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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Prodical's Return



Ma's not home yet, it's her first week up at Menzie's.  Peter doesn't seem to be in either.  We make for the scullery where Mary lights the stove for heat, setting some bread under the grill, as I climb up on the chair to fill the kettle from the tap.


We settle with our toast and mugs of tea in front of the telly, watching Top Cat giving Officer Dibble the run-around. Just as the credits begin to roll, a key scrapes the lock, and Peter's head pokes round the door.

"Ma not back yet?"

We shake our heads.

He flops beside me, helping himself to a slice my toast, "I've seen Da, he was up by the docks with Uncle Jimmy."

Mary looks at him, "Did he speak to you?"

"Aye, he saw me.  He said to tell Ma he's coming back now.  And he gave me thruppence."

Typical, Peter always gets the money out of him.  I pretend not to care. "When's he coming?  Tonight?"

"Aye, I think so."

Mary looks to be sucking on a lemon, "That's good then, Ma'll be pleased."

And sure, 'course she will, and what's wrong with that?  Seems Mary's never happy 'less she's miserable.      

I turn the telly over searching for cartoons, but they appear to have finished.

                                      _____________


Ma is pleased, not that she say's as much but it's easy to tell.  She's washed her hair and tidied herself up, and even sent Peter off to fetch minced beef from the Butcher.  We're ordered to clear up our rooms and not to make any mess.

Dipping chunks of bread into the steaming gravy, we eat our mince and tatties at the kitchen table, wiping our plates clean.  It's Peter's turn to do the dishes, so carrying my plate to the sink, I head into the living room to join Ma, watching "Peyton Place".  But she is too distracted to settle much into it, fidgeting and watching the clock. When Peter comes through, she has him repeat exactly what it was Da said to him, and he dutifully recounts it to her for the umpteenth time. 

Nearing bedtime, Ma finally decides to send me down to Beep-Beep's.  I don't know it's real name, but it's the bar on the corner next to our tenement block, where Da usually drinks.  She wants me to check out if he's in there, tell him to come on up home if he is.

                       ______________________________

The bar is crowded, music, cigarette smoke, and conversation seep out through the swing doors as, peeping through the archway, I scan for his face.  A rich, beer-soaked shout call out, "Hey Larry, look - your bairn's here!"

A rumble of laughter ensues and another voice pipes in, "Ehh, you're in trouble now, man!"

Da laughs too, says something funny.  They all split their sides.  He puts down his pint, arms beckoning, "Hey Karen, c'mere."

Perched high on a bar-stool, a packet of crisps and a bottle of lemonade in hand, I swing my legs and deliver my message.

"Later."  He says, and buys me a box of chocolates from behind the counter.  Da's buddies fawn over me, me being the best wee girlie in town.  No-one is in any rush to go home, least of all me, sitting here basking in my glow.  It's only after last orders are well and truly over that we make for the door.

His yeasty breath meets the sharp night air, switching his sway into more of a stagger, as his feet struggle to carry him on home.  Oblivious, I skip up ahead, cradling what's left of my chocolates under my arm.  Turning, I run to take all three flights of stairs in one fell swoop.

Rapping on the door, I hear Da huffing below, leaning heavily on the banister rail, as he makes his way up.

The door opens to Ma's closed face.  Upset, she signals me through, motioning me on to bed.  Sensing trouble, I gladly go on.

Changing, I climb under the covers next to Mary, listening out for  voices in the hall.  Relieved it all seems fine enough, with them only just talking, settling down I turn, snuggling into my sister to  steal her warmth, I relax and drift off..

                          ________________________

My senses snap alert.

A loud wail.

Next to me Mary also stiffens.  She too is wide awake.  We lie silently side by side, listening, trying to work out what's happening. 

Da's voice is raised and angry, he's shouting at Ma.  She, sobbing, in lower notes is trying to placate, dampen the fire of his beer fueled rage.  I can't hear what's being said, their voices are too distorted to decipher, his with the booze, hers by her pain.

My belly twists a lump of lead in my gut. 

Huddled 'neath the blanket, we are become frozen lumps of stone, straining to fathom the timbre and tone, we shallow our breath and with thrumming hearts, immobilised by the gravity of our dull, draining dread, strain our ears to outside the hallway.


