Dockyard Press

Glasgow

Gang Aft Agley — 11 May 2020

by Bart Lessard

Swim in it, piss in it, leave it to the ducks, no pool had ever been a feature of the Hub. But thanks to drainage choked with gems of Eldorado glass the miracle came due. That morning was a summer one, the blue shorn clean. Two boys had been on the swings nearby, kicking up corners on the turf. One had sly aims in bringing his friend there and was only half on task—as much as half, that was, until he saw the puddle laid broad and deep. Skimming stones, a.k.a. thrawin shite—this was the new regime, though all they had to shy was any slag they could worry up off the tarmac. Tar could not bounce and the dabbles from these flop dives barely echoed off the tower blocks. Loud enough, though, for here were the wee schemies—all of them, a gushing litter birth—come down to aid in the murder of the day. Rafts made of fast food bags were set on fire, and those that Mcbeef had left see-through far outshone the rest. Trolleys from the Extra ran to plumes of water. Souse glass had shown up in the weeds, always welcome for a lob and a shatter. Where resources ran short fists were inevitable, even three bouts. The children were too soft yet, flyweight, to crack bone, and since all were under twelve none but Psycho Hamish carried a chib. “Keep it doon,” from a mother, one at the tables near. Back to talk, fags, a circle facing inward.

“Chaos,” Rab said, and not without a smile. “Chaos.”

But then he came back to why he had come with his new friend. Such a ruckus was never any good for a stakeout. The future timeline was at risk. Thinking fast—up quick for a change—he came back in wellies. A whistle left on the pitch had gone around his neck. This Rab blew, to a shriek and to nothing. Another scrap was underway. Two trolleys overturned in the joust, and on a wrenching crash a third caught air. But his friend stood aside him, and he tried again—double toot, extra shrill, for a penalty. The public eye was on him, or close enough.

“Nae runnin,” Rab said. “An nae fire.” Weegie Scots—off school grounds such was the default.

Just unhorsed, Davy stood up, sleeves draining. “Whit’s at noo?”

“A sayt nae fire an nae runnin by ra pool.”

“Did ye aye! An wha are ye tae say it?”

“A’m ra lifeguard.”

Of course Davy Duncan would be the one to jam the works. But laughs came hard all around, eyes to his friend but not with caution, as before. Rab bent a neck, to no sign.

“Did ye make a face?”

“Chan eil agam ach an tè.”

“Pal, pal, ye must commit. A’m ra smairt talk here, no ye.”

“Tell me about the rabbits, George.”

The friend had two means to poke, both just shown. Catchphrase, accent, dopey register—for Rab these were the worse. At least with Gaelic he could not fault himself. Nobody should expect to get through cluck from the North Atlantic, not in Maryhill.

“Whit fuckin rabbits,” to himself. To the crowd, “Listen aw ay ye. A was ra furst wan here, furst tae see water, and at gies a say. Craic is craic but how long afore ra auld yins notice? They’d shut us doon tight as a boulder’s erse, so they wid.” A sweep to the senga mums facing inward, yet in their envelope of nicotine.

“Cho teann ri de?”

Rab began to lay out pool rules. But the mob’s two up ye was still hooking baws. Eyes began to roam. Time was wasting. Bags to burn, carts to butt.

“Rab!”

Shug, late. On coming close he did a take, and Rab felt better. Shug had been away for a week to see a grandparent in Dundee. Feast yer specky eyes.

“Wha’s ra newbie? A had him fur a grup.”

“Grup?”

“‘Bonk bonk oan ra heid, grup, bonk bonk oan ra heid!’”

“Ra hell ye oan aboot?”

“Aw, at’s from—”

“Star Trek!”

A throaty burr, /r/s in a tumble. Cnut Mag Amlaíb had only just moved from a far and spumy rock. There life was different. Vikings in cable knits doffed hats to ewes. Friday nights saw a wicker man go up. Druids were new money and street signs were in runes. Call it the Isle of Nob. The name, and more, was a guess. Cnut had told little yet, though he had the human speech for broad strokes. He, too, was ten, even two months younger than Rab. Yet he stood a thumb above a meter eighty and weighed more than thirteen stone. None dare have a go, even for the outfit—breeks, hose, and a bluidy woolen gilet, all thirdhand. Like a sheepshagger husbandman from a telly countryside.

“This is Teuchter Cnut,” Rab said.

Bait untaken, as always, but you could see how the hook weighed in the eyes. Shug said, “Good tae meet ye.”

“Star Trek is braw! Ever play Doongeons an Dragons?”

“Ye are Dungeons an Dragons.” Shug caught himself. “A love a twel-sided die.”

“Ootrolls a caber,” said Rab.

“The toss?” Cnut said. “Och, that’s wummin’s work.” Joke and truth were too close a call. Plus nerd shite was not in the script, so Rab struck it. He would have to mind Shug and his reverse Midas touch.

“Hey! Hey Baywatch!” Davey was in the pond. “A’m drownin!” Angel motions for a churn and a go. Stuck to one ankle was a condom, fished out on a kick, flabby and yellow. “Baywatch! A’m fuckin drownin!”

Laughter again—and the weans took up the chant, stomping in the puddle.

“That’ll stick,” Rab said.

But here at last the agenda came into view. The ned dwarf. Led by Rab’s eye, Cnut and Shug watched him, too. The dwarf was local. Cut and colors aside he looked a lot like the best Lannister. Five years back, while in school, he had gone by Noser, and the tale there was cautionary. But that prendre pisse was not au courant. The dugs on lead had brought the change—each a wedge head, fawn and white, big as the man himself. A lone blung hand kept chains taut at two blung collars. Neither dug sped the pace. The dwarf was a big deal. He had graduated from the ranks of the Shawpark Young Team to the network that had no name. Rab had as much from Brace. That a “dinklage” could move up, and not his brother, made for whinges. Brace was away on a DTO. This freed up couch space and the PS4 and made home a wonderland.

The dwarf felt eyes. Rab and Shug found sky and earth. Children of Maryhill were no different from the grups, bonk bonk. They knew not to know.

But not Cnut Mag Amlaíb of the Norsedick clan. No, he lent a stare, and Rab a swat.

“Whit? Wha’s that noo?”

“Sledge. On’t-dae ucking-fae ook-lae.” Cnut had none of the vulgate. Rab put it in the best of teuchter terms. “Ra world behind ra world—ra Unseelie Court.”

Sledge had come to a halt. The wedge heads did the same. His face was wan, eyes pink, and both were on Cnut. A night’s fun—that would explain the late pickup.

“So e’s a drug dealer?”

