Angel 32 (causality)
Carol Anne’s hand reached into her jacket pocket for her tobacco tin. Her fumbling fingers had a hard time forcing the lid and anger flickered across her puffy face. She was a big girl, as broad as she was long and the dungarees they wore for outside gardening work was too long in the legs and arms and too short in the waist.
Angel was standing in a huddle at the door with another couple of the girls looking out into the grounds, beside Peter the gaffer of the gardening squad He was in his late fifties, wore glasses and had a bit of a shaggy dog demeanour, which didn’t make him hard work to get on with. But he was a stickler for safety and no smoking outside.
Heavy rain had kept them back. And then light rain had kept them back. They started late and finished early and had an early tea break and a late lunch break in between. But Angel liked getting outside. It had been prescribed for her panic attacks and seemed to work. Mooching around, looking as if she was working, sometimes she accidentally did.
Peter had started her off weeding the vegetable beds, and she’s soon got the hang of it. The downside was Angel was paired with Carol-Anne.
‘Don’t bother lighting up a fag,’ the gaffer told Carol Anne. ‘We’re going outside.’
Carol Anne plucked a pre-rolled-roll up from her tin and put it between her lips. ‘Fuck off, Peter.’ She rarely smiled but squeezed the corner of her lips together as she lit her fag.
He didn’t argue, simply stated. ‘It’s up to you. I can ring through and get somebody to take you back to the Block.’
She nipped her cigarette, putting it back in the tin. She shrieked, ‘We’ve no got any proper gloves’.
‘I’ve gave you a set of gloves that were perfectly adequate this morning.’ Peter spoke in measured tones. ‘Yet this afternoon…’
‘They don’t fit me right.’
‘I’ll get you another pair then…You coming, or you want to go back to the Block?’
‘It’s still raining.’
Peter stretched his arm outside and cupped his hand. ‘Isn’t,’ his grey bushy eyebrows raised up into his forehead and he grinned.
‘Fuck sake, Carol Anne, hurry up,’ Lesley was already outside the door, her arms folded, specs falling to the side of her thin face as she turned her head, glaring. ‘I’m fucking rattling.’
Carol Anne breezed past Peter and out into the fresh air. They split up into groups. Angel went to the storeroom where she’d left the wheelbarrow, the fork, hoe and spade handles jutting out. She added a hard brush and set of leather gloves.
Wheeling and bumping the barrow over the hump of the grassy hill, Carol Anne caught up with her on the downslope, a cigarette in her mouth.
‘Stupid cunt,’ she lit it, blowing smoke into the wind. ‘Whit the fuck does he know?’
‘I quite like him.’ The brush slipped off the hoe and the edge of the wheelbarrow. Angel stooped to pick it up. Flinging it back on the barrow.
‘Aye, you would.’
‘Whit dae you mean by that?’ Angel picked up the handles of the barrow and bumped it along the grass, not waiting for an answer.
A black cat walked along inside the perimeter of the twelve-foot fence, its tail swishing back and forth. It stopped and stared over at them, weighing the danger they posed, before sauntering on.
The brush vibrated with the movement of the barrow and fell out again. ‘Ah, well,’ Angel smiled. ‘That’s my kind of luck, you know whit they say about black cats?’
‘Whit are you talking about? Carol Anne took another nip of her cigarette before flicking it away. ‘Black cats. You just witter shite, all the time. Get that brush back into the barrow so we can get going.’
She towered above Carol Anne, shaft of the brush gripped in her hand. ‘Let’s get something straight here. You don’t tell me whit to dae. And you don’t talk to me like that, or I’ll have something to say about it.’
Carol Anne squared up to her. ‘Whit you gonnae dae?’
The brush fell to the ground. Angel punched the side of the cheek, knocking her backwards. Carol Anne sprung forward grabbing for Angel’s long hair, but was fended off. Tussling, she hauled at Carol Anne’s bushy hair pulling her head down and kicked her in the face with her work boots, making her squeal and bleed. All the fight seeped out of Carol Anne.
When Angel let her go she rolled on to the wet grass, weeping and holding her bloody nose. ‘Whit did you dae that for?’ She looked at Angel with a child’s eyes, perplexed. ‘I never did anything to you.’
‘Aye, you did.’
‘No, I never.’
‘Aye, you did.’
‘Well, you’ll be sorry.’
‘I already am,’ Angel held a hand out.
It began to rain and Carol Anne slipped as she attempted to help her up. Her legs becoming soaked through, which made her sob even harder. ‘You’re dead.’
‘No I’m no.’ Angel flung the brush into the barrow. ‘You better clean yourself up a bit.’ She rubbed at her face to show Carol Anne where the blood had begun to harden into a crust.
There was a robin, not sure of itself, in the soil beds. The air seemed softer here to Angel and she breathed it in and felt lighter. She knew growing their own food in the prison wasn’t a viable project but a passing fad for politicians. Potatoes, turnips and cabbage, all simple enough to take care of with a hoe. Mouthy snipers, snails and slugs lay in wait for her shadow passing so they could get to work. Crouching, she used the hoe as a balancing stick and fingered the leaves of baby beans in hazel-stick wigwams, stroking them and murmuring endearments.
Carol Anne’s shriek took her out of her revelry. A garden fork was in her hand and then Carol Anne dropped it and it clattered against the wheelbarrow. Her hand clutched at her stomach and the palms were bloody.
It took a few seconds for Angel to make the connection that she stabbed herself with the garden fork, but she didn’t run towards her, but away, shouting for help.