Northwords Now Issue 36

The FREE literary magazine of the North


by Sheena Blackhall

It wis a plottin hett day in July. Mrs Wabster’s washin wis hingin on the line luikin wabbit, an her dother Jessie wis powkin a snailie oot in the gairden wi a twig, ettlin tae makk it cock oot its hornies. Ower the dyke cam the soun o baas bein stottit agin a garage yet, tae the soun o bairn chantin:

Caa caa the ropey,
Yer maa's awa tae the shoppie,
Tae buy a cake o soapie,
Tae wash yer little dockie’

‘Ma, can I play ootbye wi Sally?’ speired the wee quinie.

‘Aa richt, bit nae farrer nur the Lanie,’ cam the repon

Her dother didnae need twa tellins, an ran oot tae meet up wi her frien Sally. Sally Mackintosh wis adoptit, an nae lang syne her fowk hid adoptit ag ain, a loonie aboot three month auld.

‘Wid ye like tae see ma new brither?’ speired Sally. ‘He’s jist ooto his bath.’

Jessie follaed her frien up tae the Mackintosh hoose an intae the kitchiet. The new bairnie wis lying bare nyaakit on a bath tool on tap o the kitchie table. He wis crawin an curmurrin like a cushie doo.

Mrs Mackintosh wis boo dower the littlin, surroundit bi creams an poothers.
‘Watch this,’ she telt the twa quinies.

She tuik a licht haud o the loonie’s wee todger an staiked it tae its pynt wi her jewelled, nail-varnished fingers.  The todger bedd straicht up like the Eiffel Touer.

‘I cam wirk magic wi ma fingers,’ she lauched. ‘Ae day ye’ll larn thon tae.’

Jessie an Sally warna muckle interestit in todgers, tho it wis the first time Jessie hid seen ane, an it wis a thochtie bumbazin that she didnae hae ane. She thocht that mebbe she’d growe ane ae day, like the snail’s hornies.

They gaed back intae the Lanie an their baa-stottin:

I had a little monkey,
Its name wis Jocky Broon,
I pit it in the bath tub,
Tae see if it wid droon.
It drunk up aa the watter,
It ett a cake o soap,
It deed the next mornin,
Wi a bubble in its throat.
In cam the doctor,
In cam the nurse,
In cam the leddy
Wi the big black purse.
Oot gaed the doctor,
Oot gaed the nurse,
Oot gaed the leddy
Wi the big blackpurse.

Nae lang eftir, they wir jyned bi Mary Archibald, a quinie new flittit intae the Lanie, a year aulder than thirsels. Mary’s fowk hid bidden in an orra airt o the toun till a hyne-aff kinsman hid deed withoot family an left his his gear an hoose tae their thirsels. Jessie an Sally likit Mary weel eneuch, she wisnae ower roch an she wisna din raisin, an shared her jacks an scraps wi them, an whyles sweeties. Jessie telt Mary aboot the todger, an Mary said she’d heard aboot sic things frae a skweel frien at her auld hame. An syne she telt them fit the auld skweel frien hid telt her, bit they warna tae tell onyither body, cause it wis a secret.

The three dowpit doon on tap o  a granite dyke, an Mary began. Weel, the skweel frien’s name wis Ina. Aabody likit Ina, she wis gweed hairtit an blythe, bit her claes guffed o swyte an dried pish an her heid wis hudderie an flechie. The dominies at the skweel likit Ina as weel. They tuik peety on the wee sowel. Whyles at denner time, they washed her in the staff room lavvie, an cuttit her hair an caimbed the beasties oot wi a beastie caimb. An they’d bring in secunt haun claes an sheen fur Ina, an fed her whyles wi brukken biscuits an toast. The queer thing wis, aince a month Ina wis flush. She’d cam tae skweel wi her pooches stappit wi siller an treat aa her class mates tae lucky tatties, aniseed baas, liquorice strips an coo candy. It wis a mystery richt eneuch. Then ae day, Ina invited Mary hae fur tea.

Her hoose wis the boddom storey o a tenement. The gairden wis waist heich wi docken leaves, an a sotter o dug keech. The yett wis chippit peint. Inbye, Ina’s faimily war cooried roon a newspaper table cloot, happit wi chips an haddies.

Ina’s wee brither wis staunin in fyled hippens an twa inch o snotters hingin frae his snoot. Ina’s ma wis gley-eed, pirn taed, hallyrackit bit friendly eneuch.

‘Cam awa in quinie. Ye’ll be Mary. Stick in till ye stick oot. Ma brither Tam’s hame frae sea this wikk. He wirks on a trawler. Ina, takk yer uncle ben his tea.’

Ina gaithered up a haunfu o chips in a paper cone an skippit aff intae the neist chaumer. She wis gaen a wee whylie. Fin she cam oot, she cried tae Mary:

‘Uncle Tam wints tae see ye Mary. Cam ben wi me.’

Fin Mary gaed intae uncle Tam’s room, he wis sprauchled oot on his bed. He wis mither nyaakit, barrin a mingin semmit guffin o swyte, booze, an fush. Aneth he wore naethin ava. Mary hid niver seen a nyaakit mannie afore.

‘Ging up tae him Mary. He wints ye tae touch his todger. Luik, I’ll show ye.’

Ina tuik her uncle Tam’s todger in her wee haun, an ruggit it up an doon. Mary wis horrified. Uncle Tam’s physog wis a hotterel o blackheids. He hid thin blaik stringgly hair an rotten teeth. His todger stood up like stick o rhubarb, reid, wi veins breengin oot.

‘Ye’ll get pennies like me gin ye dae it,’ quo Ina.

Bit Mary didna wint uncle Tam’s pennies. She ran aa the wye hame an niver devalued aince. Nae lang eftir thon, she flittit wi her family tae the Lanie. An thon wis aa there wis tae the story.

The three quinies, Sally, Mary an Jessie played ropies till teatime:

I'm awa in the train',
An you're nae comin wi me,
I've got a lad o ma ain,
An ye canna tak him fae me.
He weirs a tartan kilt
He weirs it in the fashion,
An every time he cocks his leg,
Ye see his dirty washin.

Afire ye cud say Whigmaleerie, Mrs Wabster wis oot in the Lanie cryin Jessie in fur her tea.

‘I pued some rhubarb sticks fur yer tea,’ quo she. Rhubarb crumble an custard…thon’s yer favourite!’

Bit Jessie cudnae face the rhubard. She settled fur sugar on bried instead.