Copyright Â© 2015 Roger Johnson
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
eISBN 978 1784628 383
Cover art by Ruth Whalley
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd
At last “the book”
For Kate and Family
Odd to wait at this front door,
I have to stand and knock.
But then I had a key before,
And now she's changed the lock.
She likes to keep me waiting
Like some salesman at the door.
Her small way of stating
I don't live here anymore.
Looks like the park's out for the children,
I'd hoped it wouldn't rain.
Can't fall back on âgood old Nan,'
They made that very plain.
At least she keeps the garden neat,
There's a freshly painted garden seat.
Oh, and washing on the line,
And two men's shirts not mine.
I've just come upstairs for a bit of peace and quiet, away from all the so-called Christmas festivities going on downstairs in the front room. Mind you, if I'm being truthful I don't really like Christmas all that much anyway â it's all a bit over-rated if you ask me. Leave them to it I say â also it gives me a chance to change out of these rather horrible slippers I've had bought, colours one thing, only you'd've thought maybe your own mother might've had some idea what size you take. We've just had the Queen's speech on TV. My words, you can't help feeling a bit proud can you â especially for her age. She'd have just the same effect in an old cardi I'll bet.
I've been having another go with my mother's back door, it's still sticking like mad for some reason. All this dampy Yorkshire weather I expect â according to her I've made it even worse.
Mind you there's no pleasing some people.
âOh well' I said âin that case you'd better fetch somebody else in â preferably with more tools than a blunt breadknife' I added.
âA good workman doesn't blame his tools' she retorted grandly.
She always has to have the last word.
âWell, this fucker does â you should see my knuckles' I almost said.
What stopped me I don't know, it was right on the tip of my tongue.
Good to tell it's Christmas.
One good thing, this time of year, it always brings out the best in people I always think â well mostly. Even our miserable-faced postman managed to crack a smile. That's a first I thought. It just shows, only because I'd just handed him a seasonable tip â not that it lasted long. Well, the least you can do is say thank you. They all add up, after all it's still legal tender â at least as far as I'm aware.
Cyn called in a bit earlier on to drop off the kids. They didn't stop long, they were all âshooting off' somewhere else, the whole gang as she liked to call them. No doubt she'd be meaning her new-found circle of so-called friends I expect, the local glitterati, her line-dancing crowd. All night partying no doubt, dancing and carousing, everybody getting wildly drunk no doubt â snorting crack up twenty-pound notes I'll bet. All the same you'd've thought she'd've called in for a quick festive drink of sherry at least.
Mind you (say little I thought) she'd had quite a few
already you could tell. She'd all on getting out of the car (her eyes were all over the place), tottering down the path in her high-heels, she'd to cling to the railings â dicey to say the least.
It's always a bit distressing seeing a woman in that state.
Like I say she was going before she arrived if you ask me. She screwed up her eyes to squint at her watch (she's back smoking again I noticed) â that didn't last long I thought. âIt's more a question of trying to fit everything in' Cynthia said in a lah-di-dah voice, wafting smoke away from her face.
I nodded. How far down the list was I, I wondered.
Maybe it's just as well, she was with her new partner, slow-talking Kevin (the Wanker) Ranker, the home-wrecker I'm meaning, the guy who broke-up our marriage. Her American boy-friend â the red-haired orang utan. You'd've thought she'd've spared me that at least, to-day of all days. She knows how vulnerable I get around Christmas.
My heart dropped like a lead brick.
Luckily Red-top stayed inside the car with his head down, fiddling with the stereo â no doubt he'd be acting under orders I expect.
Only, the latest is they're even planning to get married over in Las Vegas (or, so I'm informed) â fancy, putting that in a Christmas card to somebody. This is what she's like, according to her he proposed to her down on one knee. Bully for him. I only hope you do better than me pal I thought to myself.
This is my trouble, I'm too soft â I went down on one knee and stayed there.
I'm just glad I'm well out of it I'll tell you.
I waved them off from the front steps.
Red-top was driving (yes, that's what I thought), the loony still thinks he's over in the States. He blared the car-horn, then stuck up his thumb, throbbing the twin exhausts of his newly imported Dodge Ram, chrome-laden fancy pickup truck. Everything came on at once, the stereo came on full-blast, blaring out O Come all ye faithful (enough to fetch out the neighbours) also the wipers, thumping away, going at full speed. Then the hazard lights, followed by the head-lights, on full-beam. Finally the engine stalled.
