Ugly Puggly 24
‘Whit’s this?’ I sniffed the plate Ugly Puggly put down on the table. Screwing up my eyes, I shook my head and prodded it with my fork. ‘It looks like fish. I don’t eat fish unless it’s been battered and served wae chips.’ I stated the obvious. ‘And there’s nae chips.’
‘Salted cod,’ he mumbled, wandering to the sink and running the hot water into the dishes. ‘Without the salt and without the cod.’
I sat on the edge of the wooden chair and chewed fillet of fish slowly, ready to spit it out. I could taste a tinge of garlic. Ugly Puggly used lots of garlic. Some of it wild.
‘It’s vegetarian salted cod for Howard.’ Ugly Puggly ran a colander under the hot water and stuck it on the draining board. ‘The shoplifter got my order mixed up with a single mum’s. And instead of cod he brought me Captain Birdseye, but he knocked a few quid aff it and I got everythin for a tenner. Yeh cannae argue wae that.’
‘The playboy willnae know any difference.’ I cut up my unsalted uncod and grazed on the side-dish of asparagus, chilli and cucumber with baby potatoes in their skins. ‘He probably hinks a fish finger is a vegetable that grows under the sea.’ I turned my head and gazed into lobby. ‘Where is he anyway?’
Ugly Puggly sighed, but didn’t answer.
‘Mair for me,’ I speared another potato. ‘Probably on his phone,’ I whispered. ‘Whit’s for pudding?’
‘Raspberry cream cake,’ Ugly Puggly brushed the sweat from his cheek. ‘I made it yesterday It should be alright.’ He shrugged, ‘but nae cream’.
I chimed in with a laugh. ‘Cause of the shoplifter.’ I patted my belly. ‘Bring it oer and I’ll dae my best, but I’m no promising anythin.’ But I warned him, ‘If you’re gonnae keep up wae this self-sufficiency lark yeh’ll need tae dae yer ain shoplifting—you or the playboy.’
Ugly Puggly clattered two thick slices of raspberry cream cake on a plate in front of me. He’d a slice of cake in his hand and munched into it. Licking his fingers clean, he sprayed crumbs as he spoke and guffawed. ‘Could you imagine him, shoplifting?’
I used the edge of the fork I’d been using for the potatoes and cut myself a thin slice of cake and let it melt on my mouth. ‘Nah,’ I admitted. ‘I mean, we were brought up as veterans, learning oor trade fae Woolies, stealin fae the pic-n-mix near the door and hoofing it away, before some daft shop assistant gie yeh chase.’
‘An giant gobstoppers,’ the side of Ugly Puggly’s eyes crinkled as he smiled. ‘Ye’d get them oot of Jenny’s and they’d last yeh for a month. They’d turn all different colours in yer mouth. And before yeh knew it ye’d aged five years and everywan oer yer teeth needed fillings, or fell oot. I’m sure that’s how Einstein worked out his early drafts of the theory of relativity.’
I took another bit of cake and glanced over Ugly Puggly’s shoulder to see how much was left. ‘Och, guys like the playboy noo hauvnae got a clue. They’re ay lookin at their phones for entertainment. Books tae them are like the hats and bunnets that everybody used to wear, old fashioned as JFK. It’s aw virtual reality stuff noo, and putting a box on yer head for entertainment.’
‘Aye, that’s the future.’ Ugly Puggly leaned over and picked up my empty plate. ‘And it’s here noo.’
‘Hi,’ I shouted. ‘I’m no finished wae that.’
‘There’s only a wee bit left and I was keepin that for Howard.’
‘Och, no, he’ll no be wantin that. He’ll be too busy wankin in front of strangers online.’ I brushed past Ugly Puggly and flicked the kettle on. ‘He’s the type that wants his cake and tae eat it. I’ve already told yeh, about him being a closet Tory. He’s the type that would turn himself in for shoplifting. And smile while he was daeing his community service wae the Sally Army and handin oot meals to the homeless.’
Ugly Puggly waited until I’d poured my tea before he answered. ‘Like you?’
I sipped my tea and licked my burnt bottom lip. ‘Aye, like me. But in the old days we entertained oursel by takin the piss oot of each oer. Not putting a fuckin box on yer head and entering another reality, in which other guys wae boxes on their head, had contests in shooting each other up. Virtual reality, eh, lot of shite’.
I put my mug down on the sink. ‘Listen, for my ma and da’s generation, if youd all yer ain teeth at twenty, you were called a snob and had them knocked oot in a brawl. We married early and you weren’t even allowed to have a cock before then. You were handed instruction manual on your wedding night had how to assemble it like a crank handle on a cement mixer. You had to work out for yourself what the right mix was.’
‘I ne’er did get that,’ said Ugly Puggly.
‘Aye,’ I replied, ‘because yer ma and da were too old and they put in the wrong mix. And look whit happened. They had you.’
Ugly Puggly took another piece of cake and chewed on it slowly and methodically. ‘You might be right, but yer ma and da had you.’
‘Aye, they got lucky, I suppose.’ I cocked my head. ‘But then my ma had you too. She virtually brought you up. So she had the worse of both worlds.’
‘True,’ he admitted. ‘But on yer side, no mine.’
‘Aye, but yer forgettin one very important thing. Pink didnae make the girls wink. Pink got you a kickin. There was no such thing as homosexuals.’
Howard stood listening in the doorway and announced his presence with an aggravated snarl. ‘Whit dae yeh mean by that?’ His eyes softened as he looked at Ugly Puggly. ‘You kept me any dinner? he asked him.
‘Yeh,’ Ugly Puggly smiled. ‘Vegetarian fish bites and garlic potatoes.’
The phone buzzed in his side pocket and he went into the lobby to check out who the message was from.
‘Away, wankin!’ I whispered to Ugly Puggly.
His cheeks were pink and his face flushed when he returned.
‘Who was that?’ I asked.
He shook his head and glanced at Ugly Puggly. ‘Nane of yer business.’
‘I never said it was. Just askin.’
‘Well, I’m jist tellin yeh.’
‘It wisnae yer mother then, askin after us?’
‘I just told yeh,’ he glanced at Ugly Puggly but he was no help, because he was smiling too at his discomfort.
‘You had a haircut?’ I sipped at my tea.
‘Aye,’ he patted the side of his head above the ear.
‘You look like that woman footballer that’s lost her baws.’
‘Thanks,’ he smiled.
Ugly Puggly and me laughed.
‘Whit?’ he cried. ‘Whit?’