Archive for the ‘UK’ Tag

Interlitq publishes “Dunfermline Bus Station, 196-“, a story by Andrew McCallum Crawford

Andrew McCallum Crawford

 

Dunfermline Bus Station, 196-

 

by

 

Andrew McCallum Crawford

 

Margaret reached to the window and rubbed a hole in the steam with her sleeve. It was still raining. There was a clock on the building across the street. She had to be careful. She’d left wee David with the neighbours. Bill would be home about five. It wasn’t wee David she was worried about, it was Bill coming home early. If he found out she was here he’d kill her.

She rearranged the things on the table: the cup of tea and the scone, which she’d hardly touched, and the empty sachet of butter. The teaspoon and the knife. The tinfoil ashtray. She was the only customer, apart from an old woman near the door sipping a glass of hot orange.

Margaret had chosen the snack bar because it held memories of her children. Her family. She still thought about them like that, as her family, even though she had left them. They used to come here when everything was good. If not good, not bad. Almost bearable. Plates of chips and bottles of Coca Cola once a month, if Patrick hadn’t drunk all the money. She remembered how the coloured straws would bob in the bottles. Alan, her youngest back then, always wanted a glass. He said the straws made too much froth in his mouth.

How would Patrick look when he walked in? It had been a while. Then again, it would be a miracle if he turned up. She didn’t even know if he got her last letter. She’d sent dozens, asking about the children. He’d replied to none of them, apart from the first. ‘Don’t write again,’ was all it said. There wasn’t a signature, but the words were smudged, probably with whisky. It wouldn’t have been tears, Patrick was a man who expressed his emotions with his fists, nothing else. He was a miner, a hard man.

God, she could pick them. She opened a new packet of cigarettes, 20 Kensitas Tipped, bought at the newsagents in Falkirk before she got on the bus. She would have to remember to hide them later, Bill would want to know where she got the money. She’d been saving up the change from the messages, placing the coins carefully in the space behind the wardrobe. What he didn’t know about he wouldn’t worry about. She looked outside. She’d asked Patrick to be here at one, but time was getting on. He must have got the letter, unless he’d moved, but he wouldn’t have done that. The house was tied to the mine, it was a good thing, that was what they used to say. In any case, he wouldn’t have known how to apply for a new house, all he ever cared about was his work and the Club. Not one decent reply in two years. Not one line on a postcard to say how the children were. She was out of her mind with worry, and it was becoming impossible to cover it up. She wanted to see them so much, she could have got a bus straight out to the village, she’d thought about it a million times, but she wasn’t allowed to go back there. She’d tried to talk to Bill about it. It was a short conversation; it covered old ground quickly. ‘You chose me,’ he said. ‘You chose me and the baby.’

It was her penance.

A shape passed by the window, really close. Margaret immediately turned away, hiding her face. For a moment she thought it was Bill, but it wasn’t. Patrick lurched through the door, his overcoat hanging off his shoulders. His forehead was soaking wet, glistening.

She dragged the ashtray towards her and stubbed out the cigarette.

He collapsed into the chair on the other side of the table.

‘Did you have to get drunk?’ she said.

He pushed his hair back and wiped his hand on his coat. His wedding ring was the colour of bad nicotine. ‘Aye, that’s you,’ he said. ‘Always ready with a remark.’

‘You got my letter, then?’ she said.

He took one of her cigarettes. He had trouble lighting it, he was shaking so much, his head was swaying. He blew smoke across the table, her scone was covered in it. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t hungry. ‘Aye, I got your letter,’ he said.

‘How are the children?’ she said.

He was staring at her. His drunk look, as if he didn’t understand. It was all coming back to her now. ‘Where’s your fancy man?’ he said. ‘Does he trust you on your own?’

‘He’s not my fancy man,’ she said. ‘He’s my husband.’

‘Oh, aye, that’s right. I read about that in one of your letters. Before I threw it on the fire.’

‘How are the children?’ she said.

‘Though it’s funny how you could get married to him when you’re still married to me.’

‘That was all settled in court,’ she said. ‘You know that fine.’

‘In the eyes of the Church…’

‘I don’t care what the church says,’ she said. ‘Everything’s above board.’

‘And how’s the, eh…?’ he said. He took a long drag on the cigarette and held it. He coughed when he exhaled. ‘It must be getting big.’

‘His name’s David,’ she said. ‘He’s fine. I’m expecting another.’

‘Yez’ve been busy,’ he said.

Now it was the sarcasm.

‘That’ll be another bastard in the brood,’ he said.

‘Stop it!’ she said. She was aware of the old woman turning slightly in her seat, but it was only to see if her bus was in. ‘Keep your voice down.’

‘What’s wrong?’ he said. ‘Does the truth hurt?’

‘How are the children?’ she said, again. ‘That’s why I wanted to see you. There’s no point dragging up the past.’

‘Is there not?’ he said. ‘I think dragging up the past is a good thing. We left a lot unsaid, me and you.’

‘We could have talked if you hadn’t…’

‘For a start, how come your fancy man didn’t want your children? Eh? That’s a good question, int it? In fact, that’s the only question.’

‘Don’t bring that up,’ she said.

‘I’d like a fucking answer,’ he said. ‘If you’ve got the time.’

She wasn’t scared of him any more. He couldn’t hurt her now. She remembered when she told him she was pregnant with wee David, and the doing he gave her. That was why she chose Bill. She chose Bill, the baby and a new life. It had felt like she was escaping, at first.

‘Things happen,’ she said. ‘You don’t always get what you wish for.’

‘That’s true,’ he said. ‘I didn’t wish for three wee weans to bring up on my tod, but I got landed with it.’

