Bedcovers deaden Tony’s hearing, seals him in the tomb of his dreams, but when he sticks his head out of his bed, he’s alive to the wind rattling against the panes. He’s been dreaming about something, but when he tries to remember what, memories dissolve into a handclap of forgetfulness and the echo of a voice shouting a warning and his dad pulling at him. Bruno’s bed, across from his, lies naked. Blankets and covers torn away. Outer blue plastic sheet protecting the mattress smelling slightly of pee. Usually when Bruno opens his eyes he opens his mouth and gives Tony a commentary of what he is doing. It’s dull outside. Tony snuggles into the warmth of his bed pondering whether it’s Saturday or Sunday and around what time it is. The shuffle of feet in the corridor suggests, not too early, not too late. The banging of the toilet door and Carrot’s voice demanding to get in means that the smokers are on the prowl for fingerburning second of third douts and he’ll need to use the downstairs’ toilet. He takes his time getting up and looks out the window to the garden. A flock of colourful birds dance and whirl, stripping red berries from a tree.
Tony’s late for breakfast in the dining room. Ham and eggs and all the hot stuff long gone. Bob sits at a table near the kitchen, a mug of tea and greasy plate pushed away from his elbow and squints up through his specs at Tony and then plunges back into the news offered by the Daily Record. Tony gets himself some Cornflakes and drags the jug of milk from the debris of an empty table. A pudgy adolescent girl, whose name he can never remember, sits herself in the corner with spiky black hair glares at him and then smirks when ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause’ comes on the radio. A cigarette burns in the ashtray beside her and she raises it to her ruby lips and takes a puff and cackles. Tony sits by himself and quickly finishes breakfast. The heartfelt twang of American voices irritating him. He wonders where Bruno is.
He rubs his shoulders and goes upstairs to pull on a jumper. When he comes down he doddles through to the day room, his hand gliding over the back of the couch, as he passes, all the comfy chairs taken by kids crashed out and watching telly, even though there’s only some crap about religion on. Sundays are like that, boring. He sits on a wooden chair, placed by the window, almost an ornament it is so rarely used. His pale face is reflected back to him by the glass as he looks outside to Risk Street as the first of the snow begins to fall. It floats down, the wind whipping it upward and drifts and eddies and disappears into damp spots on the uneven road and pavement. Snow, not yet, laying smooth its paths of whiteness and wilderness. Angela wrapped up in her duffle coat, her face a red fist, treks though it toward the Home, Bruno beside her. Those watching the telly are drawn away from the screen and stand at the windows, mouths open and gawping at the snow.
‘I’m gonnae make you a snowman,’ Paula says to her wee sister, in a shrill, happy voice, her hand briefly rests on Tony’s shoulder. His face flushes, but other kids don’t seem to notice, they laugh good-naturedly.
Tony waits until Angela and Bruno are through the gate before he goes into the hall to meet them.
‘Brrrr,’ says Bruno. He wears an Arran jumper under his anorak and he shakes himself like a dog.
Angela stands beside him looking up at Tony, almost in a shy way. He bends down and grabs her, pulling her in close. ‘I feel the freezin’ cold aff you, Angel!’
‘Don’t,’ she says with petted underlip. ‘It hurts.’
‘Whit hurts?’ Tony’s hands dropped away from her.
She shrugs and looks at him with teary eyes.
‘We’re gonnae run away,’ Bruno whispers, grinning. ‘We’re just here to get some stuff before we go.’
‘But it’s snowin’,’ Tony says.
‘Doesnae matter. That’ll cover our tracks.’ He heads towards the stairs, Angela tagging on behind him with her hood up, head down and eyes tracing each step she takes.
Tony falls into step behind them. Paula, her hand tightly clenches her sister, Carla’s. Both are dressed for the cold outide and wearing woolen mitts of the same colour, but Carla's sports a blue, bobble hat. They batter down the other side of the stairs, squealing in delight and anticipation.
When Tony gets to his room Bruno is kneeling and keeking under his bed, Angela standing behind him, her nose running. He pulls out a white, plastic, shopping bag and drags it into the light, pulls it open and peers inside.
‘Whit have you got?’ Tony asks.
Bruno takes the items out one at a time and places them with reverence on the blue matting of the bed. A torch, a packet of matches, a lighter, a packet of Digestive biscuits, a bottle of Lucozade and a long white candle. ‘I’ve got some money and we’ll get food on the way,’ he explains.
‘Much?’ Tony asks.
‘That’s never enough.’
‘Well, we would have had a gun but Angela said she couldnae get it.’
‘That wasnae my fault,’ Angela pipes up. ‘He takes a gun everywhere with him noo, says he’s like the police and if anybody annoys him, he can just shoot them.’
Tony shakes his head. ‘The police aren’t allowed to carry guns. Only soldiers are allowed to carry guns.’
‘Well, he does.’ She stares down at her wellies, sniffs, and her chin drops and her sense of outrage falls with it. ‘And he hurts me.’
‘We’re gonnae take the poison instead.’ Bruno’s eyes glisten.
‘Shut up,’ Tony says. ‘If somebody is gonnae hurt yeh, you shoot them. ‘You cannae just hold their mouth open and glug poison down their throat instead.’
Bruno starts transferring each item from the bed, stuffing them back into the plastic bag. ‘Aye, but,’ he holds up an index finger in explanation. ‘We wouldnae tell them we had the poison. They’d maybe be holding us as slaves, or something, and make us work in the kitchen. So when they werenae lookin’ I’d get the poison out and pour it into their cup of tea, or their dinner, and serve it to them. Then we’d take a horse each and run away.’
Bruno stands up, snapping the bag shut, triumphant. His logic has silenced Tony and he takes a step sideways and backwards, bumping into Angela.
‘Whit if instead of poisoning these bad people we don’t know, we put the poison in Jaz’s tea. Then you’ll no’ need to run away.’
Bruno nods in agreement and grins. ‘Suppose we could.’ He drops the plastic bag on the linoleum strip and turns his attention to Angela. ‘Whit does he eat?’
Angela sags, her shoulders dipping, under the weight of attention the boys give her. She clutches her fingers and takes deep breathes before answering. ‘He doesn’t eat anything. Maybe a fry up in the morning and chicken curry and chips at night, but I’m no’ meant to know about that, though it stinks the place out, even in the morning.’
Bruno starts laughing. ‘If you put it in curry you wouldnae taste a thing.’
‘Especially, if you were like my dad when he used to come in.’ Tony drops a shoulder and stumbles to the one side. Then he falls to the other, bouncing off Bruno’s shoulder, swiping up Angela on the rebound and ending up on grappling with her, lying on his back, on his bedsheets. Her tickly giggling a chorus to his choking with laughter.