Angel 2 (home)
Angela crouched and pulled her chair closer to the electric fire. It had four bars, twin sets in curved reflectors, but only the top bar worked. The others had been stabbed with unlit cigarettes, pushed through the bars for a light when her mum, Karen, ran out of matches. Angela flicked the switch on and off twice and then tried again. It was freezing outside with ice on the inside of the windows. She sat with two full ashtrays at her feet on the edge of the chair, with her coat on and her shoes as if she was waiting for a bus. The only glow was were Sandy the Labrador, or her mum, had peed the couch when full of it. The stain on the cushions a map and the smell lingering. She rubbed at the dog’s matted fur and sumo-fat and collarless neck. It was slumped on the rug in front of the fireplace, groaning and lost in doggy dreams.
She figured Sandy knew there was no dog food in the cupboard. No food in the cupboard other than three tins of peas. Neither Angel or her mum liked peas. But there was an egg in the fridge and the milk was still being delivered. God knows how. The bill hadn’t been paid for yonks. The only logical reason Angel could think of was her mum was giving the milkman a handjob.
None of her mum’s boyfriends lasted that long and they all had that look about them like lab rats that were waiting for the cream. Well, apart from wee Hector and he didn’t count. He flitted in and out of their life. He was strange looking, bald with a wee Hitler moustache. And he wore checked golf jumpers of bright colours over his buttoned-up shirt and narrow tie, but didn’t seem to have a neck and his shoulders touched his ears. His body seemed flattened by a centrifugal force into a spherical object with shiny shoes attached.
‘Weebils wobble, but they don’t fall down.’ Auntie Violet more hair than body was sharp with her comments about men. She often came to visit when out of her face and once stayed in the back bedroom for three days with the blinds closed. It wasn’t that she didn’t get on with Arnie. She walked past him as if he was a ghost. It was just that he was a man. A man that stayed with his mum in Byron Street and who ironed his clothes for him, including his socks and put clean hankies in his blazer pocket.
Janet’s cronies like men to be men. They’d crouch around the record player like Macbeth’s wild women stirring the pot and watch the stylus drop and listen to the stories of their life. They’d start with their youth dying and fling back the drinks. ‘Walking Back to Happiness. Yeh, yeh, or yeh, yeh.’ Dancing around the wee three-legged table.
And by the time they were smoking enough cigarettes to raise the dead and crying into their glasses at ‘D-I-V-O-R-C eeee’. They leant on each other shoulders, dabbing at swollen faces and the red blotches were the spiders webs of blows across their cheeks dabbed with mercurochrome no longer hurt as much as the mental pain of him leaving. And the general fear that they’d run out of lip gloss and the taxi drive taking them home would be a cheeky cunt and not want a blow job in-lieu of the fare.
‘Yah, lying cunt,’ screeched Auntie Violet to general acclaim as she went off on one. Everybody was in on a plot to frustrate and torture her while not letting her go and that includes her ex-husband, her boyfriend and her other boyfriend she was seeing on the side, but not often enough.
The last song was always a High Noon number where they had confronted their fears and got rid of the useless bastard that starred in their downfall. A women only chant of ‘I Will Survive – Oh yeh! Oh yeh!’ knocking the table over and spilling the drink and burning the carpet with douts.
Angela usually missed out the wolf’s bane finale and their lives become totally great –without those useless cockroaches. The most dangerous time, before the worry set in like a lead apron over a chest x-ray, when they stared at each other with deranged tearful eyes and crazy hair. Daring each other to deny it. If Jesus was one of their men and had a gun he’d have pulled the trigger then, before the Eve-like imperfections set in.
She climbed the stairs, holding a pillow over her ears and tried to get to sleep. Sandy used to climb the stairs with her, when she’d David Cassidy posters on the wall and then that dentist’s favourite son, Donny Osmond’s gnashers was the first thing she’d woken up to. Sandy slept on the end of her bed when she’d wore a tartan scarf around her waist in case she bumped into Woody Wood of the Bay City Rollers. And she’d one of those arguments with Kimmie about whether she’d shag Les McEwan first.
‘No, I wouldnae,’ said Angela.
‘Then why have you got his poster on the wall, yah slut,’ Kimmie flouncing out the door. ‘This place stinks. And it’s no the dog on heat,’ she added and laughed, clattering down the stairs two at a time.
That was the time when Hector used to sit primly in the living room on the couch with Angela and Sandy, the light from the telly washing over his face as they watched Coronation Street and then The Sweeney and waiting for her mum to come home.
He’d squint at the clock on the mantelpiece and said, ‘Ah, well.’
She liked him better when he didn’t speak. His mum ironed for him but she didn’t wash him. He smelled like a corpse. Often Angel wondered how her mum could take him to bed. Then she figured she didn’t. She didn’t need to. She just tapped him for money and cigarettes and hit on him for life’s goodies, the equivalent of Sandy’s dog chew and the way the mutt used to fling it over his shoulder and leave it lying until the next time.
The other men Karen brought back to the house weren’t as kind. They’d try and grope her in the kitchen or follow her into her bedroom. Test the door on the bathroom.
One blubbering wreck, his belly straining over his Y-fronts waited until she was asleep and tried to climb into bed with her. His hand squeezing her pubescent breast. She’d bitten him hard and screamed. Her mum was zonked, but, eventually, wee Davie a neighbour chapped the door until somebody answered. He’d a wrench in his hand, his eyes squinting and stubbly chin pointed at the door. His wife stood beside him, wearing a man’s black trench coat over her floral nightdress.
‘Everything aw right?’ Davie asked.
The guy scrambled out the front door, the belt on his trousers undone and with only one shoe. He jumped into a Ford and drove away.
‘Aye, fine.’ Karen had trailed down the stairs at his back. ‘I was jist wondering if you’ve got a fag? I seem to have run oot.’