Angel 25 (prison time and design)
A wee boy held his brother’s hand. With intense concentration he guided a blue Dinky car up and down the curves of the chair and table as his family sat arguing in the visiting room. A guard walked over to tell them to keep it down.
Angel was also frightened by her mum’s conduct, she was sitting in the visiting room with her hair washed and a smile on her face.
‘I’ve brought you some fruit,’ Karen had a punnet of strawberries, chopped red apples, succulent pears, green gooseberries and overripe bananas.
Even hardened cons sneaked a look over. ‘Mum, I preferred when you visited and brought a packet of fags and a Mars Bar. I’m chocking for a smoke. It’s as if you’ve set up a fruit stall up on the table. The screws are all watching us. And you can bet every camera in the building is pointing this way. Thinking you’re smuggling something in. And the cons are just wondering what it is and how you’re doing it. This is going to cause me so much hassle later – you won’t believe it – and I don’t even like fruit.’
‘Smoking’s bad for the baby.’
Angel leaned forward in her seat. She picked up a strawberry and winced when she put it in her mouth. ‘Excuse me, but everything’s fucking bad for the baby, Mum. Being inside where ninety-percent of the folk inside are drug addicts and the other one-percent are drug addicts and completely bonkers, is bad for the baby. Having a Mum who the best thing she could have done for me was to spin a bottle and let a pack of dingoes or somebody else, anybody else, bring me up, is bad for the baby.’
Karen sat smiling and nodding her head in agreement.
‘Mum, have you had a lobotomy?’ She stared at her hard for a few seconds. ‘And how come you’re sober?’
‘Have a gooseberry…’
‘Mum I don’t want a fucking gooseberry, whit’s your game?’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘Is Tony Macaroni still outside? Is he driving you mad?’
‘He’s a fucking asshole.’
A child in the corner whooped and another with ginger hair started crying after being tripped. A mother picked her up, cuddling her into her shoulder and stroking her hair.
‘Have a banana?’ Angel pushed a quartered banana towards Karen. ‘I’m sure he is an asshole. But I’m not sure whit you’re playing at here.’
Karen yawned and scratched at the back of her head. ‘I was just thinking it would be a new start, having a baby in the family.’ She looked around at the guards watching them and her lips made a moue of distaste. ‘Does Manson still work here?’
‘Well, she’s really big, butch, a guard with a bubble perm.’ She peered at a guard near the door. ‘She used to work in here. Practically, ran the place. You didn’t want to get the wrang side of her. Or under her, if you know whit I mean?’
‘Nah, I don’t think so Mum. It was a while since you were here. Some of the screws are a bit like that.’ She shrugged, ‘but some of them are awright.’
‘Don’t let anybody here you saying that,’ whispered Karen. ‘Them and us, keep it simple. And you won’t go far wrang.’
‘I’ve been in here over two months Mum, you’re a bit late, doling out the advice.’
‘Don’t be like that?’
‘A sour-faced wee cunt.’
‘Have a fucking strawberry wae your fucking rocket Mum.’ She shook her head. ‘At least I know who I’m talking tae noo… And just for the record I never said I was having this baby. I just said I was pregnant.’
Karen searched her coat pocket and brought out a packet of Regal. She shelled one across and lit one for herself. Breathing smoke out with some satisfaction and handing the lighter over. ‘Who’s the father, anyway? It’s no that Pizza Tomato, is it?’
Angel chewed at her nails and smoked at the same time. ‘It doesnae matter, who the father is.’
Karen snorted. ‘It does to the father. They like to parade about a bit. Cock of the walk. Show they’ve still got it in them. I’m sure that Pizza Tomato is just like that.’
‘Well,’ Angel nodded in agreement. ‘Maybe, but I’m sure it’s going to be a wee girl.’
‘Girls are easier,’ Karen’s blood-red nails hovered above a strawberry, before picking it up and putting it in her mouth.
‘How would you know?’
Karen chewed slowly and shook her head. ‘Too sweet,’ was her opinion of the half- strawberry. ‘And I brought you up, didn’t I.’
‘I brought myself up Mum. You were just there, or mostly not there. Tony was more of a parent than you ever where. He always kept an eye out for me.’
‘I just hope if it’s girl it doesnae have that big thing on its face, like Pizza Tomato. Because see you.’ And she pointed at Angel’s stomach. ‘You were a beautiful baby. Kids used to ask to take you oot and grown men flung silver into the pram for good luck.’ She leaned forward. ‘And I’m telling you this for your ain good. Naebody likes an ugly baby.’
‘Mum! I’m no sure Pizza Face is the da.’ She paused to consider. ‘And anyway, having a birthmark isn’t hereditary.’
‘Aye, but to be honest, he was a right ugly kid. That big square heid of his, Jesus. It wouldnae be silver they’re fling in the pram for the likes of him – or her.’ She pondered whether to have another strawberry or a peach, her fingers hovering over both. Giving Angel a shrewd glance she remarked, ‘Whit dae I know? I’m just your mother. I didnae think you were like that anyway, playing the field’.
‘I didnae play the field Mum. The field played me. That’s why I’m in here.
‘That’s just your opinion.’ She tried a gooseberry, its bitter taste showing on her sucked in cheeks. ‘Is that Tony anything to dae with Tony Macaroni?’
‘No Mum. They’re completely different entities. Different planets. I’ve been thinking about Tony a lot lately. I want him to come and visit me. But I don’t know his address. I want you to find out for me Mum.’
‘No, I cannae, because I don’t know who he is.’
‘He’s the boy that took care of me, better than you e’er did. Remember he lived next door to us and when you came to the Home to pick me up, he was wae me in there. I’ll write to Pizza Face, he’ll know.’
‘Aye, I think I remember him. He was a nice wee boy. Handsome…wasn’t his da killed?’
‘Jaz killed him Mum. You know that and I know that. And Tony knows that. Don’t play the innocent wae me.’