo he cam tae be ca’d H, I cun gie ye twae answers. Ye can make up yer ain mind fae that. The first wan, his sister telt me. She says it wis cus he had wannae they baby walker things ken, when he wis a toddler. An it wis jist when the Falklands war wis oan an he used tae batter aroon the hoose in it, so as they ca’d him H efter that Colonel H Jones, ken the wan whae died leadin his men ower the tap at Goose Green or wherever it wis. Other fowk say its cus he’s the hardest smack dealer on oor scheme. At seventeen. Somehing tae be prood of. An achievement ye micht say. That he’s no hud his face pushed in by the aulder lads. But that’s on account o’ H havin the reputation fer being a nutter. Nae feart o’ any bugger is H.

I prefer the first story, cus it mak’s him seem mair human like. Ken that wee bitty vulnerability – his childhood still somewhere in him. I need tae see that in his sometimes cus I see tae mich o’ the ither H. If I think aboot it, I dinna ken if I’ve iver seen H whit ye wid ca’ vulnerable – an I’ve kent him since I wis thirteen, an he wis comin up seventeen.

That’s no the hail truth, but.  I kent him first when he wis jist turnin thirteen an I wis aboot nine. But I’ve niver telt no wan aboot that. I wis friendly wi his sister Shirley, ken. We used tae play Cindy dolls an Take That records an that. An I wis aye roon their hoose, cus ma hoose wis fu’ o’ shoutin at that time. That wis afore ma auld man wis pit in the jail.

Anyways. Wan day I goes roon tae Shirley’s hoose an she’s no in.

‘Oot wi’ her ma,’ says H as he answers the door in his huge bare feet. They feet hus niver seen a toenail cut tae ma knowledge an he musta starterd growin theym lang afore that day. An I’m aboot tae tak ma eyes affae his feet an turn on ma toes an mak aff somewhere – nae hame, jist ony place oot the road fer a while – an H says,

‘Youse can come an play wi me if ye like.’

No ye micht say that even aged nine I shouldae kent better as that, but I wis jist dead chuffed that Shirley’s big brother said he wanted tae play wi me. I mean, big H. Playin wi me. That wid be sumhing tae tell them at school on Monday. If I went. So I followed H intae the hoose. Intae his bedroom, where I’d niver been afore. The wa’s wis covered in posters o wummin wi nae claes on. That took me back a wee bit tae start wi, but I wis kinda curious a’ the same, fer I didnae well ken whit grown wummin looked like wi’oot their claes on, an this wid be somehing else tae tell them at the school. But I wis a wee bit nervous a’ the same. An the room smelled. A kindae musty smell, wi smoke hinging heavy in the air so as ye cud hardly see straight. They wummin wis a’ hazy like, on the wa’s. But I tried tae gang on as if I didnae notice nuthin, an brave as I cud be I says,

‘Whit are we gonnae play, H?’

H lit up this huge cigarette, wan wi nae filter like, twice the size o’ any ma dad iver smoked, an rolled up by hand an a’.  Which I thocht wis pretty cool fer a lad o’ thirteen. Ma dad tried rollies wance an he couldnae even dae it. Wee bits of tobacco kept fa’in oot the sides o’ the ‘rizzla’ papers as ma ma said they wis ca’d.  An she kept laughin at him. An that wis the first time I mind he hit her really hard. Broke her nose, jist cus she laughed at him nae bein able tae dae it.  Well, H pu’d lang an hard on his toke an his eyes went sortae starey and I’m jist sittin there waitin an waitin and then he says in a kindae funny kindae voice,

‘We’s cun play doctors an nurses if ye want.’

