hows your hather

HOWS YOUR FATHER . ROSE BOYT
SHORT BOOKS . DUE 4th SEPTEMBER 2014

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MAUREEN

Over the back of Kingsland Waste they pulled down that tower block my Tony used to live up there with some woman. In case you’re thinking even before I come along it never did work out the two of them and her kids before I even set eyes on him he was back with his mum. All them homes to rubble and dust I never got that sick feeling no more down Queensbridge Road he was up there with that woman and kids like there was the big boom of the demolition and they was wiped out.
      I was young then. Tony was not from round our way. He had a beard like a Brillo pad what used to scratch up all my face.  I loved his big yellow dog. What died not long after I fell for our Craig and we was shacked up together over Dunstan Court living off of chips and biscuits what was all I could run to out of my own money where I never saw a penny off of my Tony. Before I even got a chance to find out what he was like.
      Even when he had a win or earned his self an extra few bob over the carpet warehouse out the back door it was in the bookie’s pocket or running errands out of the cab office in his brother’s motor like a kid he got paid in sulph what didn’t help one little bit with his moods. Still he was all the world to me then and he still does now I suppose when push comes to shove but times was hard what he put me through.
      Where there might as well of been three of us over Dunstan Court even before our Craig was born. What was me, my Tony, and Terry Harrison. What my Tony could never let me forget. Even though it was dead and buried between me and Harrison long before I even clapped eyes on my Tony it was like I was on the bash the way he went on.  I was all the cunts and whores of a night-time after he ate his little bit of tea what I eked out for him when he done all his money in the back of the pub playing cards or over the dogs however long it took until he never had nothing left but the clothes he stood up in what weren’t worth fuck all to no cunt. And no-one wouldn’t never borrow him nothing so he had to come home.
      What was all my husband thought of me. Because Terry Harrison got to me before him where we was courting when I was fifteen and Terry was seventeen. Although I didn’t know Tony from Adam then and he was with that woman and the kids at the top of the tower block. He still reckoned I should of saved myself.
      And I never said a word about her to him. I never asked him questions why she must of slung him out because if she never of slung him out why would he of gone back to his Mum? Not that I’m saying nothing against his mum. Nor that woman he was shacked up with before me. But he don’t think every time he takes off his shirt a beating heart pierced by cupid’s arrow and her name Mary he got tattooed at Margate after a few beers one bank holiday they had a day out with their kids.
      Tony says I make him sick. The thought of Terry Harrison touching me. Terry’s fingers inside of me and kissing me his tongue making me wet. If only I had saved myself. Tony is tortured the thought you dirty cunt let that Terry Harrison went up me first.  
      Yes I did. I loved him and he loved me. Not what I endured like me and Tony still together after twenty-five years but Terry Harrison was kind. He was kind to me.

And my Tony just would not let me forget. Pestering me when he come home buzzing and skint after the kids was in bed all what he done to his self shouting and crying and shedding betting slips and little pens out of his pockets all over our home and the porcelain slipper with cherubs perched on the instep I displayed in the glass cabinet what he smashed off of Linda when she got them teak units and my carriage clock and school photos flew off of the walls I splashed out on quality board and frames what looked antique behind glass shattered in pointed shards on the floor because I was proud and it was worth it to keep up with my memories.
      And a nearly new onyx ashtray on a stalk off of some bird in the pub for the front room where small things can go a long way to making your home when you ain’t got fuck all. But you are doing your best to make things nice what is the beginnings of something. So you ain’t ashamed the health visitor poking her nose in where you ain’t got no home to speak of just big greasy marks on the bare walls how someone else was living life in Dunstan Court before you painted over it in pixie green what you found half a tin in a skip and was not a nice colour. To check my babies ain’t wet or dirty or losing weight or bruised or burnt or cut if she would have them off of me quick as you like and you know that. What terrified me if I lost them however hard I tried in my home with my Tony was just as bad for me as you would feel if they took yourn. What never laid a finger on them. And come home and went in the kitchen where the health visitor was in the front room thinking what she was thinking how can that woman live like this? Until she fucked off what ain’t got no kids herself and don’t know fuck all however careful they trained her to judge me. Then he’s spitting like no cunt ain’t looked twice at you now Maureen not for years on a plate up your fat arse where you lot all take it even your mum you fat cunt because Terry Harrison never wanted you then and he don’t want you now.
      Until his mum had to bale us out of arrears and we got rehoused over Chaucer Court right opposite my mum it took me years of hard work to put my home back together every fucking time when my Tony got a temper on him over Terry Harrison what dumped me he just could not let me get over. What is just the sulph talking he reckoned in the morning when he was sorry what he done to my home but that don’t mean it never hurt me as much as the next person would get hurt over anything like that.

