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,NJll/i .’/~ ('1 ’wr . 7?" .«ISrW'MV/il’mfifléél The corridors have a rank. lctid smell ol pish and stale bodies. Most people here seem in such an advanced state ol inlirmity it merely conlirms my intuitive leeling that such places are jUst ante-chambers to death. It lollows lrom this that my actions won‘t alter the auld doll‘s quality ol lile: she'll scarcely notice that the money's gone. Some ol it would probably be mine anyway. when she linally snulls it: so what the luck's the point ol wailing until it‘s no good to me'.’ The auld doll could hang on lor donkey’s years as a

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cabbage. It would be utterly perverse. sell—deleating nonsense not to rip her oll now. to allow onescll to be constrained by some stupid. irrelevant set ol taboos which pass as morality. I need what‘s in her tin.

It‘s been in the lamin lor so long: Gran’s shorthread tin. Just sitting there under her bed. crammed lull ol bundles ol notes. I remember. as a sprog. her opening it tip on our birthdays and peeling oll a lew notes lrom what seemed to he a lortune. the absence ol which made no impact on the Wild.

ller lile savings. Savings lor what'.’ Savings lor us. that‘s what. the dalt auld cunt: too leeble. too inadequate to enjoy or even use her wealth. Well I shall just have my share now. Granny. thank you very much.

I rap on the door. Ahercrombie. with a red tartan background. My back chills and my joints leel still and aching. I haven't got long.

She opens the door. She looks so small. like a wi/cned puppet. like Zelda out til ili’I‘I'u/qu‘kv.

Gran. I smile.

v- Graham! she says. her lace expanding warmly. ~ God. ah cannae believe it! (‘ome in! (‘ome in!

She sits me down. babbling excitedly. hobbling back and lorth from her small adjoining kitchen as she slowly and cumhersomely prepares tea.

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Ah keep askin yir mother how ye nivir come tae see me. Ye always used tae come oan Saturday lor yir dinner. mind‘.’ For yir mince. remember. Graham? she says.

« Aye. the mince. Gran.

‘- At the auld place. mind‘.’ she said wistlully.

-r Ah remember it well. Gran. I nodded. It was a vermin-inlested hovel unlit lor human habitation. I hated that grotty tenement: those stairs. the top lloor surprise surluckingprisc. with the backs ol my legs already lucked lrom the sickening ritual ol walking up and down Leith Walk and Junction Street; her standing oblivious to our pain and diseomlort as she prattled on a load ol irrelevant. mundane shite with every other auld hound that crossed our path; big brother Alan taking his exasperation out on

me by punching me or booting me or

twisting my airm when she wisnae looking. and il she was she didnae bother. Mickey Weir gets more protection from Syme at Ibrox then I ever did lrom that auld cunt. Then. alter all that. the luckin stairs. God. I detested those luckin stairs!

She comes in and looks at me sadly. and shakes her head with her chin on her chest. Your mother was saying that yuv been gettin intae trouble. Wi these drugs n things. Ah sais. no oor Graham. surely no.

People exaggerate. Gran. I said as a spasm ol pain shot through my bones. and a delirious shivering tremor triggered oll an excretion ol stale perspiration lrom my pores. l‘uck luck luck.

She re-emerges lrom the kitchen. popping out like a crumpled jack-in- the-box. —- Ah thoat so. Ah sais tae oor Joyce: No oor Graham. he's goat mair sense thin that.

4- Ma goes oan a bit. Ah enjoy masel. Gran. ah'm no sayin otherwise. bit ah dinnae touch drugs. eh. Ye dinnae need drugs tae enjoy

SWVl11IM NMWHOI‘ :uoitensntlt


That's whit ah sais tae yir mother. The laddie‘s an Abercrombie. ah telt her. works hard and plays bard.

My name was Millar. not Abercrombie. that‘s the auld lady‘s side. This auld hound seemed to believe that being relerred to as an Abercrombie is the highest possible accolade one can aspire to; though perhaps. il you want to demonstrate expertise in alcoholism and thelt. this may very well be the case.