He saw me looking, he grinned his slow grin and stuck up his thumb.
You'd think we were big mates or something.
I gave them one final wave. Cynthia twinkled her fingers.
Finally he hit the pedal â too hard by a mile. They took off jerkily up the wrong side of the street (somebody should tell him I think) picking up speed, sending the wheels into a spin, sliding over the snow packed cobblestones, in turn slewing the car around facing the wrong way. Everybody waved. They roared off, lights bouncing off the icy cobbles, taking a sharp left at the top of the rise. Finally disappearing through a red halo of brake-lights round the corner into Wash House lane.
Look at that bastard. I've just been reading my stars:
âColin from the Gaelic, meaning strong and virile, a manly personality and women are naturally attracted to him. A TRUE AND FAITHFUL LOVER, dependable and sensitive â you're going through a phase of domestic upheaval and insecurity, could it be people are undervaluing you I wonder?'
Too right, right on the nail I'd say. It just shows. I've a good mind to show her that.
Looking back, this has been the worst six months of my entire life â I wouldn't wish it on anyone, not even my worst enemy. Hard to believe, right â 39 years old I'm back at home living with my old mother. It just shows, you never know what's waiting around the next corner.
Let's face it all the signs were there for sure.
THIS IS A TRUE STORY
What really started it all is when my Poetry Journal went missing that time â Cynthia, who else? Cyn hates poetry, full stop. Mind you she always has come to think, even when we were first married, when she pretended she did (that's even worse). That's why she's my number one suspect, wives know when you're most vulnerable, they know where to hit to cause the most damage. She knows how important it is. That book contains just about
everything â new ideas for one thing, poems already on the stocks. All my notes of everyday happenings â I'm completely lost without it. Six months work at least.
Mind you, Cyn blames poetry for just about everything, âobsessive' and âpathetic' she calls it (and worse). Her favourite argument clincher is invariably the same, âYou are a very boring person Colin Quirke â and poetry's even more boring than you.'
She's said that quite a few times come to think.
Not surprisingly we've ended up having major rows on the subject (how can you not like poetry?) You'd be surprised, lots of people, not in our neck of the woods at least, not at my school. Poetry was way down the list, two words could empty the whole classroom in under a minute. FIRE, the other word is POETRY.
Even so, not enough to put everything asunder you might've thought, normally no â not in Cynthia's case. Take my word, this lady enjoys arguing just for arguments sake. Once she gets her teeth into something she's like a dog with a rag.
Right at first I wasn't too worried â it's happened before.
Luckily, it turned up the first time, some idiot had stuffed it behind a radiator. So, what does that tell you? However, the second time it happened it was a very close thing. I chased after the salvage truck in the car. Luckily I just managed to grab it before it got chewed up.
Not that anybody ever owned up. Mr. Nobody as usual.
Somehow or other this time was different (I was right). I'd this gut feeling â flushed down the loo actually.
Cynthia who else? She denied, of course, only this time I had irrefutable evidence. Mind you, I would never have known then if the toilets hadn't started backing-up. Finally I had to call out the Emergency Drain Doctor to sort it all out.
|Monday 20th July.||Robert Burns 1759-1796.|
|(Black Monday).||Thy wee bit housie, too in ruin!|
|De Lacey Street.||(Post-two).|
7:45am. (CONSERVATORY). Looks as if I'm back sleeping downstairs, out in the conservatory yet again on a sagging camp-bed. I've had to start a new Poetry Journal (I hadn't much option). Cynthia, who else? I've got a sneaky feeling she's flushed it down the loo! Let's face it her behaviour of late has been a bit bizarre to say the least. We've ended up having a mighty big row â she still isn't speaking. Meantime I've had to call out the Emergency Drain Doctor to sort it all out.
God knows what that's all going to cost?
8:00am. That's all I need â the bloody car's started over-heating again. I'm late for work already, I'd barely got out of the cul-de-sac. That's twice now, I've only had the car over a month (“Car of the year!” it said â oh sure, I thought). Don't you worry, rightaway I'm on the phone to Fat Frank over at Fox's Garage. This is the thanks you
get for supporting your local garage. I must've been mad, it's only a shack with a couple of pumps
âWhat now?' he barked down the phone.