Da crashes out from the living room, his heavy foot-falls thudding down the hall.

Oh no.

They stop outside our door.  Barely breathing, we pretend sleep.  The handle rattles, opens, and light spills over the room.  Squinting through half slitted eyes, I see Da's hunched bulk leaning silhouetted against the door frame.

Squeezing my eyes tightly shut, I lie still hearing him breathe, watching us.

He hesitates, perhaps he thinks we really are asleep?  He enters anyway, his weight tilting the mattress as he sits on the edge, his eyes now itching my face.

"Karen?"  He touches my shoulder.  Asleep or awake, he still wants to talk.  Smelling his beer, smoke and despair, I open my eyes.  We've already heard the shouting, pleading, the hard, sharp blows, but he chooses ignorance, safe I can't call him to account.

He sighs, "Ah Karen, your mother, she's a funny woman."

He doesn't mean she is funny to laugh with, just she's strange, odd, not right in the head.

I don't respond, willing him silent.  Eyes welling up to display his misery, he seeks my comfort.  "She's the stupidest woman this length of Commerce Street, aye, and from the start of Castlegate and back an' all!  Thick!  Not a brain-cell to her, neither there is, she just pure disgusts me, so she does."  He weaves an arm around to demonstrate his frustration, "She hasn't even the intelligence of a - a budgie, y'know?"

It doesn't matter what I know.  I know I hate it when he talks about her like that. I know the tremble in my throat every time she cries, the ache for air in my lungs each time he gets mad at her. I also know to my shame I am far too gutless to make him stop. I know a lot of things, but I also know he doesn't want me to know all that I know, so I simply lie quiet, allowing him his rant, wishing him done.  Yet.  Still my heart twists for him, he, my father, this man whom I cannot fail to still love.

He pulls out his hankie and gives a loud blow.  "Aw, c'mere wee Karen and give me a big hug.."

I lean up on one elbow and am enveloped in his musky scents. Pressing his lips to my ear, he murmurs, "I love you, me wee darlin', you're the bestest out of all of them, so you are."

I know this to be so (as does Mary now, too, feigning sleep next to me).  I hate it when he slobbers all weepy and sentimental like this, it's a precursor.  It's the set routine for what will doubtlessly follow on.  Sure enough, though it's no surprise, hearing it said still has the power to slice the flesh from my bone.  I believe his words afresh, and that it's true, he is leaving me forever, never to be seen again.

"Ach, it's breaking me heart, wee Karen, I've only come to say goodbye.  I'm the baddie, I'm the big, bad wolf - that's what you'll be thinking.."

"No, no Da, I won't."

"Aye, hush now, it's true, that's what she'll tell you, I know she will.  And you'll believe her, of course, as you must."

"No, please Da!"  I can't help it, sobbing now, "Da, please don't go, don't leave.."

"I have to, bonny lass, 'tis the only way, I have to go.  This is it, I'm going for good, but just remember - I'll always, always love you." 

Now he's blubbing too.  I'm still begging but shaking his head, he holds me tight.  He won't ever come back, never.

Mary's given up playing dead, wet cheeks, nose running, she lunges her arms out, clinging for dear life to him, "No Da, pleaaaase don't leave us, please Da, we need you!"

He holds us both in his tight embrace, three of us locked in a huddle of pain.  Gently, he brushes us off, swaying to his feet.

"Shhhhhhhh now, it's okay, you look after your sister now, Mary, y'hear?"

"No Da!"  she wails, "Come back, please Da!"

He points, nailing us to stay.

Finding the door, he closes it behind.

             __________________________________


We listen to the grief and the sorrow of Ma trying to cajole him away from his mission, but he's set and having none of it.  I visualise his battered case as I hear it snap shut.  Ma runs out with him, her calls echoing off the cold tile walls.

Finally, a click of the latch, and she comes back indoors to greet the silence of her loneliness.

52 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

is this fiction or a true story? it is painfully written and read...

Shrinky said...

Hi Texwisgirl, sorry it made an uncomfortable read, it's an excerpt of a very old WIP I keep promising myself to one day finish!

ellen abbott said...