“No so loud. An naw, e’s no a dealer, unless it’s iron ye want.”

“Snog,” Cnut said.

“‘Snog’?”

“Snog.”

“Fuckin ‘snog’?”

What could be more Nob. Saying snog did not break the stare. That could be trouble. Wee did not enjoy a gawk, muckle should have known.

But Sledge lost interest and the dugs led again. Hedge, rock, paper sack, all per custom, by the community center doors. Sparse leaf could not hide it. The rafters were not as numpty as Rab had feared. In went the free hand, and off went Sledge.

“That bag,” Cnut said. “A wonder whit’s in it.”

“Wan warm can ay Irn-Bru. Sugar Free. Tae make weight.”

Rab heard the irony as he said it. Funny. But his was the only smile.

“That wis specific,” said Shug.

Up came the hoodie, waistband made bare, and Rab basked in the reveal.

“Ye nickt it?” Shug said, eyes on. “Ye nickt a fuckin drop?”

“Too loud,” Rab said. “An anyhow A only found ra cunt.” Wink. “Whoever’s rightful owner cannae be happy but.” Shug whitened to an eerie translucence. “Drop a pair,” Rab said. “It’s ra call tae adventure.”

Cnut was less fretful. “Whit is it?”

Both hands free, hoodie safely down again, Rab made air quotes to nock the syllables. “Ta-ser. Like a phaser, fae ra anorak show ay Shug’s, but wi a tee instead ay ra pee aitch an ye cannae set er tae kill.” The syllables again.

“Tell me about the Rabbits, George.”

“How’m A fuckin George here,” Rab did not ask. Instead, “Mind ye A don’t know why, right enough. A taser’s polis, an rare—no ra style, no at aw. Nor is ra transfer ay black market arms ra most commonplace use ay ra middleman scenario. But taser, aye.”

Shug turned to walk away but stopped cold. Rab and Cnut were distracted by the abrupt appearance of Psycho Hamish. For him such contraband had a scent.

“Ooh, whit goodies huv ye goat therr?”

“Aye, boeys—whit?” Even more abrupt. A sip from the can of Irn-Bru. The dwarf made a face and read the label. “Sugar free?” Left and right the dugs were off chain.

Rab watched himself bolt, and Cnut. Psycho Hamish kicked a leg from under Shug and ran his own way. Rab could marvel at the ingenuity even as he saw the dugs’ scrum onto his nerdiest friend. “Bastard,” he heard Shug say, scarcely a whisper.

No growl, no scream—as boy killers went the wedge heads were first-rate.

Sledge shouted, “Might we no skip ra middle?” The pool party had gone silent and a senga mom aired her grief. For the sprinty gust in his ears Rab heard no more.

Even after he had come to a stop, hunkered at bins on Towie Place, his heart was a bell. “Never felt so alive,” he said to himself, clamping back a panic shite. Cnut was no less out of breath but had enough for a hairy eye. Gaelic came in bursts. Rab understood the pitches if not the words. “Don’t gies that,” he said. “Ye were starin oan like a cow. A waanted ye tae see him, no tae thraw a fuckin searchlight.”

“Whit do ye mean ye waanted me tae see him?”

Very tall and very short should gain a rivalry. Such a scheme to things was only right. Capers would go on for years, neither side with the upper hand until the epic showdown. But Rab only shook his head. Tending to the field was his own calling. No one else could understand. And here came a wedge head—trotting up to haunch before them.

A panting threesome. None moved. Gone cold in the dug breath, Rab drew the taser.

“Naw! E’s a good boy.”

“Ra cunt just ate Shug.”

But Cnut put out a hand. The wedge head took the invite and got close. No red on the muzzle, Rab had to admit, nor guts for garters. Cnut fell to petting, and the dug flagged lickings with a tail.

“It’s oan oor side!” Rab said.

“Fuckin hell,” said the dwarf. “Nae mair dash, all right?”

The taser had gone up in a two-hand grip, the trigger clicking tinnily.

Sledge gave a scoff. “Pal, at wad’s shot already—cartridge is emptit oot—an ye’ll never want yer traces oan it noo, trust us.” Yet catching breath, he held out a hand. And so the prize was surrendered. “A’ll admit, though—ye’ve goat neck oan ye, daein at.”

The first wedge head had gone belly up, and the second had come around the bins for more of the same. Rab had never seen a dug happier than those very two. “Whit’s it fur?” Cnut asked, petting with both hands.

“Funny ye should ask,” Sledge said and on that matter no more. “Yer pal back therr, e had a spill but e’s fine. Maybe a bit kissy yet from ra pups. Rom and Rem here, how they love a wean. Ye shouldnae play wi bastards like at Hamish boey.”

Cnut said, “Ye ever play Doongeons an Dragons?”

Rab felt a blush but Sledge said, “Dungeons an Dragons is pure gallus! A used tae run a tabletop campaign wi me pals. Planescape! But A only play online noo.”

Cnut perked up. “Em em oh are pee gees?”

Sledge shared a platform and a username. No good would come of that. “Ye’re no mad at us?” Rab asked.

“Mate, ye’re only a wean. Young’s a stupit ye graw oot ay.”

Years ahead, deep in the new timeline—and S6—Rab went home from school. On his passing a close a voice said, “Tell me about the rabbits, George”—a voice grown to a boom, all Gaelic shed along with thirdhand woolens. He who spoke was Team and fated to rise in the world behind the world. Rab kept on. By then he knew who George was and all about the rabbits, and he prayed that stupid was not a young he never would.

#BartLessard #ShortStory #Glasgow #MaryHill #DockyardPress

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The View From Here: A Sickness That Lets Us See Clearly — 18 April 2020

by GM Stevenson

Looking west from Maryhill, Glasgow, these days is like seeing the view for the first time. Or like seeing a high-resolution image instead of a faded photograph. You can see farther, and in more detail, and there are colours that were previously invisible.

It only took a couple weeks of reduced pollution because of the lockdown for us to be able to see — and breathe — so clearly. Of course, the polluters are receiving billions in financial bailouts. When the pandemic ends — which will not be soon, according to a professor of the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard — a more common sickness will likely return. Our view of the distance, near and far, will fade, and we will once again be breathing in the chemicals that blur our vision.

If we saw as clearly with our hearts and minds as we now get to see with our eyes, we would ban all private cars from our cities.

Also posted on Notes From the Northern Colony

#GMStevenson #Glasgow #Scotland #Pollution #DockyardPress

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Glasgow Man with Coronavirus Symptoms Denied Test, Calls Official Inaction and Contradictions “A joke” — 13 March 2020

by GM Stevenson

A man in Glasgow's Wyndford Housing scheme has coronavirus symptoms, but has been refused a test and told to self-isolate.