‘How are they?’ she said. ‘That’s why…’

‘And I’m not drunk, by the way,’ he said. He started coughing and covered his mouth with his hand, the fingernails blue, full of ingrained dirt. His eyes roamed the walls. ‘This place could do with a lick of paint,’ he said.

‘Do you still…’ she said.

‘Coca Cola and plates of chips,’ he said. He seemed to focus on something on the table.

‘Does Alan still have a thing about straws?’ she said. She would make him talk if it was the last thing she did.

He crushed out the cigarette and immediately reached for another. ‘Alan?’ he said. ‘Right enough, Alan and his froth. And Bernadette with the salt shaker.’

‘That was Mary-Geraldine,’ she said.

‘Was it?’ he said. ‘Christ, time flies, eh?’

He hadn’t brought them here since she left. She wondered where he took them when he wasn’t working. Surely not to the Club? ‘It hasn’t flown for me,’ she said. ‘Never a day goes by when I don’t think about them.’

‘Aye?’ he said.

‘That’s why I’ve been sending you all the letters. You realise they’re not for…they’re not just for you. I want the children to know I still think about them, that they’ve got a mother.’

He chewed his bottom lip. Was it regret? She didn’t care. He still hadn’t told her anything. Maybe…maybe they could arrange another meeting. He could bring the children with him. She would buy them all chips and Coca Cola. A glass for Alan. She would save up from the messages. Bill would never find out. She would be careful.

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ he said.

I’m sure there is, she thought. In his sober moments, when her bruises were still tender, he used to say he would always love her, she knew that was what he was leading up to, she could see it in his face. And his wedding ring. But if she could just have some contact with the children now and again. Bill was earning. Maybe if she talked to him, really talked to him, he would come round to the idea. They could all be together, all the children. It didn’t have to be a secret. It wouldn’t have to be anything permanent. Just as long as they knew about each other. They could see each other in the school holidays, if they wanted. At least they would have that choice.

The old woman moaned. She pushed herself up and made for the door.

‘I’ll have to be going soon,’ said Margaret. ‘Maybe…maybe we could meet again?’

‘…..’

‘You could bring the children with you.’

‘Margaret…’

‘It would be just like it was. We could arrange it for…’

‘Margaret, there’s something…’

‘…and if I talk to Bill he might be okay with it, you never…’

‘Margaret! No. There’s something…it’s not going to happen.’

‘What do you mean it’s not going to happen? If I talk to…’

‘Christ, Margaret, I don’t know where they are.’

‘…..’

‘They’ve been…they got taken off me,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t look after them. I tried, Jesus, Mary and Joseph I tried, but I couldn’t.’ He looked at the floor. ‘It was the best thing.’

‘What?’

‘I haven’t seen them for months.’

‘What are you talking about, Patrick?’ she said. ‘Where are they? What do you mean you don’t know?’

‘I don’t…different places…Margaret, even if I knew, I couldn’t tell you.’

‘…..’

‘Even if I knew where they were, I wouldn’t be able…’ He tried to balance the cigarette on the edge of the ashtray, between the serrations. He let go of it. Then he picked it up again. His fingers were trembling. She watched them move towards his mouth. ‘I told them you were in a car crash,’ he said

Something kicked inside her. ‘What car crash?’ she said.

‘It was…I had to tell them something. You just disappeared.’

What car crash? She’d never been in one. Why would he make up a story like that?

Slowly, the things on the table, the cup, the spoon, the crumbs around the scone grew larger as she realised what he really meant.

‘I only had to tell them once,’ he said.

She was back in the village. She was in the house, in the corner of the living room, watching. The children were sitting on the floor with their backs to the fireplace, which was full of cold ashes, as Patrick leaned over them. ‘I’ve got something to tell you,’ he said. Hard. ‘It’s your mother. She’s had an accident.’ Their wee faces looking up at him. She could see their faces clearly, she was watching from the corner, their mouths were open, they didn’t understand. ‘She won’t be coming…she’s gone up to…’ He crossed himself. ‘You’ll never see her again.’ Then the crying, Alan the loudest. And Mary-Geraldine and Bernadette, how would they…

The window was covered in steam. She felt the words building in her throat. She tried to force them out, but nothing would come.

He was walking away.

‘Why did you do it?’ she said. ‘Patrick! Why did you do it?!’

A gust of wind blew rain through the empty doorway. She scrubbed the window with both hands, but there was no sign of him. There was no sign of him at all.

Ian Rankin on Edinburgh: A Literary Tour/ Video

Ian Rankin on Edinburgh: A Literary Tour/ Video.

Interlitq publishes a further extract from “Le crabe et l’aube” by Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated by Peter Robertson

Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix

Interlitq publishes a further extract from Le crabe et l’aube by Franco-Argentine author Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated from the French into the English by Peter Robertson.

About Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix

About Peter Robertson

Read Extract 1 of Le crabe et l’aube by Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated by Peter Robertson.

Interlitq to publish a further extract from “Le crabe et l’aube” by Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated by Peter Robertson

Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix

April 2018: Interlitq to publish a further extract from Le crabe et l’aube by Franco-Argentine author Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated from the French into the English by Peter Robertson.

About Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix

About Peter Robertson

Read Extract 1 of Le crabe et l’aube by Antoine de Lévis-Mirepoix, translated by Peter Robertson.

Peter Robertson’s translation of Horacio Quiroga’s story, “El almohadón de plumas” published as audio by Breakroom Stories

Horacio Quiroga

Peter Robertson‘s translation from the Spanish to the English of Horacio Quiroga‘s story, “El almohadón de plumas” (“The Feather Pillow”) has been published as an audio by Breakroom Stories.

About Horacio Quiroga

About Peter Robertson

About Breakroom Stories