Well me an Shirly an the Cindy dolls used tae play hospitals and that. Bandages and fake blood and that, but I didnae think that wis whit H meant. An even then, I kent he wid be the doctor an I widnae. So I didnae answer straight away, jist sat lookin at him sittin there inhalin that smelly smoke. An I suppose I must huv been starin at him though I wis thinkin aboot ma dad an ma mum’s battered face wi black eyes like a panda at the zoo, an the blood and gaein tae visit her in the hospital wi a big plaster ower her nose. An ma dad bringin her flooers an makin her promise no tae say nuhing aboot it. An H must huv thocht I wis starin at him cus he says,

‘D’ye wantae try this?’

An I didnae really, but I’ve niver hud wan before an just at that minute I did kindae want tae try. Tae see whit a’ the fuss wis aboot. So I took it from him, that big fat cigarette thing and I puffed away at it till iverything went hazy fer a bit.

An efter that, the idea o’ doctors an nurses seemed like a kindae guid wan.  H says,

‘Noo, I’m the doctor and ye’ve gottae dae as I say. Lie doon on the bed the noo.’

So I lays doon on the bed. An I wis quite gratefu’ cus the room wis kindae spinnin noo an they wummin wi nae claes wis beginning tae dance back and foreward in a sick makin kindae way.

H stubs oot his fag and then he rubs his hands thegither an says,

‘Dinnae wantae bother ye wi ma cauld hands.’

I giggled. I dinnae ken why but I just giggled as I lays there, and when he says,

‘Please lift up yer top, Mrs,’

I jist did it. I niver thocht, I jist did it.

Anyways, next thing I ken he’s feelin aroon me tits, or where ma tits micht be in a few years time. He presses doon an a’ that, an I didnae mind but I didnae really want him tae, either.

‘That seems a’ richt,’ he says, still playin the doctor like. An then he moves his hands doon tae ma jeans an says,

‘Ye’ll need tae tak these aff. I wantae examine ye properly.’

An by noo I wanted tae say ‘Dinnae’ but the words wouldnae come oot. So I jist lay there, bein the patient like, an believing that as long as he wis playin doctor I wid be a’ richt. So I’m layin there an H pulls aff ma jeans an he stops fer a minute an looks at ma knickers. An he presses his hands roon the tappae theym, jist like ther real doctor does when ye huv a belly ache. An then he says tae me,

‘Noo, I’m just gonnae tak aff yer knickers an gie ye a real check, okay?’

Well he wisnae expecting me tae say ‘no’ I cud tell but I squirmed a bit an said

‘Whit if yer mum comes hame?’

‘Ach, dinnae worry,’ he says, still in his kindae doctor voice. An the next thing I ken is H’s got his hands doon ma knickers pullin theym affae ma feet as I lay there like a statue on the bed.

‘Ah,’ he says, ‘No hair yet.’

‘Is that bad?’ I says. Some o’ they wummin niver hud hair. But some o’ theym did.

‘No,’ H says. ‘No bad. It jist means ye cannae huv a baby yet. But I’ll need tae dae a check jist tae see when ye will be able tae huv a baby. Okay Mrs?’

An this time he didnae wait fer me tae gie him an answer. An there’s me lyin there, pretendin this isnae happenin tae me, like ye dae at the dentist, thinkin o’ anything else but where ye are.  An efter a bit H says

‘Boy, ye’re tight. Ye’re no gonna huv a baby fer a while.’

Well somehoo that wis it all over and  I pulled on ma knickers an ma jeans an tucked in ma top an then I felt sick an I says tae H I felt sick and he says it wis cus of the joint and I’d be awricht soon, but maybe’s I’d better gang hame an no to tell anyone aboot it.  An I kent I wisnae gaein tae be telling aboot it at the school neither. Or even tell Shirley, cus I felt I’d done sumhing wrang in letting him play doctors wi me. But part of me wunnered if I felt is wis wrang cus I kindae liked it, and I didnae hink I should huv.