The man, who lives with his wife and two small children, said today, “My daughter had a hacking cough last week. On Monday I developed the same but thought nothing of it as there were no confirmed cases at that point so I assumed it was too early. On Wednesday I phoned the doctor about it and was told it can't be because there isn't community transmission. By the evening of yesterday the government admitted there must be at least 5000 infections, and six people in Shetland were being hospitalised for it, none of whom had any contact with people from affected countries.

“I'm extremely angry. My symptoms have matched the virus, but they are only testing people who present at hospital with breathing difficulties or have been to one of the worst hit countries. The advice is self-isolate for seven days. I've been doing that as best I can, but I can't properly self-isolate until they shut the schools. It's a joke. You can't carry on with a market economy and also expect everyone to just bunker down. I'm keeping my distance from everyone, avoiding crowds and using self checkouts etc and washing hands and surfaces religiously. At the moment I don't know what else I can do as nobody is taking it seriously.”

His daughter, who would no longer be infectious, is back at school. His son now has a hacking cough, and stayed at home today. His wife has a temperature and symptoms of a cold.

Also posted on Notes From the Northern Colony

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The HOST: a Thomas Carnacki Story — 9 December 2019

by Barry Graham

The email was from Carnacki, and was sent to me and the three others normally invited to his gatherings. It was an invitation to a Halloween party, but, Carnacki emphasised, it would not be the usual sort of Halloween party – no dressing up, no party games. Instead, Carnacki would cook dinner for us, and then he would tell us a story.

I wrote back and said I would be there.

When I arrived at Carnacki’s flat at 184 Woodlands Road in Glasgow’s West End, Hodgson, Reekie and Welsh were already there. They sat around the dining table in Carnacki’s kitchen, while that gentleman himself stood at the stove-top, stirring a wonderful-smelling pot of soup. In one hand he held the wooden spoon, and in the other a large glass of Laphroaig, of which our friends at the table also had glasses.

“Good to see you, Graham,” he said as I entered and took my place at the table. “Help yourself to a snort of Laphroaig. Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes.”

Indeed it was, and, as always, it was delicious. It was not a complicated dish; the soup was of fresh seasonal vegetables and a few herbs, and the bread was fresh from the oven. The simple flavours were so pleasant, however, that I temporarily forgot Carnacki’s dislike of talking about his sojourns before it was time to tell his story, and I remarked, “You haven’t had a gathering like this in a while.”

“No,” was all he said, and he turned his attention to the bread he was breaking into pieces and adding to his bowl of soup. Quickly changing the subject, I remarked that I had been reading an article in The Economist about how people in Glasgow had a shorter lifespan than elsewhere, which the journalist was unable to explain other than by saying that “It is as if a malign vapour rises from the Clyde at night and settles in the lungs of sleeping Glaswegians.”

“I’d say that’s about right,” said Carnacki, with a smile of appreciation for my implied apology for my faux pas. “But, as you shall hear shortly, such malign vapours are by no means confined to Glasgow.” We all knew better than to ask him to say more at that time, but I think our friends were all as intrigued as I.

When our repast had been taken, we took our glasses in hand and retired to the living room, where a couch and comfortable chairs surrounded a table that served as a throne for two additional bottles of our friend’s favourite libation. He poured everyone a generous measure, not excluding himself, then lit candles, turned off the electric light, and settled into his favourite chair. For perhaps a minute, we sipped our drinks in convivial silence, and then Carnacki began to speak.

“As Graham correctly observed, it has been a while since I invited you fellows for dinner, though of course I’ve seen all of you individually hither and yon. Although I’ve been on a few jaunts since our last such gathering, none provided me with a story to tell you... Not, that is, until my most recent trip, which was not very far from this city.

“As you know, such excursions have been the vocation of the men in my family starting with my great-great-grandfather, whose experiences have been terrifying people for more than a hundred years now. I do not think I am being immodest in saying that a few of my own discoveries—which, like his, have been given the vulgar label ‘ghost-finding’—have been comparable in their extraordinariness. However, for some time now I have been encountering so many dull hoaxes that I was even beginning to doubt the veracity of the stories I’ve told you—stories you know to be true in every word, but that were seeming less and less believable even to me.

“I resorted, to my shame, to phoning the Scottish Tourist Board, and asking for a list of purportedly-haunted houses and castles. They sent me a brochure. I called again and explained that I wanted to know about the places that no one would in good conscience include in a brochure. They passed me around a few people, and then at last someone told me they had heard bad things about Drimdarroch Castle.

“It sounds like some desolate place in the Highlands, but when I went online and did a search, I discovered that it is, in fact, in Dumfriesshire, not a long train-ride from Glasgow Central Station. At first, I thought I had made a mistake in my search, because there was little about the castle online, and nothing about its being haunted. But, since everything in the world is supposedly online, its lack of an Internet presence piqued my interest, and I decided to find out who the present owner was.

“This turned out to be a man called Monroe, who lives in the city of Dumfries itself. When I contacted him by phone and asked him about his property, he made no bones about it. ‘I wouldn’t set foot in that place at night,’ he told me. I asked him why not, and he became wary, wanting to know the reason for my interest. I told him that I would like to spend a night there, alone. There was a long silence—I thought perhaps he had hung up the phone—and then he surprised me by flatly saying, ‘All right. It’s up to you.’ “At that moment, I somehow knew that this haunting was not just another hoax, of the kind I had exhausted myself with this past while. In those cases, the owners of the properties had done their utmost to convince me to stay there, so they could play their tricks and convince me. Monroe’s casual insistence that he would never go there after dark, and his indifference as to whether I did, made me realise that this was something different. You can understand?

“On a Saturday morning, I took a train from Glasgow to Dumfries. I was carrying a large bag that contained the electric pentacle and other essentials you know I take with me on such jaunts. Monroe met me in a pub there at lunchtime, and told me what little he knew of his property.

“The castle was mostly a ruin. The reason he bought it is that it came with a nearby mansion-house, which he’s restoring with the intention of turning it into a hotel. There are really only two sections of the castle that are completely intact: the banqueting hall, and a small chamber adjacent to the hall. There is, of course, no electric light, though Monroe plans to install it some day. “He gave me a key to the castle, too big to fit in a pocket, and some notes he had made about the place. Of his reasons for refusing to go there after dark he would say nothing.

“I thanked him, paid for his beer, took my leave and caught a bus to the village of Drimdarroch, about half an hour from Dumfries. I asked the driver for directions to the castle, but he told me he wasn’t sure, and that I should ask people at the village pub, The Cross Keys.