 
     

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NORA

Because I was laughing my head off over the presentation box with ribbon and tinsel in the palm of his hand for the joy of it and the stupidness in front of our Maureen my cackling or sniggering and coughing what I remember he brought in the cold with him in his khaki jacket and took off his boots and slid it out of his zip pocket all pink and red and silver what made Maureen look out of the window if it was a necklace or bracelet not that he disappointed me when I slit the tape with my nail and took off the lid because nobody can’t say I ain’t a greedy person.
– Thank-you Victor.
– My pleasure.
Because he wanted Maureen to see what he had bought me. When the old man must of been over the pub for a Christmas drink and it was snowing then, all whiteness in the sky what made a nice change out of the window where my nets was in soak in a bucket after Maureen come up to help me get all my home ready for the morning as long as you didn’t have to go out in it if you never had no boots when she was kind to help me like that. When you could smell it in the sky. Of top quality leather gloves with a soft lining like silk to the touch and fitted me lovely how he knew my size or is just clever not like my Tommy over anything like that what weren’t knock-off if he got it gift-wrapped in the shop or done it his self what was unlikely even for him. But he always gets me something nice. Even Maureen asked me if she could try them on once he was up the stairs and out of the way because she never of wanted to give him the pleasure. So I switched on the fairy lights and Maureen said I done my tree nice what was high praise coming from her.
      To get a feel of the inside after I went on about the lovely softness of the lining and all that but her hands was too big. Where I only got him a card. I was glad he never of bought me a necklace. She told me to put the gloves back in the box and stick them under the tree for something to open in the morning.
      But then he come down again. With a jumbo pack of sliced ham he had off of the Territorial Army he just done them a Christmas disco over the Community Hall and so what if they only give him a pound of cured shoulder for his trouble! So I agreed to swap it for the Festival Assortment out of the biscuit barrel on top of my kitchen cabinet our Maureen said was a fair exchange and no robbery even if she never of had no time for him and weren’t best pleased to see him again before she was on her way to get her own home ready at the last minute what couldn’t be helped. Where I could see he was hurt over the ham. And she thought he would of stayed upstairs until after she was gone. What Festival Assortment was a gift off of Lorraine’s mum where I never said nothing but everyone knows I don’t much like biscuits. So Victor had them off of me. And let me have the ham. What was his idea and weren’t none of mine if you could of put a value on what we had off of each-other not including the gloves, where I lost the gloves over the bingo. But that weren’t the point. And he got two or three slices back in the sandwiches I done him before he went out again at that time of night but I ain’t got a clue where he was going not that Maureen said nothing snide over it or nothing like that.
      And I kept the ornamental tin and put it back on top of my kitchen cabinet. Where he just had the contents off of me in a plastic bag for the boys in his troop he said when he took them on camp in the New Year and they slept in a hut because of the cold and cooked on a fire in the woods made out of branches they gathered under the trees and piled up in a pyramid like he taught them to keep warm.
      I give Lorraine’s mum a bottle of bubble-bath. But it was biscuits for the Scouts my arse where Victor gobbled up all them custard creams and Viennese with the jam and white stuff holding together a swirl of crumbs in his room what our Susan moved out and thought I never knew what he was doing of over the holidays. He tucked himself up with a hot drink and one of them books of a night-time of jungle survival and the outdoor life all what he was into since he was a kid. I know because of the jam smear of the same duvet cover our Susan had out of Argos when she was twelve with the pink hearts on it and crumbs the comfort of it for him on the bottom sheet I understood because he gets lonely so I never said nothing and he is my friend.
      What sometimes feels like the only one. When he used to rub my feet for me when my feet hurt what was a gift in itself. He made me take off my socks and holding my poor feet in his lap and stroked firmly not to tickle me and dug in with his fingers and thumbs until I had to tell him to stop.

