Pizza Face has a size- 4 Mitre ball at his feet, keeping it under control, caressing it into going the way we’re going by touching it with the instep of his left foot and knocking it forward. We are crossing the bridge over the canal on Dumbarton Road. The bigger boys are playing in a massive side off on the gravel parks at the back of the derelict Regal cinema. He can’t wait. It’s all he’s been talking about for days. Our boys against the boys from Dalmuir West, who think they are something. We’ll show them, whose best. We’re hoping that there’ll be an odd number and we’ll be allowed to play. Selected to represent our street, tenement block. Well, he’s hoping to get picked, fancies himself as the next Jim Baxter and he’s pretty good. I’m hoping not to have to shrug off my duffle coat and get wet for no reason in the dreich conditions and just be left alone to skulk at the side of the park then wander away, unnoticed, through a hall in the fence and nip up onto Agamennon Street, loop around and wander home. Blodger’s high-pitched barking, interspersed with the occasional whimper, rises above that of the traffic. We both turn to see what all the commotion is about. His fore paws are on the embankment and his body fully extended, snout jutting over mud and reeds and he seems to be over excited, for no reason, about a piece of Polystyrene floating in the water near the bank. Immersed beside the rectangle of white foam tow-headed golden tendrils are spread out like translucent bell of jelly fish. I bump against Pizza Faces shoulder and I see the bafflement on his face as he loses control of the ball as I sprint past him, hoping and praying that I’m wrong and it’s not Angela under the water. I hear his feet smacking on the dirt path behind me and soon he’s overtaking me, but I put on a sudden spurt and we get to the edge of the water around the same time.
Blodger jumps into the water before we get there and swims about and around Angela’s head, her face whiter than her hair underwater and her mouth gaping open. I’m greeting and don’t know what to do and Pizza Face is greeting too and somehow I’m holding his hand and he is holding mine.
‘We need to run for help,’ I say.
‘There’s nae time,’ he says.
And we both know it’s true. She is already dead and we’d have given her up but for Blodger splashing about her body and whining.
‘I cannae really swim,’ he says, his eyes dancing away from mine and back to the thing underwater. He knows I’m even worse than him and get out the water in the public baths at Hall Street when I get water in my eyes. Then he says, ‘Fuckit,’ and does the bravest thing anybody had ever done then or since. He leaps over the reeds and into the water with a splash, leaving me marooned on the embankment.
Pizza Face is threshing under the water more than he is on top of the water. And he’s a pitiful sight clinging onto Blodger, who in response to being dragged underwater bites him on the face, but somehow he gets to a standing position in the muck, head tilted back, mouth just above the water and his hand on Angela’s blue anorak. He pulls and tows her out of the water and onto the reed bed, with Blodger jumping up and out onto the embankment in front of him. He is covered in mud and glory as he drags her as best he can closer to us.
‘You’re bleeding,’ I say.
‘Am I?’ he says through chittering blue lips, shivering, not noticing or caring, his head dropping to his chest. ‘You’ll need to help.’ And exhaustion and a pleading look make his voice older, him older, as if coming from the caved chest of a geriatric Pizza Face.
I jump down and join him, the glaze of foul-smelling ooze filling my shoes and muck up to my ankles. The dog watches my attempt to lift Angela up onto the embankment beside him. I lift and hug her to my chest. Normally, she’s a little thing that clings to me and plays with my hair, but she is heavy with water and the weight of her makes me sway and take a step backwards, almost dropping her. Pizza Face shoves me forward, helping me regain my feet and he tucks his hands under her bum and helps me lift and roll the parcel of her sodden body face over the lip of the embankment and down onto bald edge of well-trodden grass, weeds and silt. I jump up and roughly grab her jacket and pull her onto her back, her face unmoving, skin stretched white over her bones, her eye sockets huge and eye in a blank fixed stare as I kneel before her. Pizza Face takes two tries to get up onto the embankment. He crouches, a vibrating ghost, apart from us, and his breathing like the sound of a North wind ripping through an open window at my back, bent out of shape with cold, his hands and knuckles white tucked between his knees. Blodger nips in and licks Angela’s nose and mouth with a lapping sound.
‘She’s deid,’ I say.
‘Aye,’ he says.
‘We should tell somebody,’ I say.
He nods agreement looking through me at the traffic on Dumbarton Road.
‘Who?’ I ask. ‘Some adult?’ My thoughts leap to Angela’s mother, Karen, and fragment around the idea that she’ll not really care that much. That she’ll be glad her daughter is dead because then she can go back to being whatever she wanted to be beforehand and it will be as if Angela never existed.
Blodger has given up his tendering duties and lies tight beside her, looking up at me, the sparking tinder of insane leaping gone out of his eyes.
‘We could try giving her the kiss of life?’ I’d seen it in some BBC documentary programme, or Nationwide, not paying it much attention, but my voice warbled with a note of hope.
It starts raining hard, bouncing off the ground and her unmoving lips. ‘We’ll need to leave her.’ Pizza Face trudges, squelching, away from us.
‘No,’ I cry. ‘We can’t. I genuflect beside her, the weight on my right knee, the dog squirming away to lie on her feet. Lifting her lolling head, her lips are cold on mine. I kiss her so hard my teeth buckle and I taste the bitter-green scum of the canal. I hear Pizza Face’s shoes sloshing back toward us and feel him at my back.
‘That’s no’ the way yeh dae it,’ he says. ‘You need to spit in her mouth and breathe in her, like a vampire in reverse.’
My hands went slack, her head flops and falls with a thump. I slap my hands onto her cheeks and pull her jaw open and grogged inside her mouth. Then I clamp my lips over hers and blow as hard as I could, stopping and starting again, as if I was blowing up a classroom filled with bright red balloons, my vision going hazy and I cough and splutter and sob. I go at it again, spitting in her mouth and trying again. Each time I try gets shorter and shorter and I end up simply rocking her head against my chest and greeting.
Pizza Face pats me on the shoulder and Blodger growls as jerk away from Angela and I turn to look at him. His cheek is bleeding where the dog bit him and his eye shut and the port-wine stain puts his face in the comic-page mask of a dark purple shadow. ‘Here, gie me a shot.’
I change places with Pizza Face. And he does a strange thing. He spends a few seconds just looking at Angela’s face and then kisses her lightly on the forehead. He eases her mouth open and spits a good one inside, then holds her mouth shut as if allowing her time to swallow it. Then he shuts his eyes and goes at it like a madman, his lips on hers, breathing through his nose and rocking back and forward and lying on top of her wee body, dry humping. It’s wearing watching him. Then suddenly her chest and stomach moves and Angela’s crying and I think all the spit he must have put in her stomach comes boaking up and she is sick again and again until she has emptied it all out. And we don’t care about the rain and getting soaked and drowning. We’re laughing and dancing and the dog is barking and licking her face.
She says in a wee voice, ‘Whit were you kissin’ me for?’
I scoop her up into my arms and press my lips against hers. Lighter now, she allows herself to be carried, her arms around my neck. ‘I had to kiss you because you are a princess and you were sleeping.’
‘Oh, that’s all right then,’ she says.
Once upon a time there lived a good king and his queen. They had no children for many years and were very sad.
Then one day, the queen gave birth to a lovely baby girl and the whole kingdom was happy. There was a grand celebration and all the fairies in the kingdom were invited. But the king forgot to invite an old fairy. She came to the celebrations but was very angry.
The prince reached the palace and entered it. No one moved. The prince then found the sleeping princess. She was such a beautiful girl that the prince kissed her. By that time, a hundred years had passed by and everyone was waking up, one by one