“I went to the pub, and a most pleasant place it was. I was reluctant at first to ask directions to the castle, because I didn’t want to give the local lads the idea of playing a prank on me. If you knew how many yokels I’ve had show up by my bedside draped in white sheets and making howling noises, you would understand.

“The pub has wireless, and I had brought my laptop with me, so I got online and tried to find directions from the pub to the castle... but I found nothing. You can understand how intriguing this was. Intriguing, and something else, something that made my neck tingle.

“I struck up a conversation with some fellows playing pool, and asked them how to get to the castle. They knew, and they told me, and they thought it a funny thing that I wanted to go there. I had half-expected that they might react like peasants hearing the name of Castle Dracula, crossing themselves and urging me not to go there, but not a bit of it. They just gave me directions, and invited me to join them back at the pub, an invitation I gladly accepted.

“It only took about twenty minutes to walk from the pub to the castle, carrying my rather heavy bag. Just outside the village, you reach an unmarked driveway, walk up it for a while, and find the mansion house on your left and the castle on your right. The castle looks just like any one of the numberless other such ruins to be found throughout Scotland.

“I found the door, which was at the bottom of a turret, let myself in and climbed a crumbling winding staircase to the banqueting hall. There was a big fireplace, almost big enough for a man of my six feet to stand upright in, and in two glass cases there were mummified cats, which Monroe had exhumed from the walls, where they had been bricked up alive. Back when the castle was built, it was believed that if you bricked up live cats during the construction of a castle, their spirits would stay there and protect it. As you know, I’m rather fond of cats, and none of the ones I know would thank you for suffocating them to death, but no doubt these were different times.

“There was a long table and a chair, which looked as though they could have been there for centuries, but in fact had been put there by Monroe. So also had the candles in the holders that aligned all four walls, and that sat in a large candelabra on the table. “At one end of the room was an archway, without a door, that led to the side-chamber. There was no other entry to it, so I decided that was where I would sleep. I set up my sleeping bag, flashlight, and water-bottle, and around them I constructed the electric pentacle.

“As you know, my grandfathers believed that you had to construct the pentacle around yourself for it to protect you, but I have found that they were mistaken. As long as you don’t turn on the electricity until you are within the barrier, you are safe. If I were wrong about this, I would have paid the price for my error years ago. The important thing is to have a battery that will last through the night, which is why I use a new battery every time.

“When I had finished setting up the pentacle, it was about five in the afternoon, still daylight. The side-chamber had no windows, but the banqueting hall had high, narrow, rectangular, glassless windows though which slivers of sunlight entered. It was light enough for me to sit at the table and read Monroe’s notes.

“The castle was supposedly haunted by a young woman who burned herself to death in the fireplace four hundred years ago. Less than fifty years ago, a woman from the village, exploring the castle, stayed after dark and jumped to her death from the top of a turret. This was all the information the notes contained.

“When I had finished reading, I stood up, got my camera, and took some photographs of the banqueting hall. Then I set up my camera on a tripod at the entrance to the side-chamber, facing into the hall. I adjusted its settings as I needed them—of which more later—and then I left, locked the door, and walked back to the village and the pub. It was a pleasant walk, and when I got to the pub the men I had met earlier were still there, and had been joined by quite a few more.

“I played pool with them, and then talked politics, with particular regard to Scottish independence. By early evening, some went home for dinner, and just as many did not. We ate some fine pub grub, and continued to drink and talk. I went easy on the beverages, which was just as well, as I received a few tempting invitations to abandon my silly idea of sleeping rough at the castle and instead stay the night with one of my new friends. One of them was a young lady with whom I’m still in touch, and had I had a few more pints I might have accepted her offer.

“As it was, I took my leave at about ten in the evening. Still thinking that someone might find it amusing to play a prank on me, I remarked, casually and falsely, that one reason I wasn’t afraid was that I had a gun with me, and planned to shoot anyone or anything that disturbed my sleep.

“I will make no claim to complete sobriety as i walked back to the castle, but, as Burns had it, ‘I wasnae fou, I’d just had plenty.’

“I will tell you, entering a place like Drimdarroch Castle in the dark of night is very different than doing so in the afternoon. I followed the beam of my flashlight up the driveway, which was easy enough, but when I reached the wooden door of the turret, I was missing the camaraderie of the pub—and when I entered, and made my way up the winding staircase, I was in something of a brown study. You can understand?

“It was chillier within the castle walls than outside. I went into the side-chamber, and turned on my camera, which, as I have said, stood in the doorway. It was attuned to the state of the light, or darkness, so that if there was any change in the light—such as that caused by a person entering the banqueting hall—it would automatically begin to take pictures. “I removed my shoes, and, otherwise fully-clothed, got into my sleeping bag. I turned on the electric pentacle, and, comforted by its blue light and by the beer I had drunk throughout the evening, I soon fell asleep.

“I am not sure how long I had been asleep when I was awakened by the sound of the camera taking pictures. I sat up, and when I realised what had awakened me, I felt no fear. Knowing that the camera was activated by changes in the light, I felt sure that the cause was either a bat or a bird entering the hall through one of the windows, or perhaps the arrival of one of the villagers to have some fun with me. I even thought it might the the young lady I had met in the pub, and I did not strongly object to that idea. “So unconcerned was I that I did not get out of my sleeping bag. When the camera went on taking pictures, and I realised I must investigate or turn it off, I stood up in my sleeping bag, holding it around me for warmth, and hopped like a kangaroo until I reached the camera. I stood behind it and peered into the darkness of the banqueting hall, but I could not for the life of me see anything that might have triggered it.

“Then the candles that aligned the walls were lit, all at once, like electric lights being turned on. So were the candles in the candelabra on the long table.

“Now, as I tell you this story, this room we are sitting in is lit only by candlelight, by which I can see you and you can see me. But the candles in that hall gave off no light. I could see the flames, but they gave off no light beyond their own shape.” Carnacki held up a finger. “Like this. You see my finger, but of course it gives off no light. The flames were like that.

“Then there was a face. Only a face, though if a man sat at the chair at the end of the table, it was where his face would have been. But it was not the face of a man, though I suppose it was closer to that of a man than of anything else I have ever seen. It was lit, like the candles, but, like the candles, its light did not shine.

“It smiled at me.

“It smiled at me, then raised a hand, a hand made of solid, unshining light, and beckoned to me in invitation.

“I closed my eyes, though tears squeezed and poured from under my eyelids, and I shook my head.

