Thursday, April 28, 2005

Chapter 23

In the front pew on the right, in the Church of the Holy Ghost near the Borstal, Kev stood waiting. A drop of sweat rolled from his armpit to his waist. He glanced sideways at Arnie, the best man, relieved and embarrassed that he was there. He knew what people called him behind his back. Animal said behind Arnie’s back was the best place to be. Now, as ever, there was the desire to look behind him. He hadn’t come and wasn’t coming. Now more than ever, of all days. An effort at least, for once. The only address Kev’s mum had for his dad was a pub in St Paul’s where he collected his mail. He must’ve got the letter, surely. Perhaps he was ashamed. Perhaps he was getting off a coach in Weymouth, lighting the first cigarette for two years, steeling himself. Kev knew he’d have to sort it out for himself. Put things right. Get things right again. Fix things. He straightened his tie. He checked everything again. Left trouser pocket, keys to the flat. Keys to the flat. Inside left jacket pocket, money for drinks. The first one for everyone. People take advantage with a free bar. Inside right jacket pocket, the reservation for the Gloucester Hotel. One night. Honeymooning in Weymouth. Laugh if they want, it’s not easy. Kev looked at the flowers and the painted saints. He should’ve been there. You needed things you could depend on; this place, these saints, those old words, things repeating. A shame with the Latin going. Still bits of that, early on. Corpus Christi. Christy admitted once he thought Father Thomas was talking about the Eucharist, saying ‘Hope it’s crusty.’ Simpler then. Things changed. Didn’t bear thinking about. The need to turn round and see if Karen was coming was like an itch. But he wouldn’t. He knew the Maggot was behind him somewhere, dim but vicious, his wifebeater’s face fat with resentment. But Karen he knew he could depend on. She was sick every morning now. Once when he stayed over at the McClarens’ he’d seen her crouching over the toilet bowl. He saw someone in need of protection, saw no resentment in her eyes. She was sick every morning now, not just from the expected, but from something no longer spoken. That time on the beach, the first thing she said. There was a heavy clunk, and a wash of light at the edge of his field of vision. A sigh rolled from the back of the church and was sucked in by the organ as the Wedding March began. He could look now. She’d arrived. All in white with a bump at the front. He smiled at her, his eyes stinging. Worth the dog’s share of the pie to somebody at least. He mouthed the words, ‘Thank you.’ He thought later, it was strange the way he relaxed suddenly. Once the doubt was gone and the ritual started. They both knew the words. Up ladders, in old clothes, with paint in their hair, they’d gone through the ceremony night after night in the flat. ‘I do.’ Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I? Who wouldn’t? Within seconds, it seemed, they were kissing, both shaking. Four rows back, Patrick nudged Christy. He whispered, ‘Fucked if I’d trust Queenie with my ring.’ But Christy was away inside somewhere. Father Thomas saying hello to everybody on the way in. Kneel and do the usual. Stopped in front of him for ages. Nods down at the half -mast trousers. Smiles. Has there been a death in the family? In bed crying. Her tucking the sheets in. Jabbing and frowning. Looks away. Like she can’t think of anything. Says remember Jesus wants you to try and be brave like him. Bed again, trying to get an angel to come. Comes out wrong, like the thing Clair had. Troll. With wings. Rough bit in the corner just down from the ceiling. Staring and staring. Nothing. Thinking about him in a box, going bad. The congregation stood again. Patrick nudged Christy a second time. Christy stood. ‘Wake up Christy,’ Patrick said. ‘Thought you’d be up on all this bollocks.’ Kev and Karen had wanted to have the reception at the Con Club. Then Herman offered them the skittle alley of the Merman for free. It seemed right, like a goodbye. ‘Here we are again, then,’ Phil said. ‘Off our faces in the usual places.’ He shifted some glasses to make room on the table for the next round. ‘Nip out to the car again in a bit,’ Patrick suggested, lowering the tray. ‘Fuck that. I’m space age as it is.’ Kev reached them on his circuit. ‘Sorry there’s no disco, lads. Ed and Fred said they’d borrow the equipment from Deja Vu but they’ve had a falling out with the bloke.’ ‘Don’t worry about it,’ Animal said. ‘I can do without listening to “Hi Ho Silver Lining” all fucking night.’ ‘Laugh though, usually,’ Danny said. ‘Watching the wrinklies making tits of themselves.’ Kev turned without knowing why. ‘Dad’s here!’ His father stood silhouetted in the white light of the doorway to the skittle alley. No silence fell. Whippet-thin, the clothes hanging off him, people didn’t recognise him at first. Kev skirted round the guests and made his way to where his dad stood alone. He stopped a yard in front of him. ‘Sorry I’m late, Kev,’ his father said, as if they’d last spoken the week before. He held out his hand. They shook hands. Kevin felt the words drying and sticking to the roof of his mouth. He couldn’t ask why. ‘Long time no see.’ ‘I know,’ his dad said. ‘Anyway. Congratulations.’ ‘Are you still with the Saturday Girl?’ ‘No. She went. I’m in digs now.’ ‘You could come back.’ ‘I can’t, son. It’s hard to say. Difficult.’ He paused, looked at the floor. ‘This with the girl. Is it really what you want?’ ‘Course.’ ‘That’s good then. I was never much one for babies. They’re like strippers and circuses. Seen one, you’ve seen them all.’ ‘I just want a sensible life, Dad. Like you used to have.’ He wanted to be able to use the word ‘home’ again. ‘It isn’t simple Kev. Tidy as you might want things, it’s never...’ He coughed quietly. They looked at each other. ‘Anyway. Come and say hello to some friends of mine.’ Kev led his dad to the inside corner of the skittle alley. ‘You remember Phil and Christy. And this is Patrick and Danny. And, um, Animal.’ From the opposite side of the room, the Maggot started shouting. ‘Who the fuck’s he think he is?’ Kev’s mother grabbed the Maggot’s wrist. ‘Don’t.’ ‘Here goes, look,’ Phil said. ‘Might’ve known.’ ‘I’d better go and say something,’ Kev’s dad said. ‘Careful though. I’d better come too.’ Danny ground his cigarette out in a plate of cake. ‘That’s families for you. Bollocks, they are. Best off steering clear of all that shit.’ ‘What and end up like Queenie?’ Patrick asked. ‘What? A knob jockey?’ ‘No. Some sad, lost, old fucker.’ Animal leaned forward in his seat. ‘Danny’s right. Fucking nightmare. Look at my lot. You can’t fucking move, can’t breathe, can’t fucking...’ speak. Can’t speak. Can’t ever get rid of the stammer on the inside. Phil turned from watching the action across the room. ‘I wouldn’t mind it. A family. Nothing wrong with an ordinary life.’ Except what’s wrong with it. Can’t you have both? That and the other thing too. Animal turned to Christy. ‘What about you Christy? Nothing to say for yourself as per fucking usual.’ Father’s here. Clair calling from inside. Run, bent double. From the lawn to the coal bunker. Two shapes behind the frosty glass. Wait a bit. Wait again at the end of the hall. They’re in the front room. Crouch behind the storage heater. Ear against the wall. She’s talking to a man. Can’t hear properly. Why are they talking about the seaside? Finger jammed in one ear. Everything sounds like it’s underwater. Try not to dwell on the fact it’s a sin Christine. What? Go in. Father O’Brien sat in the armchair, waving a teaspoon about. Can smell him. Hello. It’s not him. Not him. She’s new. Sister Theresa. Hairy fat face. Catechism. Poking her nose in about people’s mums and dads. Not telling her anything. Nosey cunt. Christy had something of his own to say. It was in his throat. Too late, he rose from his seat. Kevin’s cousin Donna, fur-coated and saying her goodbyes, was in his way. She screamed and hit him. ‘That’ll never come out! You’re disgusting!’ The vomit was in the fur. The smell was everywhere.

1 comment:

How to Get Rid of Facial Fat? said...

may i read the other chapters? can you give me the link?