I kept fair clear o’ H fer a good couple of years after that. Shirley niver understood why I stopped pallin aroon wi her an I hink she wis fair upset fer a while. But I couldnae gang near her hoose and it wis easier jist tae pal wi other fowk.   An I niver seen H again, not till I wis aboot thirteen.  That wis the time ma tits did start tae grow an I hud plenty o’ hair between ma legs. An ma dad says I wis pretty well developed fer a thirteen year auld. An ma mum telt him he’d better no think like that or she’d huv him up fer molestataion. An it wis disgustin tae think things like that aboot yer ain docther, and he says he wis jist sayin, no thinking anything.

An she says that wis hum a’ ower, niver hinking. An he says if he did think anyhin it wid be her fault cus she niver did nuhin.  An she says why wid she wantae dae anyhin wi hum an laughed, sarcastic like. Till he hit her again. An this time there wis nae hospitals an nae flooers but the blood an the bruises wis still there. So as I thocht it wis best fer me tae keep ootae their ways. An I started hinging roon the Italian chippie. An that wis when H started takin an interest in me again.

He wis sixteen then, an ridin a motorbike an he a’ready hud a reputation fer a hard man, an a ‘junkie’ and a ‘dealer’ roon oor scheme. An he moved ootae his hoose intae a squat an he hud a tele an a video an a’ they hings. An he comes up tae me wan day when I wis jist standin outside the Italian chippie an he says,

‘Wantae come an play doctor wi me again?’

An noo I wis thirteen, I got a beamer an said nuhing.  An he ruffled ma hair an says he wis only jokin, but did I want tae gang back tae his hoose an watch some tele or sumhing? Cus I wis welcome.  An I wisnae welcome anywhere else by then an it wis cauld outside the chippie when ye’ve no even any money fer a poke o’ chips, so I went back wi him, oan the back o’ his bike, which wis fair exciting. An we watched the tele and he gave me a joint all of ma own, an this time I wisnae sick because I didnae really swallow it that much. An he gave me some cider too. I liked that.

An when ma dad went intae the jail ‘on remand’ an ma mum wis aye oot or greetin, I started gaein roon tae H’s flat a’ the time. An soon he says I cud be his girlfriend if I liked. An I’d niver hud a boyfriend, nor hud any o’ ma pals at school so I says yes, I wid be his girlfriend. An he said that wis great an he gies me a big joint and a wet kiss, ken the kind where his tongue gaes richt in yer mooth an jiggles aroon a lot. An he says,

‘D’ye still huv teddy bears oan yer knickers?’

An I says, ‘No,’ and he says

‘I dinnae believe ye, I wantae see them.’

And I wis wearin a skirt cus I’d jist come frae school, an he pit his hand up ma skirt an felt me knickers an he pit his hand between ma legs an says,

‘I bet yer no sae tight noo eh?’

Then he says did I wantae ‘dae it’ wi him an if I wis his girlfriend I oughtae.

An I didnae ken if I wanted tae or not, but I didnae wantae get him angry cus I’d heard he wid be worse than ma dad when he wis in a rage. So I says,

‘Yes,’ and then, well, ye ken whit the rest is aboot.  I dinnae want tae talk aboot it. But I kindae liked it and I kindae didnae like it, a’ at the same time.

Anyways, H then said that I wis his girlfriend fer real noo an I’d better no huv it away wi’ no wan else or he’d do me and he’d do theym.  An I didnae wantae dae it wi’ anywan else anyways. But I thocht I didnae mind daein it wi H. Well, no that much.

An efter that, I spent a lot o’ time wi H, and I kindae felt proud that I wis his girlfriend.  An I wid be there when people cam tae dae deals wi him and he wid cut coke and bag smack an gie me a wee taste noo an again. An it got so as I thocht I wis happy. I mean he niver said he loved me or nuhing but well, a hard man cannae say that eh no?  but he wid ca’ me princess whenever he wanted me tae dae sumhing I didnae want tae dae. An then I did it fer him cus he’s ca’d me princess an that made me feel special.