“Then the sound of the camera stopped. It was no longer taking photographs. I opened my eyes. The candles had all gone out. I realised that I had let the sleeping bag fall away from my body. I turned around to go back to the electric pentacle, and it did not even occur to me that by leaving it I had broken the protective barrier...

“Until I saw that thing, that face, inside the pentacle. It smiled, showing teeth that were not quite teeth, and again raised a beckoning hand in invitation. And when I did not move, it beckoned again, and then it came towards me, and as it crossed the barrier the pentacle went dark but its face did not.

“There is something that I have been preparing for twenty years to do, never believing that I would ever have to do it, but practising, practising saying it, though never out loud. And now I said it aloud, said the Unknown Last Line of the Saamaa Ritual, which, according to the Sigsand MS., is only to be spoken in the time of gravest peril, with no certainty that it will save your life, only your soul.

“As you know, I am not a man who is easy to frighten. But, for no reason I can tell you, I knew without a doubt that this was the time I must say these most dangerous of words, and I did, I said them, and then I started to say them again, but I do not know if I did...

“The next I knew, I was on the winding staircase, falling or flying, bouncing off the circular walls, reaching the bottom, exploding out the door, running, shoeless, running, and not stopping until I reached the village, where I walked the streets, loving every streetlight, until dawn.

“When the sun was fully risen, I walked back up that path, back to the castle, my feet like raw steaks, and I entered, and went to the banqueting hall.

“I checked every candle. They were ordinary candles, made of wax.

“I disassembled the electric pentacle, and packed it, along with my camera, and I walked back to the road, and waited for the bus, which took me to Dumfries. From there, I called Monroe, got his voice mail, and told him his key was in the door of the castle. I have not heard from him since.

“As I sat on the train back to Glasgow, full of laughing, chattering people who have never been to the worlds I have, people who did not know that my shoes were full of blood, I was tempted to look at the images on my camera, but I resisted that temptation. When I got home I went to bed and slept through the day, because I knew I would not be able to sleep that night for fear that I might wake and find that thing sitting by my bed, smiling and beckoning to me.

“I awoke in the early evening, ate dinner and partook of some Laphroaig, and then uploaded the contents of my camera to my laptop. In a good ghost story, the photographs would show nothing, but in actuality they showed exactly what I had seen. Interestingly, there are no pictures of the thing entering the hall, approaching the chair, sitting down, and then getting up and leaving, which there should be as the camera responds to changes in the light. You can understand?”

Carnacki said no more for a minutes, and neither did the rest of us. He refreshed our glasses, then said, “Would you like to see the pictures?”

No one answered. Carnacki opened his laptop, and said, “Here they are. Look if you want to. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand.”

After varying degrees of hesitation, we all got up and gathered around him and looked at the screen.

He clicked through picture after picture. It was as he had said. There was a face, hands, candle flames, but nothing else, and the flames radiated no light.

As we started back to our chairs, Carnacki said, “Wait. Do you remember I told you I took photographs of the banqueting hall in the afternoon? Well, I have those too. Look.”

The photographs showed the hall, the table, the chair, and the folder of notes Carnacki had been reading at the table. Behind the chair was the fireplace, and in the fireplace stood a woman in a gown, hands covering her face. There were no flames in the picture, but we all remembered that a young woman had burned to death in that fireplace.

“You didn’t see her at the time?” asked Welsh.

“No,” Carnacki said.

We all returned to our chairs.

“Any questions?” Carnacki asked.

No one answered.

“I think the legend of the haunting is wrong,” Carnacki said. “Monroe seemed to think it was haunted by the girl in the fireplace. I don’t think so. I think she burned herself to death under the influence of what I saw. I think the same is true of the woman who jumped to her death. And, had I not uttered the forbidden words I did, I think I would have joined them. I think whatever I saw was there before the castle was built, and will be there after the castle is gone. It is the place. It hosts everyone and everything that has the misfortune to be there. I know this with the certainty of my own death, and with as much mystery.”

None of us had anything to say. We finished our drinks, then Carnacki stood up. “Out you go!” he said, as he always did at such times, and we put on our coats and walked together down the stairs, into the icy dark, and along Woodlands Road, eventually separating and going to our homes.

#BarryGrahm #ShortStory #Carnacki #Glasgow #Fiction #DockyardPress

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Because the Night Belongs to Us — 5 December 2019

by Babs Nicgriogair

Because the night belongs to us

Tha na sràidean teth timcheall a h-uile duine a’feitheamh ’s a’feitheamh Ri dol fodha na gréine Amhaich thioram, mionach falamh A’gluasad ’s a’ gearan An-fhoiseil an -fhoiseil Ramadan ’s an t-òg mhìos, ann an Glaschu , tha e doirbh

Tha an latha cho fada tha m’fhoighidinn cho goirid Tha mi feitheamh ort a ghràidh ’s an t-acras orm

Tha na mnàthan timcheall a’geurachadh an sgeinean gearradh ’s mion-gearradh, a’feitheamh ’s a’feitheamh Ri dol fodha na gréine Biryiani, Aloo Gobi Praisean a’goil ’s am baile air bhoil An-fhoiseil an-fhoiseil Ramadan ’s an t-òg mhìos ann an Glaschu, tha e doirbh

Tha mi air leughadh ’s air leaghadh Leantainn recipe ùr Tha mi feitheamh ort a ghràidh ’s an t-acras orm

Taobh a-muigh tha na càraichean a’casadaich ’s na boy racers bragail a’ feitheamh ’s a’feitheamh Ri dol fodha na gréine Gach fear gun cead òl ach draibhigeadh mar misgear Brands Hatch a risd An -fhoiseil an fhoiseil Ramadan ’s an t-òg mhìos ,ann an Glaschu, tha e doirbh

Tha am bòrd deiseil Àite ann airson dithis Tha mi feitheamh ort a ghràidh ’s an t-acras orm

Tha na busaichean làn , tha na solais dearg ’s tu air an 41 taobh an ear a’feitheamh ’s a’feitheamh ri dol fodha na grèine an rathad romhad , teanga fhada dhubh a’ rock ‘n roiligeadh an -fhoiseil, an-fhoiseil Ramadan ’s an t-og mhìos ann an Glaschu, tha e doirbh

Ithidh sinne le ar làmhan Gu slaodach, gu sùghmhor Tha mi feitheamh ort a ghràidh ’s an t-acras orm

Because the night belongs to us (translation)

The streets are hot round here Everybody waiting, just waiting For sundown Dry throats, empty bellies grumbling and groaning restless, rest less Ramadan in Glasgow in June is hard

The day is so long My patience so short I am waiting for you my love And I am hungry