Aye. some crowd the Abercrombies. eh Gran'.’

—~ That's right. son. Ma Eddie - yir grandlaither -—- he wis the same. Worked hard n played hard. n a liner man nivir walked the earth. He nivir kept us short. she smiled proudly.


l have my works in my inside pocket. Needle. spoon. cotton balls. lighter. All I need is a lew grains ol smack. then just add water and it‘s all better. My passport‘s in that tin.

-— Whair‘s the lavvy. Gran‘.’

Despite the small size ol the Hat. she insisted on escorting me to the bog. as il I‘d get lost on the way. She lussed. clucked and larted as il we were preparing to go on salari. I tried a quick slash. but couldn't pee. so I stealthily tiptoed into the bedroom.

I lilted up the bedclothes that hung to the floor. The large old shortbread tin with the view ol Ilolyrood Palace sat in lull magnificent view under the bed. It was ridiculous. an act ol absolute criminal stupidity to have that just lying around in this day and age. I was more convinced than ever that I had to rip her oll. Il I didn’t somebody else would. Surely she'd want me to have the money. rather than some stranger? Ill didn‘t take the cash. I‘d be worried sick about it. Anyway. I was planning to get clean soon; maybe get a job or go to college or something. The auld hound would get it back right

enough. No problem.

Prising open the lid ol the lucker was proving extremely dillieult. My hands were trembling and I couldn't get any purchase on it. I was starting to make headway when I heard her voice behind me.

-- So! That‘s whit this is aw aboot! She was standing right over me. I thought I‘d have heard the clumsy auld boot sneaking tip on me. but she was like a luckin ghost. Yir mother wis right. Yir a thiel! Feeding yir habit. yir drugs habit. is that it‘.’

—— Naw Gran. it‘s jist . ..

~- Dinnae lie. son. Dinnae lie. A thiel. a thiel thit steals lac his ain is bad. but a liar's even worse. Ye dinnae ken whair ye stand wi a liar. Get away lae that bloody tin! she snapped so suddenly that l was taken aback. but I sat where l was.

-- I need something. right‘.’

- Yill lind nae money in thair. she said. but I cottch tell by the anxiety in her voice that she was lying. l prised. and it transpired that she wasn't. On top ol a pile ol old photos lay some whitish-brown powder in a plastic bag. I'd never seen so much gear.

-- What the luckin hell‘s this . ..

v- Git away lae thair! Git away! Fuckin thiel! ller bony. spindly leg lashed out and caught me in the side ol the lace. It didn‘t hurt but it shocked me. Her swearing shocked me even more.

—- Ya luckin auld . . . l sprang to my leet. holding the bag in the air. beyond her outstretched hands. Better call the warden. Gran. She‘ll be interested in this.

She pouted bitterly and sat down on the bed. ~ You got works'.’ she asked.

Aye. I said.

--(7ook up a shot then. make yoursell ttselul.

I started to do as she said. How (Iran? llow‘.’ I asked. relieved and bemused.

Iiddie. the Merchant Navy. He came back wi a habit. We had contacts. The docks. The money wis good. son. Thing is. ab kept leedin it. now ah huv tae sell tae the young ones tae keep gaun. The money aw goes uplront. She shook her head. looking hard at me. -- Thir's a couple ay young yins ah git tae run messages lir me. but that lat nosey yin doonstairs. the warden. she's gittin suspicious.

I took up her cue. Talk about lalling on you leet. Gran. maybe we kin work the gither on this.

The animal hostility on her small. pinched lace dissolved into a scheming grin. —- Yir an Abercrombie right enough. she told me.

. Aye. right enough. I acknowledged with a queasy delcatism.

l" IU‘M Irvine lli'ls/t

lait‘frm'lt'r/ {rum '/./I(’ .’l('l(/ [/UIMY' by Irvine lli’ls/i (published by Jonathan (YI/N' ()II /7.l/(1I'('/I(1119.99). i

The List 25 February -l() March I‘M-l 13