Angel 17 (Wotsits)
‘Where you going?’ Angel asked when Pizza Face started the car the following night.
‘Going?’ he took his foot off the clutch. ‘I never really thought about it.’ Her simple question had thrown him and the simple confidence he had that it didn’t really matter where he drove to, as long as they ended up back at Cochino with her bra off.
She kept the smile from her face before it bloomed. ‘We could go back to your place?’
Her words hung in the air containing a power that brought them together now that they had a fixed destination. It was a promise and he didn’t need much persuasion.
Red faced, port-wine stain aglow, wide grey eyes dancing and meeting her gaze. ‘You sure?’
Her chin moved up a fraction. ‘I think so…have you got, eh, protection.’
He hadn’t waited for her answer. The Jaguar leapt forward and he drove with a steely determination using his horn as if he’d an invisible ray-gun that reached out and moved all the obstacles in the road. He beeped a blue Peugeot making the turn at the Parkhall shops to magic the car out of the way.
‘Condoms?’ The question shocked him into slowing down on Duntocher Road. He gave a thin, plaintive cry. ‘No, I don’t think so…I mean, I didnae think.’
‘Well, I don’t think so either.’ She looked out of the side window at the bus stop at an old guy in a fustian jacket, face frozen with the cold, collar turned up under his ear and head bowed, stamping his feet, but waiting patiently.
‘I can get some,’ he cursed at the traffic lights that held them back.
‘Dunno,’ he admitted, swerving around the car in front. He stared straight ahead of him, his shoulders higher than usual as he leaned forward. ‘We could get them oot a pub.’
He reached for her hand, trying to grip it, but she pulled away.
‘I’m no sitting outside an old man’s pub while you go inside and ask for condoms. It’s a reddy.’
‘Och, no, it’s no like that. You don’t ask the barman. You just go into the gents. Put your fifty-pence in and you get a packet of three.’
‘Who said you’ll be doing it three times!’ Her hands were between her legs and she smoothed out the burgundy satin dress she’d chosen and worn specially.
‘No, No,’ his hand stayed pressed again the wheel, but he glanced at her sideways. ‘I never said that.’ But then added an afterthought, which made him frown. ‘Then again, most of the pubs alang near where I stay The Rosevale, or The Hayburn Vaults, will have nothing in the machines, or they’ll be broke because somebodies tried to screw them with a screwdriver and take the coins...I guess we all did it. No thinking.’
‘Well, that’s that.’ She drummed on her knees biting on her lip and feigned listening to Karen Carpenter singing about, A Kind of Hush all over the world that night.
‘I could go to the chippy. There’s a wee chippy, just down from my flat.’
‘No, you cannae dae that. Go in and ask for a poke of chips, two rolls and a packet of condoms. That’d be the height of embarrassment.’
He rolled his thick neck to look at her and rifted, loudly, in her face. ‘Aye, maybe your right. It would be pretty ignorant.’ Then brightened. ‘There’s a Paki shop no far fae us. Open late. They sell everything.’
‘Maybe,’ she licked her lips. ‘But you’re no meant to say Paki shop, now.’
‘How no? That’s just stupid. They ur Pakis.’ He snorted with suppressed laughter. ‘I’d this wee pal, Logie, that took all his clothes aff, painted himself yellow and tried to pour himself through his bird’s letterbox, shouting, “ Here’s yer Chinky. Here’s yer Chinky. Here’s yer Chinky”’.
She smiled, but with little warmth. ‘Whit happened to him?’
‘Oh, they took him to the loony-bin.’
They waited at the intersection of the roundabout that took the Jaguar into the Dunbarton Road and the stretch of red-sandstone tenements at the beginning of Partick.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ she said.
He shrugged. ‘It’s alright.’
‘Whit about your mum?’ It was out of her mouth before she could bite it back.
He glanced at her. ‘She’s alright.’ Rubbed at his chin and expelled his breath in a loud sigh. ‘In and out of the loony bin tae. After whit happened to Jaz and my old man.’ But he finished on a high note, glancing about as if he was expecting her to appear. ‘She’s a lot better noo…Well, apart from her arthritis and her breathing.’
‘That’s good, that she’s more settled.’ She patted his knee. ‘Maybe you should go to the Pakistani shop and see…you know?’
She sat in silence, her hands clasped together as if sharing a prayer.
‘You think?’ He grinned sideways at her and waved an arm, pointing at the straight grey streets with the glow from the plate-glass windows of shop and stores on the ground floor of tenements. ‘It’s no far, just up ahead. I’d be in and oot in two minutes. I’ll leave the engine running and the music on. You can time me.’
‘That’ll be fine.’ She looked out the window, the pavements suddenly busy with people. A man with a week’s growth of beard, elbows on the metal railings at a crossing near the station stared bleary-eyed back at her.
‘You can maybe dae me a wee favour? She asked in a low voice. ‘When you’re in there?’
‘Whit? The car slowed behind other traffic, which seemed to make him impatient and sound more anxious. ‘Whit?’
‘Maybe you can get me a book of stamps and a packet of Wotsits?’ She held her hand over her mouth, laughter bubbling out of splayed fingers and, knocking against his shoulders with her own, consuming both of them.