The women round here are sharpening their knives Chopping and dicing, waiting just waiting For sundown Biryiani, Aloo Gobi Pots boiling, the town in a frenzy restless, rest less Ramadan in Glasgow in June is hard

I have been reading and melting Following a new recipe I am waiting for you my love And I am hungry

Outside the cars are coughing Cocky boy racers waiting just waiting For sundown Each one tee-total but driving like a drunk Brands Hatch again restless, rest less Ramadan in Glasgow in June is hard

The table is set For two I am waiting for you my love And I am hungry

The buses are full, the lights are red You’re on the 41 east-side, waiting just waiting For sundown The road before you a long black tongue rocking and rolling restless, rest less Ramadan in Glasgow in June is hard

We will eat with our hands Slowly and succulently I am waiting for you my love And I am hungry​

#BabsNicgriogair #Poetry #Gaelic #Glasgow #DockyardPress

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Butney Headhunters — 28 November 2021

by Bart Lessard

Where a football trophy might rest on the bedside shelf of another boy of nine—or a geode, or a Wookiee, or a Snaptite fighter jet—Callum now kept the clean upper of a human skull. Awe was due, gobsmack awe, and friends came in to pay. Shug was a floor up in the scheme, Davy two below, and both had sped along on receipt of a selfie, foreground leer, pride at left shoulder. Thanks to friction with the brother Rab ran late, and he hid the limp on entry.

What built in him at the sight was not sportsmanlike. Jealous to a seethe, he said at last, “It’s no real.” Not a glance his way, whether hard or mild.

“That’s Beltran,” Davy said. “Tommothy Beltran. He’s still got the two gold teeth.”

“Lots of cunts have two gold teeth,” Rab said. “Orangeman Geoff has full grills and rocks ’t spell his name besides.”

“But no this pair—fang and fang.” Davy indicated with the two up ye.

“So it’s a grass,” Callum said. Everybody knew of the vanishing act. Solemn nods all around. “He must have crept out of the canal, perished there and bleached. They sank him yet alive.” Were it truth an oversight, Rab knew. Shawpark Young Team was the local task force. Proper in removals, no more passion than for a half litre at the bin. “It was in the rushes where A found him,” Callum went on, “amongst shopping bags.”

Shug asked, “Nae bones,” to get a line.

“No that A saw. Bloody hell—knuckles would have made a good chain, aye.”

“Didnae crawl out then,” Davy said, yet the boffin. “And the water in the canal, it wullnae wash you up like a clamshell. Wave action is at a minimum and tidal forces dunnae apply. Naw, the way A see it a creepypasta was up on the bank, a bottom dweller ’t ate what was left of him, come up for a shite.”

“Creepypasta!” Rab shouted, to surprise. “Out your arse, that’s where you flap it, and up the nearest too. CSI: Wee Schemie Cunt! Encyclopaedo Brown!”

The brawl upset the shelf and in turn the trove. Callum caught long, and in a whited fury, the skull cherished close, he said, “Fuck off, you—all you schemie cunts.”

Boarding the elevator Rab tongued a raw lip. As he nursed at his spite and blood plans took shape. The car found his floor. He was smiling in a tinge when the doors made way again. Had Junkie Stewart not boarded the drop would have been straight.

“Hey big man, big man. Had a bit of barney, aye? Spare us a fiver?”

Rab knew where he could fetch a head. His would be better. His, it would have a jaw, with teeth and a bite to spare.


The brother was Team, a year out from his majority and low of rank. But Brace was in on things, if not so taut at mouth as being in should demand. Three hits of swally and he had been at arias in the maw’s kitchen with two Team prospects. They had told him to bite it off, gone loud for fear of their lives, as though powers heard through wall, floor, and tower block alike. Rab had grown crack at his ninjitsu, listening in from the other room. Soon after, an angry head had poked in to check. Earbuds were up, earbuds playing fools, and from behind a comic book Rab threw on a metronomic bob.

“Gie”—and snatch—to an open view of Brace off for the bog, Immortal Hulk in hand.

So he had the vicinity. This was not a dump. The remains were meant to be found— staged, as the shows said. The brother had been amazed that no one had yet caught scent. Skies had been blue, taps aff and aff again. Rab went armed: colours and a chef’s knife. Surely a muggy week or two was enough to reduce a cunt to bone, but there would be gristle. Domestic cutlery was no less outlaw than a chib, and less sly. Whence the scarf. It could have been anything wrapped up—a flute, a carrot—rooting for the F.C.

The trespass sign by the gap bore the Team tag: ShYT3. Second-string villainy, as Rab saw it, to leave a boast on the fence for the law. Through chainlink and rank shrub he went, shady trash underfoot, into a vault of leaves. Another rankness in mind he began to scent the air. Sight of the bothy, a green tarp on a frame of skids, brought a thrill. A hum rose, flies in the many hundred, and he breached the smell at last, like passing through a blister skin. Just beyond the vegetation lay the channel, the south side walking path. West enders would be out for a jog, and chipper junkies on chipper junkie rounds. Somehow they were unaware of the fumes. Maybe they had lost the nose. The whole bottom of that watercourse was bones, Maryhill and Possil knew, bones in a stack with mud and rubbish, but the flow kept it clean, slow yet steady, in time got out to sea. Wading into the smell—a thickening air—Rab was weighing up the swim. He came to a stop, took two back, thought it through. “Need us a skull.”

A makeshift home will paint a picture of an occupant—rough sleeper, anorak, flasks of Eldorado voided and shed. But no, this cunt had been to a tailor. Not that the cut was so bespoke now. A bloat pulled buttons tight as laces. Rats had worried at his hands, rats or creepypastas, for these had been the only naked meat, now an unfleshed pair of rakes. They lay crossed on a double breast, herringbone tweed, the body in a topcoat. No summerweight getup, no less so for the gunny sack atop the head. It had been cinched up tight—tighter even than the rayon windsor knot.

A muggy week does not reduce a cunt to bone, Rab saw. “Fuck.” Off came the scarf from the knife, to block up mouth and nose. For a better angle he pulled the tarp and let a skid fall out. In he leaned, looked away once the edge was placed, and began a dainty fiddle. The wet whisper was no less regrettable than the reek. Flies crept about his neck and sipped upon his blinking eyes.

Five minutes made for a nick and a sore wrist. Put a back into it, he told himself. On his knees, he bore down, both hands on the stroke. No looking off now, not even as the jostle gave up tenants—both sleeves, both trouser legs. Jumping back Rab gave a shriek. He had a look about to make sure none had heard the girl. Like shadows—gone with a rustle. He looked to his hands. Juices—nasty, like those that had run out from the shell of a pet turtle dead of thirst. He was an older boy now and knew how to commit.