It drew mw in from the get go.

Ms. A said...

From the girls perspective, I know someone who could have written this from personal experience, only the mother truly is strange, odd, not right in the head.

#1Nana said...

Yes, you do need to finish it. I love your ability to make the dialog real...I can hear them talking. The piece brought back memories of my own disfunctional childhood. You are such a talented writer...finish it!

Barbara Shallue said...

I love these little snippets - you definitely need to finish this. It's wonderful writing and always inspires me to get back to my WIP (although it's not nearly this good!)

Gorilla Bananas said...

Phew, I'm glad to hear it's fiction! Very good fiction too, if a little depressing. Do you know what made it seem real? The fact that the children were watching Top Cat at the beginning. From that point, I assumed you were writing about your childhood.

Grayquill said...

You are one amazing writer. That was hard, real stuff. My heart was beating with fear for what was to come. A drunk father or for that matter a drunk mother story never seems to end well. Good work.

Shrinky said...

Thank you ellen, you are very kind.

Shrinky said...

Ms. A, I'm sorry to hear that (hugs).

Shrinky said...

Oh #1Nana, if that is the case, just LOOK how far you've come away from those once early days! You have much to be proud of (as I believe I myself do, too)..

Shrinky said...

Knowing your writing Barbara, methinks you are being far too modest! I hope you do return to it, but I know sometimes that is so much easier said than done - for me, posting a snippet here and there does give me the encouragement to want to keep on.

Shrinky said...

Hi GB, why thank you kind Sir (grin)! Lazily, I've set it in the era of when I grew up, it makes it easier to recall the details of the day - I actually DID watch Top Cat after school (grin).

Shrinky said...

Hi GQ, this piece still needs a lot more polish, but I can't tell you how much your positive words mean to me. I am afraid the plot does have a far darker twist yet, although it isn't entirely all doom and gloom throughout!

wishihadakarmaanghia said...

Woah! Now that's some writing! Love it. V atmospheric and totally drew me in. Next chapter...? xx

Shammickite said...

Are you sure this is fiction? It rings so true. Someone's painful memory.

TechnoBabe said...

Your dad did drink alot, didn't he? It sounds like your mom wanted him to come home. Did she want him to help support the family or did she love him and accept his drinking? Some things I can relate to; dad drinking and gone so much. In our house the fights were physical and the yelling was constant. Did you see your dad after he left the family?

Putz said...

if this is from your childhood, then i i have strong feelings that da couldn't have treated yoou all with the same love<><>as i was reading i thought of myself and if i treated my wife and daughter's kindly at all times, or showed preferance to one or another and hope that they all felt the love i had for them all as separate but valued family members<><>i am so glad i did not drink around kids<>,.grateful for my religion

mythopolis said...

Oh my! This so painful, yet so poetically expressed at the same time. Hard hitting, but much appreciated. My belly twists a lump of lead.....

(You're an amazing writer.)

Akelamalu said...

So sad and what makes it worse is it happened such a lot, probably still does. :(

Shrinky said...

Hi there Kristina, great to see you again! It's a bit of a squirmy read, I think I'll need to post a lighter chapter next time I get around to it!

Shrinky said...

Hi Shammickite, most people write from where they know, but this is Karen's story, not mine.

Shrinky said...

Hi Technobabe, mine was a dysfunctional family alright, but it was my Ma, not my Da who was the one always leaving! This is Karen's story, not mine.

Shrinky said...

Hi Putz, from what I know of you I am pretty sure you are a very nurturing and loving parent, it's obvious to anyone who reads your posts how dearly you cherish your family! Karen's Da is manipulitive, he uses his love to play family members against each other, he freely gifts or withholds his affection to suit whatever his purpose.

Shrinky said...

Oh Dan, you've made my day - I'm now wearing a big Cheshire Cat grin from ear to ear - even my toes are curled in delight! Thank you my friend, your comment means a lot to me.

Shrinky said...

Akelamalu, I sadly suspect this type of family is even more prevalent today, more than it ever was back then. Karen's parents generation had yet to discover a drug-habit to add into the mix..

mythopolis said...

