Angel 12 (the tramp)
‘You hungry?’ he asked. ‘We could go for something to eat along there.’ He waved his hand in the direction of the traffic behind them.
‘Not really, but we could go for a walk and go into a pub for a shandy. My feet are freezing.’
‘Dunno,’ he clenched her hand as they made their way up and towards Princes Street. ‘We could just take the car and park outside.’
He pulled her in the direction of Waverly.
‘Oh, you and your car. We’ll walk for once.’
She tugged his arm when they got to the top of the stairs and walked in the opposite direction, towards Murrayfield. Laughter punctuated conversation as they strolled, breaking off to kiss in the middle of the wind-swept pavement.
The rain started to clear, up ahead, a tree lifted its limbs, a denuded parasol over a chain-link fence, where the gentrification of the city-centre was taking place, and a balding tramp with a shaggy ginger beard and dog sheltered on a blue tarpulin. A tartan bunnet with a few coins in it was at his feet.
Angel nudged Pizza Face, ‘Gie him a pound,’ she whispered.
She crouched and rifled through her bag and purse. A pound in her fist, she tottered forward.
‘Wait a wee minute and I’ll get that,’ said Pizza Face
She had her back to him when she dropped the pound note in the bunnet, among the silver and copper coins.
The tramp grabbed it before it blew away. ‘Thanks Missus,’ he saluted her, holding the mongrel, on a piece of string as a lead.
A rat-like-dog with bulging squinty eyes, edged forward and sniffed around Angel.
‘Oh, you’re gorgeous,’ declared Angel, scratching its shiny head between the ears. ‘Whit’s his name?’
‘Cheers,’ said the tramp, accepting the compliment. ‘Bella.’
‘Oh, it’s a beautiful girl.’
Bella skittered forward on its bow legs and she patted its thin flanks and rubbed its chest.
‘I think Bella likes you,’ said the tramp. He eyed Pizza Face glowering at them. ‘She’d probably run away with yeh.’ He handed her the string lead and snorted, ‘I’d run away with yeh, myself.’
She lifted the dog up and cuddled it, looking into its googly black eyes. ‘You’re just gorgeous,’ she crooned at Bella. The dog’s pink tongue lolling out as it panted, contentedly.
‘So you’re fae Glasgow?’ said Pizza Face to the beggar.
‘Aye, the Carlton,’ said the beggar.
‘Why don’t you dae your fucking ponsing through there then? And leave us in peace?’
The beggar swept the coins in his cap together and put them in his pocket. He put the cap on his head and rolled up the bit of tarpaulin. The dog barked when he took him from Angel.
‘He doesn’t mean anything,’ said Angel. ‘I’m sorry, he’ll apologise.’ She looked over at Pizza Face.
Pizza Face shook his head. ‘Will I fuck, wee man.’
‘Sorry,’ she said, shaking her head.
‘It’s alright hen, I’m used to it. My dog’s a good judge of character. He’s a tosser.’ And he grinned with green tinged and broken teeth. ‘Will you marry me?’
‘Hi, you, yah, wee cunt,’ growled Pizza Face, stepping closer.
The beggar, with his dog, on the string lead brushed past him, walking back towards the castle.
Angel shoved Pizza Face in the side and rounded on him. ‘You’ve spoiled it. The best thing we can dae is just go hame.’
‘Fine,’ he glowered at her. ‘I’ll just get the car.’
‘You get your precious car. I don’t even want to look at yeh. I’ll get the train back.’
She shoved past him, head down and hair falling over her face, so he couldn’t see she was crying, as she walked towards the station. She wasn’t really looking where she was going and passed the guy with the dog and reached out her hand and patted his back. The dog jumped in towards her legs and she crouched and petted it. Looking back she saw Pizza Face standing in the same place staring at his feet. When he started walking towards her she hurried away. The tramp shouted something in a throaty voice after her, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying.
Pizza Face was out of breath when he caught up with her. ‘Whit did I dae wrang?’ He fell into step beside her.
She wiped at her eyes. ‘If you don’t know, I cannae tell you. But that’s us. That’s us finished.’
‘Fine,’ he said, ‘I’m no gonnae beg.’
Three Japanese tourists, one with a camera around his neck, cut in between them. Quickly, wiping at red-rimmed eyes and sniffing, Angel made her get away. She passed the castle and the station wasn’t far, on the other side of the road.
She turned her head, saw him hurrying behind her. He tapped her on the shoulder. Pedestrians were coming in and out of the walkways of the station, crossing the road. ‘Whit?’ she asked. ‘Whit dae yeh, want?’
‘Don’t be like that. Let me at least gie you a lift hame.’
She blinked, and blinked, trying to hold back the tears. ‘No,’ she said, a tear rolled down her cheek. She backed against the plate-glass window of a restaurant. Antique mirrors ran the length of the well-lit dining room making it seem larger and softening the glow of the gold tops of the wooden tables and chairs. Well-dressed, elderly customers sat in rows lifting the silver of their knives and forks while a waitress in a black-and-white uniform stood near the foyer, waiting to serve them.
‘We’ve no had our dinner yet. We could go in there for a meal. Even Jesus had a last supper.’
She turned her head and gawped inside. A man in a tuxedo, fork halfway to his mouth, looked back at her.
‘Nah, don’t think so.’ Her throat felt full of mud. She glared at him and grew angry. ‘You’d go in there and spend, whit? Forty? Fifty? Sixty quid on a cheese salad – and you wouldnae gie that guy a pound?’
‘Aye, but…’ he said.
‘Aye, but nothing…’
‘Alright then.’ He held his hands up. ‘The two of us will get a sausage roll out of Greggs. And we’ll stand here, eating it. And looking in at the rich cunts. I’ll gie aw the money I’ve got in my pocket to the first beggar I see.’
She bit back a smile.
He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and held a twenty pound up and flicked his wrist and let the wind take it. His eyes never left her face. He peeled off another twenty and let the wind take that too. ‘Is it a deal?’
‘Don’t be daft,’ she said.
He scrunched all the notes in his wallet together and held them out towards her in a bouquet, ready to launch them into the air. Behind her customers were leaving their seats and walking towards the window.
‘Deal,’ she said. ‘Deal.’
He grabbed at her hand. ‘Sorry, sometimes I can be an arsehole. But you bring out the best in me. If I can find that wee monkey cunt wae the dog, I’ll gie him aw my money. But first we’ve got to find a Gregg’s.’
‘Doesn’t need to be a Gregg’s.’
‘Aye it does. I love their sausage rolls.’
A management type inside the restaurant chapped the window and waved his hand. Instructing them to move on.
‘Fuck off, baldy,’ shouted Pizza Face, glaring at him. ‘We’re going to Gregg’s anyway. Your restaurant’s shite.’