Ugly Puggly 7
Dave said with the kind of accent that rubbed your nose in wealth, ‘Makes you think.’ I hadn’t noticed that before. I didn’t care what he did with his squiggly bits, but I drew the line at Tories. He smiled back with overly bright dental work. I eyed him suspiciously. It worried me the influence he’d been having on Ugly Puggly. Maybe he too would start flossing.
‘You got the keys?’ Ugly Puggly asked.
‘I’ll jist put this through in the kitchen.’ I held out the empty bottle as evidence of good faith. ‘It’s not that I’ve lost them. I just don’t know where they ur. I can home in on them like a doo, if you just gee me time. They’re either in my van, in my jacket pocket, or somewhere else. If you take the long view, they’ll turn up. The shorter option is I havenae a Scooby.’
‘When Gods come to destroy you, they first make you lose your marbles,’ Ugly Puggly said.
‘Whit’s he talkin’ about?’ I said to Molly. ‘I lost a set of keys, no marbles.’
‘It’s metaphorical,’ Dave piped up.
‘Yer, a fuckin’ closet Tory aren’t yeh?’ I waved the bottle at him.
‘I voted for Nicola Sturgeon,’ he replied with a note of outrage in his voice.
‘Who’s that?’ Then it registered. ‘Aye, I’m aw for her, whatever it is.’
‘I’m going to bed.’ Molly glared at me and took the bottle out of my hand. Glanced at the other two. ‘Sort it out among yersel.’
‘The thing is,’ my head dropped and I couldn’t look at her. ‘If we can’t find the keys the boys may need to stay the night.’
She remained surprisingly cordial. ‘Suppose, there are a couple of spare quilts in the cupboard. They can sleep on the couch.’
‘But no the gether,’ I added. I was glad she’d showed the Tory that we were practically bourgeoisie, having more than one quilt. But we weren’t wishy-wishy liberal. ‘You can push the chairs together,’ I told Ugly Puggly.
I pointed at Molly. ‘She supported Clause 14, or whitever, it was called. Thatcher’s gay-baiting clause.’
You couldn’t tell what Ugly Puggly was telling by looking at him. If he ceased to exist, he’d still look the same. ‘If you can’t find the keys tonight, you’ll not be able to find them tomorrow,’ he said.
‘Aye, but I’ll be sober,’ I said. ‘Things always look worse when you’re sober.’
Molly waved a hand. ‘I’ll leave yous to it.’
‘I suppose we could use the spare set of keys,’ Ugly Puggly said.
‘You’ve got another set of keys?’ I recognised the testiness in Molly’s voice. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she’d taken the lamp from the small table on the other side of the chair and tilted the shade so it shone on his face. Hit him about a bit, in the way my sister, surely would have.
‘Aye, under the gnome,’ he said. ‘Everybody knows about the spare set of keys under the gnome.’
I found myself nodding. I’d forgotten about that. Other folk had a little place in Rothesay or the Highlands. We’d a spare set of keys under the gnome. It was much the same thing. Only cheaper.
‘Aye, but there’ll no be any heating on. Fuel poverty.’ I waved a finger towards Ugly Puggly who’d squeezed himself down on the couch beside Dave. ‘And he’s been in the loony bin. The place’ll no doubt be stinking, but it’ll be freezing as well.’
‘No, the heating runs on a cycle,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘Turns itself on and off, when required.’
I explained to Dave, the Tory, how the proletariat survived. ‘That’s aw right then, he’s rigged the meter.’
I’d warm thoughts of my da drilling through the casing of the meter, and using a weight to keep the meter from turning too fast. Then panicking and turning on all the fixtures when the leccy man was spotted in the area. So like Star Trek, the meter went into warp drive. Or my Uncle John slowing it down with a carefully inserted negative photographic film, which was thin enough and flexible enough to stop the wheel from spinning, after you’d ran a Stanley blade around the joints. You couldn’t say it was accidental if the negative showed your kid’s First Communion photo.
‘No,’ Ugly Puggly, cleared his throat. ‘I’ve not rigged the meter. On the contrary, I’ve too much electricity.
‘Good man,’ I said.
I knew what that meant. I’d a pal in the Council that rigged a fitting to the communal lights and line in the high flats. He could heat his house, cook his dinner and turn the lifts off with a switch if they were making too much of a racket. His only complaint was he couldn’t evict the junkies on the third landing.
‘I’ve a wind turbine,’ he said. ‘The batteries aren’t great, but if you go for quantity rather than quality, you’ll no be disappointed.’
There were some people that listen and some people that knew. ‘Car batteries,’ said Molly, raising her voice. ‘Isn’t that dangerous? A fire hazard?’
I was keeping an eye on the closet Tory. He reached across to hold Ugly Puggly’s hand and offer support. But he’d never been much of a hand holder. As far as I knew, he disliked being touched. He pulled his hand away.
‘Only, if there’s a fire,’ he said.
‘Fuck off,’ I said. ‘That’s dangerous. You could burn your neighbours oot.’ I asked him, ‘Is it still the Shirley’s the next door to yeh?’
‘Aye,’ he said
I couldn’t stand them as a kid, and just because they were ancient now didn’t mean they’d become national treasures.
‘It’s no that dangerous,’ I concluded. ‘But you’ve got to keep an eye on ‘hings.’
Ugly Puggly gestured to show that he was thinking the same thing. ‘But I’m working on developing a new roof tile. As you know yer standard roof tile is designed to be both ductile and hydrophobic. Slate, for example, will give you sixty years and counting. But there’s a problem of volume. The larger the area the slower it will dry out. A hefty downside of solar panels is they’re crap. It’s like wearing an ill-fitting wig instead of growing your own hair. Metals like aluminium and zinc heat up fast, but much of the energy is lost in transference, in a way that trees do not lose energy in converting light to a living organism. Our roofs need to smarter, both hydrophobic and hydrophilic, with tiny pores that retain moisture.
‘You mean we should go back to having grass roofs?’ I asked.
‘Not exactly, more a window box with different colours and palettes. Our roofs need to be smarter and we need to give them a pulse. We need to bring them alive so they can feed us electricity.’
‘How do we do that?’ Molly asked.
‘I’m no sure,’ Ugly Puggly replied. ‘One thing I am sure, we can’t keep bolting on a stookie to every roof and adding to the carbon burden. Every roof tile should be glazed and heat retaining and able to conduct electricity.