Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Tam

by Sandy Thomson

Walked past that auld church loads o times. Corner uh Gallowgate an Ship Lane. Usually some dosser sittin on the pavement wi his dug and a paper cup. Wan time we wir aw walkin past, me’n the team, an the auld guy says - any spare change boys? An ah wis like - aye, hunners, but you’re no getting any.
But it’s aw changed noo. Nae dossers fur a stert. Building’s been spruced up, an thirs a new concrete path leading up tae a side door, an aw alang the path there’s like footsteps painted? Bright yella. An thirs a big notice oan the railing that sez

TEN STEPS GOSPEL GROUP
CAN YOU TAKE THE FIRST STEP TO SALVATION?

An then a lotta stuff about bringin Glesga back tae the true path ’n findin inner peace wi’oot the drugs ’n the bevvy.
Thing is tae - thirs a helluva loat uh folk roon here that could dae wi a wee bit uh inner peace. Ah’m no intae drugs masel -  wee bit uh skunk noo ’n then -  but thirs loads uh wimmen oan diazepam, boays oan heroin, lassies oan Xanax. ’N tae be ferr, a loat uh thim huv sterted gaun tae the Ten Steps ’n sayin that the boay that runs it hiz really helped them tae cut doon. Wan lassie that works wi me at Asda has a pal that swerrs she’s noo completely aff the jellies. Mind you, she seems tae huv disappeared. Went tae the Ten Steps as usual last Setterday, an huznae been seen since. Her Maw’s going frantic, textin aw her pals askin if ony uv thim huv seen her. She’s no gettin much inner peace.
’N then thirs whit happened tae wee Kev. He wis aye a right wee terraway. Ten year auld an headin straight tae Polmont. He turned up at the Ten Steps  fur the Friday night kids sesh - meanin tae take the pish. Naebody seems tae know whit happened, but ivir since that night the wee man’s bin looking scared oot o his wits. He speaks in a wee trembly voice. He cannae look ye in the eye, an his hauns are shaking aw the time. He wilnae say whit happened tae him, but thirs aw kind o rumours goin roon.
Onywey. Ah wis comin hame fae ma work the other night - oan ma bike  - late shift Asda four tae midnight - an as ah went by the Ten Steps church ah heard whit sounded like a wean cryin inside the building. There were nae lights oan that ah could see, an ah thought maybe a wean hud got lost or somethin. So ah propped ma bike against the railin and walked up that stupit path.

The side door wiz shut. Wi a brand new lookin combination lock oan the door. But thir wiz a wee windae further alang the wall, about eight fit aff the groon. The wean wiz still screamin, but behind that ah could hear a sorta chantin? Couldnae make oot any words tho.
So ah went back an goat ma bike an wheeled it up the path tae just below the windae. Leaned it against the wa’ an’ stood up oan the saddle. There wiz lights inside right enough. No electric light, just caunels - held up by aboot a dozen weirdos, a’ wearin black robes an walkin in a circle roon aboot a widden table wi a wee wean oan it, lyin oan its back ’n screaming blue murder.
The chief weirdo wisnae wearin a robe. He hud oan a white teeshirt, regular jeans  an a new pair uh Nike Air Max. But see that teeshirt? It hud a big sorta dragon printed on it, wi’ its heid oan the front and then the body stretchin ower the shooders so that the tail hung doon the back. An it must hae been jist the flickerin o the caunels, but when you stared at the teeshirt the dragon seemed tae move. It seemed tae be writhin aboot aw ower the boay’s chest ’n back. Honest tae God. Nivir seen onythin like it.
Ah wuz jist watchin at the windae, waitin tae see whit they wur gaun tae dae nixt, when the chantin suddenly stops, ’n they aw staun still in a circle except fur the chief weirdo wha walks ower tae the widden table dead casual like.  When he gets there, he stauns fur a bit, lookin doon at the wean, who stops cryin an sterts wavin its wee arms aboot.. Then he reaches doon below the table, where there is a sorta ledge,an he pulls oot a big carvin knife. An noo the chantin sterts again - kinda quiet this time. An the wean sterts tae whimper. An ah thought fucksake, he’s gonnae kill the wean. So I banged oan the windae as hard as a could. An ah wis yellin like - leave that wean alane ya bastard.
And in an instant all wis dark. The caunels were oot. The chantin feenished. Then the hale bunch o thim made a rush for the door. Ah sterted back, an ma bike crashed tae the groun wi me aw tangled up in the frame.The weirdos were oot the door by noo an lookin roon fur who it wis that had disturbed their meetin. But ah struggled tae ma feet, climbed oan ma bike, an crashed right through the lot o thim - doon yon stupit path an oot onto the Gallowgate.
Ah wis headin alang tae the Cross, meanin tae sprint doon the Briggait tae the bridge ower the Clyde. Ah stae in wan o thae flats in the New Gorbals, wi my Ma an ma wee brither, an ah thought I cud mak it hame in about five meenits. But a’ thae mad bastards were efter me. Maist o them hud dumped the robes, and they hud a fair turn a speed. An in the lead wis the heid weirdo - him wi the Air Max - an he jist seemed tae flee alang the road. At the Cross he wis jist aboot ten yerds behind me - ah cud hear his breathin. There wis naebody aroon oan the Briggait. If someone wis looking oot uv a windae, aw they wid hae seen wis a boay oan a mountain bike bein chased by a mad-lookin guy wi lang hair.
An jist when ah goat tae the bridge he laid his haun oan the back o ma mudguard. Ah gave an almighty push doon oan the pedals - the bike leapt forward, an ma rear light snapped aff in the boay’s haun. Ah wis up an ower the river leavin him staunin there.
When ah made it tae the ither side I hud a quick look back. The hale skwad o weirdos hud caught up by noo an they were aw jist staunin there, at the ither side o the bridge. Mibbe the Briggait’s like the limit o thir territory like. Or mibbe they were scared o watter or sumthin. Or mibbe they jist decided ah wiz too fast for them!  They dinna ca’ me Speedy Tam fur nuthin.

When I got hame ah told ma Ma whit ah’d seen, an ah wantit tae phone the polis but she widnae let me. She didnae believe me -  says ah’m always makin up stories. But ah’m gonnae tell the boays the morra. An we’re gonnae go up tae that Ten Steps place the morra night - tooled up - ’n sort thae bastards oot.