No, it does not need more polish. It is the rough edginess that give it the power. More.

Shrinky said...

Hey Dan, so thrilled to see you back in here! Oh, I have plenty more already, but it isn't really the kind of stuff for the blogging of, most folk prefer to select their own reading material, not to have it thrust down their throat in the guise of a post! It's best to keep Wee Karen's visits in here spare!

mythopolis said...

Well, I get that. But maybe 'wee Karen' needs her own blog site, so these stories can continue to unfold.

Uhh...uhhh...uhhh! You are not going to get off this easy! weekaren.blogspot.com probably does not exist. But you can make that the place for her voice. More.

mythopolis said...

PS and, FYI: I just went to weekaren.blogspot.com and got this:
Sorry, the blog you were looking for does not exist. However, the name weekaren is available to register! See what I am saying?

Suldog said...

I'm thinking I read this before, or perhaps a different version of it? In any case, it's powerful and well-written.

As an added bonus, it mentions "Top Cat", one of my favorite cartoons from childhood! I had no idea it made its way over to your telly!

Shrinky said...

Dan, you completely slay me (I think you probably hear me laughing all the way from clear across the pond), you are nothing short of priceless!

Tell you what, if I can ever manage to beat this plot I have in mind for Wee Karen into shape, you will be the #1 person to recieve a free signed copy, with full credits (grin)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Jim, yeah, I re-worked the opening scene with the kids into this post - you sure have a good memory, it must be around three years since that posted!

Virtually ALL the cartoons on the telly were American imports back then - Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, etc., I loved them all!

Shopgirl said...

simply amazing. please keep writing this.

chewy said...

This one I'll have to print and read later. YES! I will report back. (wink)

Shrinky said...

Hi Shopgirl, aw thanks for those encouraging words, maybe I will.. (grin)

Shrinky said...

Hey there stranger (nudge), yup, it's time you popped by, welcome back! (Wink)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Very passionate story. I hope you are planning to continue with it.

lisleman said...

I'm glad I read this after many of the comments and your replies were up here. A fiction that too many can relate. My dad had issues. I don't think alcohol ever helps those issues. I guess it dulls the mental pain for some. I wonder if dysfunctional is actually the norm.
Hey if you have any funny stuff stop by on Monday for my next LLL post.

Jayne said...

Oh my, Shrinky dear... get back to your WIP--it's fabulous! ;)

♥ Braja said...

That was somethin'....

And Top Cat!!

Shrinky said...

Hi Midlife Jobhunter, thanks for that, I'm trying to, but not very successfully (sigh)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Lisleman, life is such a lottery, isn't it? Kids have no control over what they are born into, but thankfully for some, childhood doesn't last forever. From where I am standing, seems you have more than overcome those early years, and have gone on to make quite a success of your life (hugs).

Shrinky said...

Hi Jayne, you are too kind, this needs a ton of work to lift it into anything half-worthwhile, but I'll keep trying (smile)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Braja, I've been trying like mad to post a comment on your site, but it keeps refusing to publish - pah! What exciting news about your book, I'm so thrilled for you (grin).

Margaret Benbow said...

Shrinky, even your fictional writing is so full of lifeblood it seems real. This story is heartbreaking, mesmerising--but given your humor (which pretty much goes bone deep) I'd bet there will be some upswings and wonderful flights. You HAVE to finish this story. It is meant to be.

Shrinky said...

I'm not sure if I've told you how much I look forward to, and so love your visits here, Margaret, but I do, you never fail but to make my day! Thank you, dearest lady, I always feel naked and stripped bare when I post any Wee karen snippet - unsure of how she'll be received. Yes, there are lots of daft and silly moments from her, and much joy, too - mixed in with the uncomfortable, such as this. I am so glad you instinctively know that!

secret agent woman said...

ah, so hard to read. I know well the story, even if set in a different part of the world.

Shrinky said...

Sadly, Secret Agent, this type of story is virtually universal, I fear.

Middle Child said...

Jesus Mary and Joseph...but how many did and does this happen to

Shrinky said...

Countless, no doubt, Theresa.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh my, I love this series of stories, even though this one breaks my heart. Well done. I'll be watching for the next chapter.
xo jj