 

 
     

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SUSAN

Where I told the doctor I had just discovered that I was not who I thought I was. What he agreed with me must of been very destabilizing. I told him I was trying to top myself in the hospital toilets doctor where I had just found out my mum and dad was not my mum and dad and him what I always believed was my dad was on his death-bed.  That’s why I stole the drugs off of the ward trolley. I told him that the security guard rescued me. I said I didn’t know what I might of done to myself if he hadn’t of saved me. Can’t you give me something, darling? Because I feel so sad over my family circumstances.
      What weren’t really lies because if I started to rattle I knew I would feel it. The one phone-call they allowed me of course I called Victor. He had to stand bail in case I never turned up at court but he weren’t worried about that. He would make sure I turned up. He said he would take me to court his self and bring me back home again after. Unless they put me away what was mitigating circumstances in my defence how I wanted to top myself and he reckoned I might get away with it.
      And don’t think I weren’t grateful all what he done for me because I was grateful and I told him so. But he wanted to take me over home where he was sure the old woman was at work and we would not be disturbed. He opened the car door for me and I got in.
– But I’m ill, darling, I said.
– You’re always ill, said Vic.
– Don’t be like that, I said. – Ain’t you got nothing for me?
– What do you think? he said.
      I was so grateful he got on my nerves how I had to be nice to him to make him like me. But he liked me less the harder I tried and I couldn’t stop trying. So he weren’t all that nice to me. And sent me up to his room over my mum’s what used to be mine. With another bag out of his sock and a spoon because I was a pain in the arse and he wanted his money’s worth of peace and quiet off of me. What weren’t my fault if he wanted to spend all his money on me.
      Then he come up with a mug of tea and custard creams what he said was for me but he ate it. I was sat up in his bed, still trying to find a vein. The pink candlewick bedspread was on the bed in my day before I never wanted to go back home no more and my mum knew she would benefit off of it if she let the room.
– I can’t never go up the hospital no more, I said. –I can’t never go and see the old man no more.
And I was crying how I had been stupid again and made my life worse what nobody never stopped telling me how I made my life worse by my actions.
– The old man will be coming home soon though, said Victor.
What we both knew was a lie.
– Yeah, I said.
– Want me to help you? he said.
– Yeah, I said.
– There you go, he said.
And I was like uh uh and never wanted him to say nothing to me if he was planning to spoil my moment what would be over soon enough anyway.
– That nice? Feel better now?
– Uh.
– There’s a good girl.
– Uh.
There’s a lovely girl.
– Uh.
      Until he got the hint and shut the fuck up trying to reach me when I never wanted nobody to reach me. But I was smiling and he tidied up. I felt love towards him where he backed off and let me.
      If I slept or what.
– What self-same bedspread used to be on this bed in my day, I said. – When I was a kid.
– I know, he said. – I remember. And it’s bald now like me!

 
     

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MAUREEN

The horse she insisted she could run to out of the insurance what she had a couple of grand coming to her once the agent done his paper-work and a groom in top hat and black gloves if we all chipped in for the cars to follow the coffin to the graveyard and black ribbons plaited in its mane gleaming the black leather harness and all that flared nostrils and flubbery mouthful of clanking metal and teeth jangling and steaming on the tarmac outside St. Anne’s or even three grand at best the agent reckoned minus deductions what weren’t a lot after a life-time how my mum insisted she don’t want it said she never give the old man a good send off.
      In the fancy carriage with the cut glass panels they slid him with the flowers what was his last journey. Where they all come out of the flats and watched it prancing down Hoxton you couldn’t help yourself not to think where his life went now it was all gone. And it hit me then, he weren’t never coming back. His greasy old chair over home and a few empties rolled under it my mum must of missed when she tidied up the front room and his baccy tin and his slippers all what was left. Where a part of me understood how the old woman decided to bury him in his blazer with the brass buttons and slacks she got cleaned special for the occasion and a new white shirt and black tie if it meant something to her to look his best in the coffin and the other part of me reckoned what a waste of good money. What happiness with my mum and drink and work and nine kids I thought was the saddest thing where he was too angry or what else was it. Too angry.
      But I had forgot if you lose somebody how it pains me in my chest and throat. I had forgot all that. But once it started I had to bury my face. Even my face hurt. My dad is dead. Not that he ain’t never gonna be happy or any of that but just he went and that’s what happens.
      But his flowers! All dragons out of carnations off of his Welsh cousins in red and white and green what come out of the woodwork and Husband and Dad and Thomas and Pop and Grandad and roses off of the Macbeth and all what the neighbours laid out in the flats of sprays of pinks and yellow chrysanthemums and gyp on the pavement under my mum’s balcony and ferns propped against the wall of the outside stair-case in them little wicker baskets with that green sodden stuff what do you call it to keep them alive so plentiful even our Alan got choked up looking for the bouquet he ordered off of the florist he reckoned set him back two hundred quid. What got lost in all the floral tributes off of our neighbours if they weren’t thin on the ground like the old man was somebody or out of respect for my mum where people knew her life and never blamed her for nothing what made her feel better if she sniffed in a hollow voice how we was well liked round here in spite of everything.
      And there was one from Terry Harrison not flash or nothing for my sake but just enough and a nice card filled in what he must of gone over the florists and writ it his self where I recognised his writing with sympathy at this hard time with best wishes from Terry over the garage to make out like we was hardly even friends and made me blush how we was at it since my dad died.
      I am smiling. I don’t know what to do with my feelings for Terry Harrison at my dad’s funeral like all the hurt of Terry all my life since he dumped me where I was used to feeling all them bad things about myself confirmed by him how I was dragged up to feel shit he is taking off of me at last and I don’t know myself unburdened of all that like I ain’t the same person.

