Ugly Puggly 23
Molly made macaroni and cheese, with a side dish of oven chips for dinner. I stared out the window. She sat snug at the table and played Candy Crush on the computer as I chewed my way through pasta Passchendaele. Garlic bread on a plate to mop up the afters. Usually, I’d be at it like a dog lapping up its sick. But her cooking didn’t match Ugly Puggly’s, and the garlic bread was more like cardboard packaging. That kind you just bung in the oven. I made appreciative supping noises to let her know I was enjoying the meal. In the old days that would have made me a liar that would have ended up in the eternal fire. The Scottish school system frowned on that. There was nothing worse than a liar. We couldn’t spell paedophile, but we all knew a liar when we saw one. Now you could get a well-paid job as a disinformation officer.
‘How are the kids getting on?’
She rattled on about how well they were doing. And I snorted and laughed at the antics of our grandchildren. She looked well enough—in fact too well—our trial separation seemed to have worked wonders for her thin frame. No make-up. Not even lipstick. Salt and pepper hair and speckled summer colours tucked into a pair of blue jeans. A gold bracelet I’d given her one Christmas dangling from her wrist. Plain and understated, ordinary and magnificent. Our past crammed into the kitchen with the present, and within touching distance. No perfume, but I know what she tasted like.
I mopped up with the garlic bread and patted at my fat belly. ‘That was great!’
Darting away, she came back with a mug of tea and places her own cup beside the computer. A plate with three Digestive biscuits and two Blue Ribands between us. She wouldn’t eat any of them. I was being treated as a guest. Finish your biscuit and go.
I leaned down and confessed, ‘I’d much rather have a beer.’
‘That’s cause you’re an alky.’ She squinted as she glanced, and having seen enough of my face, looked away. But she was out of her seat, opening and closing doors before returning with three cans of lager.
‘I don’t suppose they’ll be that cold,’ she told me.
Reaching for a Tennent’s, I tugged the ring-pull and hear the opening shush and waited for the froth before licking it away. ‘You know I’m an alky. So I don’t care.’
She offered up a prim smile and tugged at her earing. Gave me a look that was a sign that she waiting. What for, I wasn’t sure.
The first gulp of lager relaxed me. It was like letting air out of my head. ‘Don’t suppose you get many visitors?’
Her greenish-grey eyes shone. With one movement she sweeps the cat up that had ambled into the kitchen into her arms, and onto her lap. The tabby makes a nest of her body and glared at me and purred. ‘Aye,’ she said. ‘You’re a visitor. You want another biscuit?’
‘Nah, I’m full up. I’m eating healthy noo.’ I push the debris on my dinner plate away, took another swig of lager and held my hand over my mouth as I burped like a guest.
She stroked the cat. ‘Really, what were you daeing before?’
‘Before?’ I gulp down another drink. ‘I was on a solid diet of gobstoppers, Wotsits and later crunchy bacon and mushroom flavour Kung Fuey’s.’ I pulled up my work shirt to show her the paunch of my belly. ‘And I admit I ate a lot of ice-poles. Two pence out of Aldo’s. Or yeh could get a single fag and a match for five pence—not that I smoked much. I had to keep myself fit for chasing lassies.’
A smile crept into her eyes. And she pushed the cat off her lap. ‘Aye, and we all know how that ended.’
‘We dae.’ I smirked. ‘The happiest days of my life.’
‘You’ve no changed.’
‘I huv. I creak when I chase the lassies noo.’
‘Em,’ she scratched at the back of her head and massaged her neck. ‘Mind we used to wait for the top ten tae come on the radio? Wae our two fingers on the cassette recorder so we could record it all—for nothing.’
I chuckled. ‘Aye, yeh were a born criminal.’
One shoulder and half a shrug, but she smiled as if that might have been a compliment. ‘How’s Howard getting on?’ she asked.
I shook my head and sparked another can. ‘Fuck, don’t start me on that one. It’s a bit of a nightmare, tae be honest. He’s sellin the hoose. It’s sound enough structurally, but it’s full of junk. He’s a hoarder. Doesnae like to fling anythin away, in case it might be useful later—but noo, we’re at later.’
She reached and flipped the cover over and shut the computer. ‘My da was a bit like that tae. I guess all parents were like that. It’s that generation of shiny toilet paper. And my da even used the cardboard bit in the middle.’
‘Jesus, that’s gross. But the hing is Ugly Puggly is lookin for one-hundred and ten grand for the hoose—and naebody will gee him that. It needs a lot of work. You know whit they’re like, some people put in a new kitchen. And then six months later, put in another one. His kitchen has still got sockets that take round pins for plugs. Ornaments. He could gie everybody on the planet an ornament and he’d have a couple of boxes left oer for aliens. ’
She pursed her lips. ‘It must be minging.’
‘Nah, I keep it no bad.’
‘That’s a first, you didnae dae nothing in here.’
‘Aye, but nothing.’
‘I can get you a twin-tub, hardly used.’ I stood up and looked at the adaptors for plugs under the table. ‘But you’ll need to get change the plug in it or get round plug holes. I’m pretty sure Ugly Puggly will have one of they adapters where you can plug anythin. And it ends up lookin like a hedgehog. He’s a walkin car-boot sale.’
‘No thanks,’ she shook her head.
‘He dumped some stuff doon the ditch. Old stuff, chest of drawers, that no even he can use. If it’s wood, he said, it’s good. It’ll dae nae harm.’
‘But what if somebody sticks him in and he gets caught?’
I chugged another swig of lager. ‘That’s whit I said to him. But he said he’s got a certificate saying he’s insane. The court was on his side and good for somethin. I couldnae argue wae that.’