So wance we’d been gaein oot aboot six months or that, he started getting funny, sayin as I wis sleeping wi other guys an if he caught me he’d do me and  theym. Noo I thocht this wis jist cus he wis daein too many drugs. Cus I kent that cud mak ye paranoid. An though I didnae ken which bein paranoid wis, I wis sure that H wis it.

Which brings us tae the nicht. When he ca’d me princess. He wis wantin me tae gang an get a caerry oot. An I didnae wantae gang cus I wis watching sumhing on the tele or sumhing. An he got fair annoyed an ca’d me a slag an said I’d best get oot an bring him a caerry oot and some chips back or he’s slice ma tits aff an stick them up ma fanny. An I said I didnae huv any money an he said I’d better gang oot an earn it then like the hoor I wis, and tae nae come bck till I’d got his stuff.

So I went oot. An I went doon the Italian chippie where we didnae usually gane any mair, cause I didnae want him chasin after me and I didnae know whit I wis gonnae dae. I started hinking maybe’s I should get away from H cus he wis beginnin tae be frightenin and I didnae like it.

An in the chip shop wis Davie. Whae’s dad ran the chippie. That same Davie as wis in ma class at the school He wis a pure funny guy wis Davie. Bit quiet and didnae mix wi the rougher lads, but he wis a laugh a’ the same. An I says hello tae him and cud he let me huv some chips an I’d pay him back on Monday? An he says he wisnae s’posed tae an if his dad caught him there’d be trouble. For Davie’s dad wis frae Rome an they’re supposed tae huv richt tempers on them.

But he give me some chips anyways and I says did he huv anything tae drink, like Special Brew or that? An he says he cud get some cans and he’d come roon the back and share ane wi’ me if I liked. An I said aye, but I wis gonnae run aff wi’ them back tae H. Cus I’d forgotten aboot him frightenin me by noo and jist thocht how pleased he’d be when I come back with chips and Brew.

So Davie gets the cans an the chips an he takes aff his apron an he comes roon the side o’ me. An we’re jist talking, ken.  Talkin aboot nuhing really, an the next hing I ken is H’s in the café an he’s got a knife an he’s waving it aboot an ca’in me a slag an  a hoor an Davie an eytie bastard an I dinnae ken whit else. An Davie’s tryin tae reason wi’ him and H says he’s gonnae cut him, an Davie says his dad’s oot the back an H hud better watch hisself.  An H kindae jumps at Davie an then everythins going slow an fast at the same time, in an oot o’ focus like a’ they naked wummin the first time I played with H, and there’s blood a’ ower the place an there’s Davie lying on the flair and there’s H wi’ eyes like pinholes, reachin in the till an still ca’in me a slag. An I’m cryin that I’m no wan an I cun see Davie’s blood a’ower the flair an I dinnae ken whit tae dae. So when H runs oot, I runs oot efter hum, cus I dinnae ken whit else tae dae.  An next hing I ken is the polis is chapping H’s door and we’re aff in a van doon the nick tae be charged wi murder. But I didnae murder anywan.  I’m only jist fowrteen but. An I’m a princess. H said so.

Wha’s Feart o’ the Library is available here for FREE and if you like it you might want to purchase the collection  IT WISNAE ME for Kindle or epub reader 

 Wha’s feart o’ the library? 

Ye’ll mind as ah telt ye ah wis grounded bigtime. On account o’ an entrepreneurial spirit – or a hatred o’ organised ‘clubs.’ Or becus I really wanted tae be Christopher Plummer, or at least a professional fitba’er. E’en though in theym days fitba’ers wisnae paid haulf whit they are noo. Ah wanted tae be wan for the love o’ the beautiful game. But it wisnae gonnae happen. No since ah wis a lassie. Nae women’s fitba in they days. We’re talkin’ the seventies here. Ye micht hae feminists an’ a’ that bit ony kindae equality wis a fair way aff.