Back to work. A cervical joint gave way easier than he might have thought, not in so many words. Perhaps the neck had been broken in the grip. The wetness was trying, so he doffed the scarf to give himself a wipe. It had not done much in blocking a stink, or so he thought until the nose was left undefended. Flies went spelunking in each nostril. The things he did for honour. Face pinching shut, he tidied up his hands, and the swaddling went on clean side out. He pulled, and a last connection gave way, to a reel of string. Worm, he thought at first as it sagged to dirt. But then he saw that it was spinal tissue. “Turtle!” he said on the revolt, more or less. A shrug and tuck of chin got the retch off.

One more pass, two more deepening heaves, these dry. Done! Neat to the crook of an arm, like a rugger ball up from the scrum. Folded plies kept off the soak. Rab looked down at what would be left. Per local rite he offered up a prayer. “Poor bastard.” One less grass, but in a state of decay all are innocent.

Pure rancid, though. Breath held, looking to his feet, he ran. He would see the deed forever, smell it, a codger in a pub of tomorrow ruing wisdom at a hologram of ale. But first he saw the lawman rear up, a yellow-vested polis of the goddam here and now.

Polis, Rab; Rab, polis. Just beyond, and radiant with open sun, was the gap in the fence. Panic—but no less plainly Rab saw the mind at work. Only a scold being formulated—polis wit, God help us—with no glance to the parcel. This was not a ghoul but a truant, to the officer’s mind, a mere naughty wean.

So Rab said, “There.”

The fright was honest, no less so than the nod back to sin. Sold. The stare broke, the polis looking past. Rab was glad to see range in those eyes: suspicion, focus, puzzlement, focus, surprise, career ambition.

“Stay there,” the polis said. Again ninjitsu came to play. Not a twig underfoot played the clype. You’ll never make DCI, Deppity Hamish, Rab thought between sun and pavement, at a dead run. Next up: find ye an anthill.


Four hours’ search down the Kelvin walk, all to see the light: the city parks were home to no such thing. Rab could visualise a hill, aye, a handsome cone littered with a scrap of ladybirds, but this must have been on the shows. Urban ants were a different sort: crack-dwellers, sugar bowl rapists. No death-mounds, no marches skeletonising a jungle road. Glasgow ants were plain shite. But worms could do the polish.

Off the walk he dug, the mill in sight from the fallen tree if he peeked up. Passersby only saw a wee man playing foxhole. Furrow made, he saw that he should take off the wraps. A head made bare would surrender more quickly. The step was clear—he had done the worse—but reluctance grew. Coming up on eight p.m., two hours to nightfall, and he was full of the smell upon him. Off came the scarf, never to be worn again save by weather. Once he laid bare the strangle cord, tight yet on gray meat, he thought back. The maw would miss the knife, as he did now; the cops at the scene, perhaps not.

Live and learn. Rab pulled in opposite directions at the top of the gunny cloth, to a rip. He caught a flash of face before the waft shut his eyes for him. “Fuckin ammonia?” he said in a choke. Biology was foul indeed. Someday we’d turn ours in for robots. No more deil realm of piss and stink. Eyes off, nose out, he picked up the bottom of the sack. A hard shake would lay it in the dirt. Not seeing the who of it, the former human being, was politeness, he told himself. But as the head slipped out it pulled against the throttle, not loose at all, and Rab felt the weight dangle. He shook and shook but let go. The tease flipped it face up. His palms were on the backfill when he glanced to what was shown. And another hour crept by in cold thought.


His face was a tattle on entry to the homestead. Brace was at the table with a vape pen, hash oil from the scent, slouched in two. Before him was a residue of Bucky in a snifter. Where he had found the snifter is lost to history, but he had poured to the rim.

“Whit’s ra mettur wi ye?”

“A—”

“Get tae fuck!”

Rab did. He felt haunted to the rearmost teeth. But there were other ghosts making home, he saw. Brace’s eyes were cannabinol pink, or he had wept up a lather, or both.

Faces were much on Rab’s mind. To the bath, for soap and lathers of his own, a scrub from quiff to queef. Afterward, on a frown, he shot Glade straight onto his hands. No trace could be left, not on the surface. The smell would have to wear off from deeper.

The afterimage, that would not. Puffed out, a gray slough, but features known to any. The bastard had disappeared back in wintertime. He had been enough of a figure to cut another by his absence. No grass, this—never. In that sunset hour Rab had been forced to play boy detective. Encyclopaedo Brown, the sequel. Poetic justice. What a cunt.

This was not sanitation, but politics. Surely nothing for Shawpark Young Team, least of all for numpty Brace. Even a nine-year-old schemie cunt could see that. As rinks of diarrhoea went, this was a colder one to skate. Not least for the state of the body after six months’ absence. Rancid, but not rancid enough. The gospel of the shows taught Rab the full. To thwart work in the lab, forensic timetables, they had put him in a freezer. Once the stars were right came the thaw. The ShYT3 tag nearby, Brace playing town crier—Rab saw it all. False flag—setup—a deliberate leak. Brace was a patsy, here confirmed by anguish, Bucky, vape. Rab was about to lose the brother.

“And gain a skull!”

The clothes were fire bound, save the tee. His Suspiria shirt was not going back to Gitche Manitou. He’d just have to drop some Woolite on that cunt. He was under the sink for a shopping bag when he heard Brace sob loud and clear.

“Ooh Netty, Netty. Ooh Netty.”

Netty Maclinnick—a jilt. The slag had shown some taste. A sigh, enthroned on the bog lid to ride it out. Rab would pay in lumps if Brace saw him see. Not soon enough, the maw got home from her shift, and Brace was shooed off to the sofa bed.


Grief was in no short supply, but a day of school was the grief he knew best. Off he went at eight a.m., the psychic smell of curdled victim unrelenting. He pouted through maths, looking forward to the exam that would rid him of the farce once and forever. Until then he would have to slum it in genpop. Callum was in the class, and even in the fug and drudgery Rab could not help but notice his rival looked plenty glum.

“It’s gone,” Callum said at lunch. “Tommothy Beltran’s skull. Alas, A knew him well.” Rab made a face. “Ma parents, they found him, and they would nae hear reason. When A told how A got it, where A got it, ma maw even called the polis.”

“No!”

