Sunday, November 9, 2008
A Wee Snippet More..
Jeannie-from –upstairs is at the door again. I get up to let her in.
“I’m just checking, how’s it going?”
“Aye, Jeannie, we’re fine.”
“You’re da’s not back then?”
“No, not yet, he’ll be up seeing ma.”
Clad in her pinafore apron and slippers, hair in a net, she shuffles herself over the step, and down through the hall. “And Peter and Mary?”
“Aye they’re watching the telly.”
We join them in the living room just as Batman is freeing Robin from being sliced through the middle by some jaggedy spinning blade. Mary and Peter grunt hello, eyes glued to the screen.
Sinking into da’s wing-backed chair, Jeannie asks if we’ve eaten.
“Granny McKenzie is looking after us, she left us something out.”
“So I hear, it’s a pity she can never stay ‘til you get here, eh?”
Jeannie from upstairs doesn’t like Granny MacKenzie, she thinks she always sides with da against ma, but that’s only because ma tells her it’s so. I wish ma and Granny liked each other better, Granny MacKenzie is nice, she feels soft, has this lovely smell about her, and brings apples when she comes.
“And what salad did she “cook” for you tonight, then?”
“And did the gulls enjoy it?”
Oh-oh. She must’ve been watching from her window above as we chucked it over the ledge. Them gannets will eat anything, so they will.
“Erm, well, we ate a fair bit first..”
Jeannie-from-upstairs laughs, “Well more fools you, then, I can still smell the stench. I think you’d best open up a window before you turn in for the night.”
Hearing this, Peter brightens, “Och Jeannie, her cooking’s pure evil, so it is! Don’t tell her we said so, but guess how many salads we’ve had to eat? It’s either tinned salmon, corned beef, or boiled egg. It’s all she does. Thank God she leaves us some fruit, or we’d be wasted away by now, eh Mary?”
“Right enough, Peter. She's a trier, just a shame she’s such a rotten cook, is all.”
“And what about your father, does he eat her salads?”
“Nah,” Peter smiles, “He not that daft, he eats when he’s out.”
Jeannie-from-upstairs grunts, “What’s the news on your mother?”
I perk up, aye, what is the news on ma? Nobody tells me anything around here. I try to make like I’ve gone, hoping Peter will loosen up his jaw to let something go.
“We can’t go see her, only da can. He says she’s fine.”
“Fine, eh?” Jeannie-from-upstairs tuts, “So why is she in the Nut-House then, instead of right back here with her bairns, where she belongs?”
“Karen, where’s your manners? Go and make Jeannie-from-upstairs a cup of tea.”
I knew Mary would send me off, but that’s alright, I’ll probably learn more from the other side of the door anyway. As I say, I’m not as daft as everybody likes to credit me.
“Is it two sugars for you, Jeannie?”
“Ach, make it three dearie, I could use the energy.”
“And don’t forget to shut the door there as you go, now.”
Mary thinks she’s so sly. I close the door, gently easing the handle down so it falls open a crack. Running to fill the kettle and light the stove, I hope not to miss too much before sneaking back.
Peter is standing his corner. “Ach, she’s only in there for a wee bit until she gets cured.”
“Peter child, what has your da been telling you? You know she battered that Sandra, don’t you? She’s put her in the hospital, so she has. Not that I can really blame her, mind. Your poor mother has snapped, Peter, she’s far from fine, but I don’t see as how shutting her away in that hellish place is likely to be any help. Tell your father son, she needs to be home.”
Jeannie doesn’t realise, nobody tells our da, least of all Peter. I tear myself away to catch the kettle as it whistles. Waiting for the pot to brew, I try to digest what’s been said. Why would ma batter Sandra? It’s not as though she’s stealing the food from out of our bellies anymore, is it? Da’s been away from her for ages now. I fill up a mug and make my way back.
“ – and make sure you stay inside, we’ve enough to worry about as it is.”
“Aye Jeannie, I am. I even leave the school early now, so’s I can fetch Karen back, don’t I Mary?”
“That’s right Jeannie, so he does.”
“Hold on a minute here, what are you saying? Both you and Peter are off out there all on your own then?” She takes the mug and places it by her foot. “Are you telling me Mary, Peter walks off on his own to fetch Karen, and then you come back after him as well, on your own after school?”
“Well, da said,”
“Jesus, God! It’s your da who needs to be locked up in the lunatic asylum, so it is! What’s he thinking about? They’ve not even found poor Alistair yet, never mind all those other wee bairns!” Her lip tightens, “He’s not even on the boats now, is he?”
No, he’s not. He stayed back to look after us. But he’s not here. He gets in late, after we’re asleep. She’s right, where is he? Jeannie’s getting angry, her shoulders are all puffed up now, her eyes sharp. I don't like where this is going.
“Has he told her family where she is? I’ll bet he not, has he? No, he wouldn’t be able to live with the shame of it all, would he? Nah, not him, the Big Man, eh?”
Peter is starting to look uneasy, he doesn’t want her to go mixing things, making it bad. It’s all fine and well for Jeannie-from-upstairs to go get up on her high horse, but he’s the one who’ll have to answer for it after she’s gone. Being the eldest, he’s accountable. We don’t discuss family matters outside the family. It’s a golden rule.
“Aye, aye he has, Jeannie. Auntie Mary is arranging to come and meet us from next week, so she is, it’s only been since yesterday, that’s all.”
Mary and I nod in agreement. Sure, that’s right. Auntie Mary.
Except Auntie Mary has her own kids to collect, and lives the other side of town. Besides, there’s no way da would be having her knowing any of our business.
Jeannie has no idea, no idea at all of the trouble she stirs. I go back to the kitchen, interest lost. Besides, maybe Sandra'll die now, ma will come back and it'll all be fine.