Bit the yin place ah wis allowed tae gang wis tae the library. Noo, normally that wid be fine by me. It wis a guid walk across the Meadows an doon George IV Bridge tae the Central Library. A fair daunder oan a nice day an’ gie’d me a chance tae see the sichts. Ah cud tak’ ma time cus even though I cud hae ta’en a bus an’ no been awa sae lang, ah’m hinking that ma groundin’ wis as mich a pain fer ma ma as it wis fer me an’ when it cam doon tae it she wis pretty glad tae see the back o’ me fer a couple of hoors. Sae she niver gie’d me the bus fare. Unless it wis rainin’.

Ah wid wander alongside the Meadows. Ah didnae dawdle there cus in theym days ye’d be as like as not tae cam across the Hari Krishnas an’ they feart me. Ah wis quite a sma’ child e’en at twelve – ah pit a growth spurt oan aroon’ thirteen, an’ ah didnae trust they Hare Krishna’s wan bit. Ah mean, Embra’s no exactly the South o France bit they wandered aroon dressed in flimsy wee orange togas an wi bare feet on them. Bare feet. No even flip flops. Bare feet on the pavements wis jist bizarre behaviour in onywan’s book. Bit the scariest hing aboot theym wis that ah’d been telt they wis like a cult an’ they brainwashed fowk. An’ ah hud ma ain ideas aboot hoo they git their recruits. Cus if ye wis walkin alang the pavement an they cam by, wi’ their jingling wee primary scuil cymbals an their weird sing song chantin ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Hare’ they cid just git richt roon ye and ye’d be lost in the crowd an’ absorbed intae the throng an’ ah bet that is whit they did, jist caught ye aff guard an’taki’ ye up under the elbows, ah imagined they’d sweep ye alang back tae the Hare Krishna Temple – which wis oan the way tae the Library.

Sae I aften kept ma ee’s open fer the sichts an sounds o the Hare Krishna, ah cun tell ye. At twelve years auld ah’d hud my brush wi’ organised religion in the form o’ the Catholic church an’ ah wisnae aboot tae git sucked intae nae Eastern religion foreby. Which mak’s it kinda strange whit ah’m aboot tae tell ye the noo. Apart fae tae tell ye that ah wis aye wan tae tak a bet. Pure stupit ah reckon, bit if ah wis bored an’ somewan cam up wi’ a guid idea ah wis there, up tae ma ee’en. An’ remember ah wis still grounded, sae hings were pretty borin’. An’ ah wis tryin’ tae avoid the library (fer reasons ah’ll tell ye in the fullness o’ time. Well, it wis by chaunce ah met up with Katy, as ah wis oan my way tae the Library this day an’ we wis jist aboot outside the Hare Krishna Temple when we met. An’ efter we’d exchange wur ‘whit r’ ye daein?’ an’ ‘holidays are pure borin eh?’ conversation she cam up wi’ an idea fer a bit o’ excitement. That widnae tak us oot oor way and widnae tak’ mair time as bein’ at the library. She pointed oot that we cud dae this dare and still ah cud get doon the library as lang’s ah didnae daunder aboot choosin’ books bit jist went an’ got any auld hing. Which ah wis prepared tae dae cus ah didn’t want tae hang aroon in that library. Ah didnae want tae be in there at a’. Aye, roon then, ah wis mair feart o’ the Library than the Hare Krishna, sae that tells ye somehing. It wis a question o sex or religion if ah’m no bein’ tae cryptic fer ye.

An’ Katy’s big plan wis that we wid gang intae the Hare Krishna Temple an’ see whit they git up tae in their ain lair. Ah still cannae believe ah went alang wi’ it. Ah mean, ah’d spent months o’ ma life avoidin’ theym oan the streets an’ noo ah wis gonnae walk richt in there o’ ma ain free will. Ah dinnae ken if they Krishna lot huv a hing aboot free will or no, bit ye ken whit ah mean. Bit even though they wis scary an’ ah didn’t want tae be captured or brainwashed by theym, they wis still that wee bitty exciting cus they wis exotic an’ apart fae the orange claes which wis pure rank, ma brither hud a George Harrison record he used tae play a’ the time, My Sweet Lord, an’ ah really liked that an’ if wan o’ the Beatles wisnae bothered by the Hare Krishna, cam oan, whit hud ah tae be feart o’?