 

 
     

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DAWN

And all the meat what we chipped in for my nan’s Golden Wedding come out of Auntie Linda’s chest freezer. Over the Community Hall after we buried him where our Linda done us proud. Where I am not trying to make out like I am in floods over the loss but I feel sorry for my nan and my mum, and I have a little cry and my Barry bungs me a tissue and I pull myself together what with the kids and that you can’t afford to go into one.
      So Auntie Linda never paid her respects when we laid Pop to rest. She was too busy carving the whole ham with cloves and mustard glaze over the hall while we was burying my grand-dad and that cold top-side she does with pickles and fresh bread and jellied eels for my nan and all Linda had planned for the Golden Wedding of what my grand-dad was partial like pork-pie with egg what weren’t like he was with us no more to enjoy it but still. And tubs of coleslaw and beetroot and two hundred volly vents hot out of the oven where we was allowed to use the big kitchen at the back of the hall if we left it as we found it and paid for the electric off of the meter, what my nan said she had hoped to be eating under happier circumstances but there weren’t no point in letting it go to waste. With doileys and sprigs of fresh parsley to garnish and lemon wedges how Auntie Linda always does everything so nice.
      And you should of seen the cake. Three square tiers on silver drums and white pillars, white icing with swags and white doves and white roses, all what my Auntie Linda modelled herself in her front room out of that sugar paste she buys by the block, all them fiddly little birds and petals for the Golden Wedding on a tray in front of the telly when my mum was up the hospital after work, each to his or her own to make a contribution.
      Where my mum ain’t got a cake tin to her name. Nor does she feel the lack of it, cream the butter and sugar what we learnt in school until your arm drops off, like all the energy Auntie Linda got left over she bakes cakes where she ain’t got no kids of her own. Not that I ain’t saying nothing against my mum nor would I ever say a word against her. But she never had no time for all that when we was kids, where she was doing outdoor work or scrubbing over the school how you let them scrape out the bowl with their fingers and lick the mixture off of the wooden spoon. Where it was me and Craig over Auntie Linda’s in her hot kitchen helping her weigh out the butter and sugar on the scales and I used to think that one day she’d make some-one a lovely mum.
      But what was she supposed to do when my pop popped off a week before the big party? She draped the pillars of the cake with black ribbons. And took off the plastic bride and groom she stuck on top for Nanny and Pop to celebrate fifty years of married life through thick and thin whatever he put her through. And Auntie Linda says Nanny could give as good as she got when it come down to it. Where Linda is standing proudly by her beautiful cake in the Community Hall. And turns round and tells Julie she couldn’t think of nothing but more flowers to top the cake once she binned the bride and groom when the old man died except a skull or a coffin to cover the bald patch in the icing or the bride on her own if you cut off the husband with a Stanley knife. What she winked at Julie and said that wouldn’t of been very nice.

 

 
     

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