Northwords Now

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by Morag Baptie

Whenever he got on the bus at the infirmary he was, you know, kind of loud, uninhibited.  I kept my eyes to the front, my bag solidly placed on the seat beside me.  He sat down next to a woman across the aisle, short grey hair, beige jacket. Below the seat I could see her feet in extra-wide fitting sandals.

  “Bonnie day i’nt it? Good to see the sun, I like the sun.”

  “Yes, it’s fine.”

  “I’ll jist tak ma backpack off.  It’s ok, I’ll pit it here, beside my feet. That’s better.  Good view, it’s a good view you get from here. You can see an affa lot from a bus, big windies, when they’re clean.  Canna see much if they’re dirty and the sun’s shinin’ on them.  They must o’ washed this bus recently.  The ither day I sa’, I couldna really believe it, I sa’ a mannie coming oot the hospital car park wi’ a cage in his hand. Ye’ll never guess fit wis in it. I’d nivver hae guessed masel’ like, if I hidna seen it wi’ ma ain een. It was a parrot. Fit wye would onybody hae a parrot if he’s gan to the hospital? Nivver seen the like!”

  “That’s unusual, right enough.”

  “Vicious beasts, parrots, ill-naitered, supposed to be. Oh, there’s the sign to Walker Dam.  Used to play there fin I was a kid.  Me an’ ma brithers an’ sisters.  A hale day in the summer holidays, oot in the mornin’ wi’ a piece, an’ a bag o’ crisps if we wis lucky.  I’ve got three brithers an’ twa sisters.  An’ Sally, she’s deid noo, ma collie dog.  She loved it an’ a’, loved to sweem, she wis a great sweemer.  I jist paddled, I couldna sweem then, but I can noo.  She wis a great dog, better than a parrot.”

  “Are you going to Soutarburn, ma loon?”

  “Aye, Soutarburn, Cooper Place, get aff at the dry cleaners.  Een o’ ma sisters is in hospital iv noo.  Cancer.  It’s nae lookin’ good.  But I says to her, Kathleen, I says, fit the doctors say isna ayewiys fit happens.  Just you concentrate on gettin’ better, dinna give up .”

   “Yes, that’s right.  Is this your stop here?”

  “Dinna give up hope.  Aye, that’s the dry cleaners, Cooper Place. That’s me then.”

  He stood up in the aisle, wrestling expansively with his backpack and the hood of his jacket.

  “Well, it’s been great speaking to ye. Thanks very much. A lot o’ folk dinna want tae speak, but we’ve had a grand chat. I’ve really enjoyed it. Have a good day. See ya!”

  “Aye, you take care son.”

  The driver nodded as his passenger swung off the bus.

  “Thanks Driver, cheers now, see you soon!”

   Me, I just kept looking to the front, eyes blank, staring straight ahead.

The Board and Editor of Northwords Now acknowledge support from Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
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