So, ah’m kinda hummin’ Ma Sweet Lord tae ma’sel in ma heid as we push the heavy door and gang up the stair, cus theTemple wis up the stair, away aff the street, when

‘We’ll huv tae tak wur shoes aff,’ Katy says.

‘Why?’ Ah asks?

‘Ye huv tae. It’s whit they dae. Ye cannae wear yer shoes in the Temple.’

An’ that near hud me back doon the stairs. E’en though if ah’d thocht it through it widnae seem that odd, ah mean, they didnae wear shoes oot on the street so why wid they wear theym inside, bit ah hud another thocht high in ma mind. If we took aff wur shoes we’d nae be able tae run awa’, nae fast aeyways. An’ if ah turned up hame wi’oot ma shoes ah’d be for it.

Katy sees that ah’m losin the will an’ she’s hae’in nane o’ it.

‘Cam on, dinnae be feart,’ she says. ‘It’s jist respectfu’ tae their religion. An’ they’ll a’ be prayin’ anyways, singin’ an’ that sae it’ll be fine. They’ll niver even notice us.’

Yeah, richt. Bit somehoo she convinced me tae carry on up theym stairs.

An’ we git tae the outside door o’ the Temple. An’ there wis this load o’ shoes in rows a’ lined up outside. Which gie’d me pause. Hoo cam there’s sae mony shoes here when they Hare Krishna’s dinnae even wear shoes? Ah didnae huv time tae hink cus Katy wis takin’ her shoes aff and getting ready tae gang in.

An’ ah made a decision. Cud huv been smart, cud huv been ma undaein’ bit ah decided ah wisnae takin’ ma shoes aff fer naebudy. They wis lace up’s an’ ah’d niver get they’m back oan quick enough if ah hud tae leg it, an whit if we wis inside the Temple an’ sumbudy cam roon an took the shoes awa’ an we culdnae git theym back. Na. Nae way. Ma shoes wis stayin’ oan ma feet an that wis that. If they wis sae busy wi’ their prayers they’d niver notice.

So in we goes tae the Temple. Katy in front an’ me takin’ up the rear. Wi’ ma shoes oan.

We opened that door an’ it wis like gaein intae a foreign world. Noo, ah’d been used tae a Catholic church (that’s anither story) an’ sae ah hud seen gold candlesticks and the like bit this place, it wis somehing completely different. There wis nae chairs, the fowk wis a’ oan red cushions oan the flair. Bit up the end where the alter wid huv been, there wis this huge big golden statue, like a Buddha or somehing, an’ iverywhere there wis gold hings… ah canne gie ye a better description cus suddenly, afore ah properly git masel’ used tae the noise o’ the chantin an the smell o’ the joss sticks which pit the flingin incense o’ the Catholic church tae shame, we wis oot on wur arses bein’ chased awa’ by some geezer wi a baldy heid an’ an orange toga an’ nae shoes.

Ah took tae ma toes wi’oot a minute tae hink o’ it, bit Katy wisnae sae fly. She stood there an argued the toss wi’ the man. Telt him she wish hinking o’ convertin’ an he couldnae fling us oot afore we’d even hud a chance tae experience their ‘culture.’ Ah cudnae believe the girl. Ah hung aroon in the relative safety o’ the doonstairs doorway an’ listened tae her gie’in hum the run aroon. An’ then he invited her back in. An’ me.