“Aye!” Callum laid boustrophedons in neeps and tatties with a spork. Rab had no thought on his own tray and had skipped even the dry morning toast. “It’s no a grass when it’s your maw. The filth came in and grilled me for hours. They wanted to take me in like a proper villain, but da, he drew the line. They were snappin like mongrels in the living room. There were threats of calls—social workers, Legal Aid, prosecutor, queen’s counsel, Uncle Jay. What a shite show.”

‘They could take the skull without a warrant?”

“Aye—a bastard in a hazmat suit—no just gloves but a suit, head to foot, like some kind of moonbase cunt. He dropped it in an evidence bag, didnae he, Fuck Rogers.”

‘Even though you found it fair and square?”

“Even though A found it fair and square. They waved blacklights in ma room. A’m too young to skeet, the twats. They were there for hours. Impressing upon me how A should nae ‘tamper with evidence.’” His index fingers curled marks onto polis words.

“Did they aye.”

“That ‘interfering with human remains’ is a ‘matter for the courts.’”

“Huh.”

“That ‘hiding material evidence’ made me ‘accessory to the crime.’”

“Hm.”

“In this case a ‘likely homicide.’ Then they left off and went … but ma da, no he.”

‘Aw that’s rough, pal. A’m so sorry.” Inwardly: A’ll rush the schedule.

Recent loss, a sweet spot—sweeter than the thrill of competition. How Callum would boil. And Davy, the sucker-punch bampot, he might as well prepare himself for seppuku.


Overnight had made no dent, not a single worm a-nibble. Now that he had a better grasp on decomp Rab had not foreseen miracles. And he had come better prepared for a transfer: the maw’s dishwashing gloves; rubbish bags, a whole roll; and Brace’s never-once-used football tote. It had been a gift from the maw’s barnacle, a top chap who had hoped to temper the young through sport. Of course he might as well have brought tea to a troop of morlocks in an irradiated sewer complex but the thought had been nice. No scrape at the dirt—Rab was glad for any mask. The truffle quintuple-bagged, he went his merry way. He had also brought a jar of Tiger Balm, pinched from the Extra, to rub camphor at his nose. The shows again, peace be upon them.

There would be no stink at all, but it was best to avoid a busy route. Setting out for the block, the path near the aqueduct in mind, he saw a polis off the walk with a dog on lead—a Belgian Malinois sniffing through the underbrush.

Fifty feet off, yet it gave Rab a stern look. No need to run a fancy—polis dogs took squat time, same as any—until he saw the same again, yellow movements on the far bank. Each nearest dog turned his way, even from across the glassy slide of water. There would be more sniffing out ahead, were the fear correct—the whole Stasi kennel.

Rab doubled back toward the Extra. No more K-9s, but he saw the same picque amongst civilian dogs out for walkies. Black lab, Staffy, cockapoo, puggle, Pom—each gone grass on him. The last, come closest, drew the lead tight enough to hang wash, and it began to yap. “Jockie!” the human anchor said. “Jockie, you’ll stretch your wee neck! Sorry, son, A don’t know what’s got into him. Are you carrying a ham toastie by chance?”

More came out about ham and Pomeranian. Rab heard none of it. He ran the tenements above the Kelvin, imagining the j’accuse from any pet at a window. His nonhuman pals could scent it, but not Rab. Nor even the curse of the canal from the prior day, and that had been from within. Fright was a good reset.

Mention of a toastie even got him in a mind to eat. He had not in more than a day. To the Greggs, then. These sausage rolls will give me the quick energy A need to fetch us home, Rab thought, demolishing the pack on site. He was at a table for two, the football tote snug at his feet, and he went back up for caramel shortbread.


To task. Brace was not at home, and the maw would not be for hours yet. Into a stock pot with the trophy, features down, and water. Rab had seen a stew in his time. Given long enough a simmer would denude the skull and improve the smell along the way.

It did not. Rancid was rancid cooked or raw, he found. All windows open was no help. He thought to add dishwashing liquid, the very essence of cleanliness, and the slurry foamed over. Once that was tended to—heat low, pot sides wiped up and blotted—a residue began to burn. The atmosphere grew hazy as well as foul. Grim, but necessary: Rab bound a hoodie to his face, sleeves back. He added potpourri to the boil—mother’s stash atop the bog—marking whether it made the difference, no, and then, in turn, a cup of salt, no, a liter of bleach, worse, a half of milk, no better, glass cleaner from the unscrewed spray top, fuckin awful, and honey at a drizzle. He was about to reach for straight lye when beefs came in from the windows, neighbours above and below.

“What is that stink?”

“Paulie Boy! Is that bathtub meth again?”

“Who’s frying tripe?”

“Fuck aff!”

Rab’s eyes had gone a fierce red, bloodshot to the stems, and he coughed on every take of air. The windows would stay wide. But neither did he need a city council visit. Best to douse. He turned off the burner and threw a saucepan full of tap water. Steam clouds roiled up, and he waved both hands to thin the air.

“Fuck!”

This was from inside the flat. Here was Brace, uncharacteristically sober, which is to say only mostly drunk or high. Rab did not recognize the brother’s face straight off, for it did not wear its usual malevolence, only a shock.

“Whit ra fuck ur you at in here?” The diction was as usual, but not the tone. Brace had no go for a go in him. A kitchen chair received his blubbery drop.

“Science fair,” Rab said, wincing for the cuff.

None came. Neither did the stare relent. “A’ve been railroaded,” Brace said at last.

“Huh?”

“Set up, ye fuckin muppet. A’d be in jail noo if ra haunds an heid wur still oan.”

“Haunds and heid oan whit?” Rab said, through the glare of seeing all at once.

“Ra haunds went tae ra rats, ma pals telt me, fingerprints wi them, but ra rest, ra whole fuckin heid an dental records, naebidy knows who—”

Here Rab found he had a tell.

Brace saw. He followed the glance to the pot. The suspicion deepened. “Rab?”

“Brace?”

Up at once, the chair upset, to fetch a pair of tongs. Rab could not move, not even as Brace sounded the broth, nor on the gasp of coming face to face.

A full half minute crept by. Brace broke the freeze, made the turn. And then he was on Rab quick as shot, with a hug and a grin and eyes full of tears.

“A’m proud ay ye, wee man. Ye’ll huv me greetin.”

Rab said nothing.

“But here noo,” Brace went on. “It’s only hauf ra joab.”

Rab said nothing.

“Teeth.”

Rab said nothing but saw the joke.

​“It’s awright,” Brace said. “Ye’ve been a gallus, done yer part. A’ll brek up ra jaw maself.” And soon nothing was left to be explained, except to the maw, once she came home to the newest stench, one of many made by two sons on their own.

#BartLessard #ShortStory #Glasgow #DockyardPress

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