You could tell he wasn't best pleased.
âIt's about my Mondeo â I think it's the fan-belt' I offered.
No, I thought â it isn't that when you're forking out paying for it is it.
âWe're bloody mown-out â can't you fetch it in?' he yelled.
âHold on' I said, I fired it straight back âif I could drive it over, there wouldn't be much point would it?' I told him.
Just as I thought he'd no answer for that one.
There was a pause. âHaven't you got a pair of ladies tights handy â just to get you going?' he suggested.
Who does he think I am? I said âNo.'
It's hardly my fault is it? So, then I said âThis is a new car don't forget, well almost. âCar of the month' âI reminded him âa one-owner, low-mileage, pristine con, full year guarantee you said.' He'd no answer for that either. âI'm supposed to be at work â I'm a Library key-holder' I said.
Too late he'd already hung up.
He came over in the tow-truck. You could tell he was still in a bad mood, âWe're bloody-well mown out' he repeated, delving into the engine. Finally he slammed down the bonnet âShe'll have to come in' he declared shaking his head.
Sadly, I watched my pride and joy Mondeo trundling
off down the driveway. âHow am I supposed to get to work?' He stuck his head out of the cab, âTomorrow, that's if you're lucky' Fat Frank cried sulkily, he slammed into a higher gear.
F it I thought. I decided to phone in sick.
Somebody had to stay in for the drain-man.
Instead I left a message on the answerphone at work. Tell a lie, or rather I got little Lucy to do it â small wavering voice and all that (â
Colin Quirke, please be good enough to inform Mr. Docket I'm indisposed â¦')
Great idea, why didn't I think of it before.
Not that my not turning in would be all that noticeable I expect.
Just on the off-chance I thought maybe I'd quiz the kids again about my missing Poetry Journal. They were both out in the hallway getting ready for school. âAh Lucy love. Look, I know I've mentioned it already. Have you seen anything of daddy's big red book by any chance?'
She looked at me solemnly with her big blue eyes under her blonde fringe. It turns out Lucy was having problems of her own â she pointed down at her new school-shoes (she was having a bit of a tussle with the buckle). I knelt down to fasten it. I kissed the top of her head.
Poor little sod, knowing her she'd be worried about that all day.
What's wrong with laces? or Velcro. Velcro even
better. Why change â there again that's Cynthia all over, she always has to change things. Mind you Lucy is a bit of a doolally at times. Nobody would ever believe she's almost six years old.
Same goes with Jamie.
He nodded grumpily, never the best morning person by far (that's because he takes after his mother, that's why). Everything last minute as usual. He pushed his way through, toast in hand, loaded with bulging school-bags. His head was shaking even before I'd half finished. âHey, hold on a sec' I grabbed his arm âJust the man' I said. âLook, have you seen my whatsit, my Poetry Journal by any chance? I can't find it anywhere.'
He shrugged, then pulled away. I followed him out, I said âI usually keep it out in the conservatory on top of Grandmother Clough's mahogany chest of drawers' I trailed off.
No answer. Talk to yourself I thought.
âThing's just don't vanish into thin air' I called after him.
Outside Cyn was already sat waiting in her ancient Toyota pickup truck with the engine running, drumming her fingers with a growing impatience. I nodded. She gave me a long cold look, just to let me know we still aren't speaking. More likely that's because she was having to do the school run I expect â usually that's my job.
âDad's still looking for his stupid book' I overheard Jamie say.
She shrugged, then stared at her watch. Instead of an answer she blared the horn (loudly). Her foot went down
on the pedal, enough to tear the engine out of its bolts. Like magic Lucy appeared almost at once. She clambered inside under stoney looks, looking very close to tears.
I gave her a wink.
Cynthia spun the wheel (I braced myself, waiting for the scrunch of gears). I stepped back. Cyn in this mood, you can never tell â chances are she'd be more than happy rolling me out flat, no problem. She shot me a look on her way past (it could've meant anything). Only, this time was different â it told me a lot, that glint in her eye, kind've triumphant. That's when I knew, about my missing Poetry Journal I'm meaning, or as good as. Guilty as hell, that's what it told me at least.