‘If she tak’s her shoes aff,’ he says, in the broadest Glaswegian accent ah’ve iver heard. Ah cudnae believe it. Ah mean, ah must’ve kent they wis Scottish Hare Krishnas bit wi’ the baldy’s n’ the togas ye dinnae hink o’ that dae ye? Ah wis huvin nane o’ it. If Katy wanted tae git hersel’ in wi’ the Hares that wis wan hing, bit noo, suddenly ah realised ah hud tae get tae the library, niver mind whit micht be waitin’ me there. So ah turned and ran. Katy hud got hersel’ intae this an’ she cud git hersel’ oot. Some pal me eh?

Bit ah hud ma ain worries wance ah wis oot oan the street again. Ah scuffed ma shoes a’ along Forest Road an’ hung aroon the bridge lookin’ doon tae the Grassmarket until ah cudnae pit it aff ony langer. Ah went intae the library.

The main library is a grand buildin’ an’ in theym days the children’s section (which wis the only ticket ah hud in nineteen seventy four) wis doon the stair. Hidden away so tae speak. Bit then, it wis a library. Ye’ll be wonderin’ whit cud be sae tae fear in a library o’ a’ places. Well ah’m gonnae tell ye. An’ as ah tell ye, ah realise that ah shud huv jist telt somewan back then an’ ah feel guilty fer no daein’ it, bit ah didnae ken whit tae sae then. Ah didnae ken whit words tae use. Bein’ lost fer words in a library, is that no an irony?

The stacks as they ca’ them were high and long an’ it wis easy tae be hidden fae view o’ onybody an’ onyhing doon there. An’ the first time ah saw him ah wis getttin the follow up tae 101 Dalmations. Dodie Smith wis the author. Ah mind it fine. Ah’d jist done ma way through Laura Ingalls Wilder an’ the Little Hoose on the Prarie books – e’en better as the TV series an’ noo ah found that Dodie Smith wrote mair as the 101 Dalmations (a fillum ah niver got tae see cus ma ma widnae let us gang tae see cartoons. Nae proper fillums she says and nae money wis tae be wastit oan cartoons. Ah hink we fair annoyed her wi’ Scooby Doo an’ the Wacky Races an’ she thocht that TV cartoons wis bad enough so she’s no gonnae waste money on fillum length wans.) So when ah found the book o’ 101 Dalmations ah wis fair chuffed. An’ then ah went tae git the sequel. An’ that wis when it happened.

Ah looked up from the shelves. Ken when ye git that idea that someone’s watchin’ ye an it mak’s ye uncomfortable an’ ye huv tae look up. It wis like that. It gits ma heart racin’ e’en noo, forty odd year on, tellin’ it fer the first time. Ah lookit up. An’ he wis there. He wis some auld guy, ah niver really got a guid look at his face. He hud a long brown coat oan an first ah wis jist surprised tae see a man o’ that age doon in the children’s section. Then ah seen hum lookin’ at me sortie strange. An’ then ah saw… hoo cun ah tell ye, even noo. He wis ‘exposin’ humsel’. ‘Playin’ wi humsel.’ These are the expressions adults use bit ah wis twelve n’ ah hud nae idea whit… ah wis jist feart o’ the look oan hus face an’ the way he wis movin’ hus hand an’ the wrinkled hing stickin oot his troosers… an ah wis froze tae the spot. Ah cudnae look at his face. Ah cudnae look awa’. Ah cudnae scream, or confront hum or whit. After whit seemed an age ah pit ma book back oan the shelf an’ ah went roon the stacks the ither way, cus ah sure as hell wisnae gonnae try an’ git past hum, an’ then ah jist legged it up the stair straight oot the library an’ ran a’ the way hame.

By the time ah git hame ah realised ah’d no got ony books at a’ an’ ma ma wid be wunnerin’ whit wis wrang. A perfect chance tae tell her. Bit whit cud ah say? Like maist kids, when sumhing gangs wrang ye tend tae hink it must somehoo be yer ain fault. An’ if ah telt her whit ah’d seen ah wis sure somehoo that wid be me in trouble.Na, ah wis sure ma ma wid jist dae her dinger oan this wan. So ah made up some lie aboot hoo ah’d niver found a book ah wanted. That wid be a first. Bit she wisnae bothered an jist says tae me ‘well dinnae think that’s you gonnae watch mair TV this week.’

An when it wis time fer me tae gang back tae the library, ah kinda kicked ma heels and didnae want tae gang. It wis ma way o’ dealin’ wi hings remember, like the Brownies. Dinna clype an dinna face up tae it. Jist hide away an’ pretend it husnae happened an hope somehoo hings’ll git better by theirsel’s, which they niver dae.

I sweated this oot fer a fortnight afore ah jist hud tae gang back tae the library. Ah wis as brave as cud be an’ ah even went back tae pick up the Dodie Smith book. But ah jist couldnae tak it aff the shelf. As soon as ah stood back in that spot ah wis that feart ah lost a’ interest in Dodie Smith. Ah wis jist waitin’ fer the man tae show up again. Which wis daft ah ken. An’ efter a couple o’ trips ah managed tae convince masel’ it wis a wan aff an’ ah wis safe doon there again. An’ ah worked ma way through the sequels tae Mary Poppins quite the hing.

An then he struck again. Ah cudnae believe it. It wis in a different part o’ the library, bit ah turned roon an’ there he wis again, his hing hingin’ oot an’ hum playin’ wi’ it. Hus expression wis sae odd ah cannae fix it in words even noo. Ah guess it wis like a kinda leer. An this time ah jist lookit awa’ richt quick an’ pretended ah’d niver even noticed hum an’ when ah looked up again, he wis gone. An’ that time ah really thocht ah shud tell the librarian up the stair, but when ah got there, ah cudnae hink whit tae say. A’ that went through ma mind wis whit ma ma used tae say when she wis angry. ‘That’s a richt cock up,’ she’d say. An’ it aeway’s stunned me that she cud say that in normal speech an’ get awa’ wi’ it. It sounded sae rude. Ah cudnae use the word ‘cock.’ Ah didnae ken the expression ‘a bad man just exposed humsel’ tae me doon the stair.’ An’ anyway’s ah’d been taught no tae speak tae strangers, an’ ma ma wis sure tae hink somehoo ah’d caused this stranger tae dae whit he wis daein.

Dinnae speak tae strangers ah but that wan backfired tae. Ah wis fowr an ah proudly stood in the post office queue when a mannie offered me a sweetie an’ said ‘ah’m no allowed tae take sweeties frae strangers,’ an ma ma gie’d me a clip roon the ear fer bein’ cheeky. Which made me kinda confused aboot whit the rule oan strangers wis. An’ feart tae ask in the future. Sae all’s ah kent wis that when a grown up did sumhing weird that ye didnae like or understand it wis probably yer ain fault an’ ye’d best no clype or ye’d be in even bigger bother. So ah niver telt the librarian. Ah niver telt ma ma. Ah niver went back tae the library. Until the next year when ah wis auld enough tae get an adult ticket. Which wis upstairs. Wi’ a librarian watchin’ ower iverybudy a’ the time ‘shusshin’ theym.

Ken whit. Ah seen that man anither time tae. No in the library. Ah cannae mind which street it wis in noo. He niver recognised me. Bit ah recognised hum an his dirty brown mac. An’ ah moved tae the ither side o’ ma ma an took her hond, a hing ah’d nae done since ah wis aboot eight. An’ she lookit at me kinda strange, but we niver said a word. An’ ah’ve niver said a word aboot that guy neither. Ah’ve felt guilty aboot it loads though. First fer no huvin’ the words tae speak oot aboot it an then wonderin’ hoo mony ither young boys an girls huv been feart by hum an the likes o’ hum. Cus nae wan expects that kinda hing in the library noo dae they?



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