The chaffing of barmaid’s singing lullabies, ‘Last orders,’ and deftly nicking the glass out of their hand before they are finished, Jaz and Rab are herded and pushed out the door with other stragglers before they can open their gobs to protest. A manager- type, in a black-suede jacket, stands behind them, jingling keys, ready to lock up.
It’s cold outside and Jaz pulls the collar of his coat up and Rab tucks his hands into his jacket pocket. They sway together, shoulder to shoulder, out into the main drag on Dunbarton Road. Someone with a tartan bunnet and specs stands in a bus shelter looking through them to where a Corpy bus might appear from Dalmuir. Rab stops near Maggie Scott’s pub. The gleam of tropical green inside two glass jars on display in Lamonts, the chemist’s window, like confectionary, catch his eye. His fingers search twice through his pockets for his fags.
Jaz stands a few steps away, gazing at the bank’s facade the way he’d look at a naked woman. It’s called The Linen Bank, dating back to a time when there was a connection between making things and saving money. ‘If we’d a gun, we could just walk in there and take whit we wanted.’ His lips pursed up and broke into a smile. ‘We might no’ even need a gun.’
Rab scrunches up his ten packet and flings it into the gutter. He takes a long drag of his fag, and passes it to his mate. ‘We’ll need to share. I’ve only got wan.’
The fag is in Jaz’s hand but he isn’t really listening. Elbow, hand and two nicotined fingers work like a metronome taking burnt tobacco to his lips, and he gives himself a breather and smokes again.
‘Hi, Hi,’ shouts Rab. ‘You’ll be leaving fuck all for me. And it’s my fag.’
‘Fuckin’ shut up.’ He hands little more than the burning ember of a dout to his pal. ‘I was just thinkin’ if we put on a couple of masks and stuff. And if we had something that looked like a gun. That might be enough.’
Rab flicks the dout away. ‘Fuck off. That’s mad. Whit if somebody challenged you?’
‘Well, you just smash them. The way you would normally.’
‘Nah,’ Rab made a face. ‘That wouldnae work. You always get some stupid cunt.’
‘Whit if—’ Jaz hair fell over his face as he claws at the back of his neck. ‘Whit if…you put on an Irish accent.’ He mimics an accent he’s heard on telly. ‘Put the fuckin’ money in the bag and you won’t get hurt!’
‘That’s fuckin’ rubbish.’ Rab falls sideways laughing.
‘You do it then.’
Rab sniggers all the way though his recital. ‘Put the money in the bag or we’ll fuckin’ blow you up. We’re the fuckin’ IRA.’
‘You’re absolutely shite at that. You sound mair Paki than Irish. They’d probably end up handing you a Mother’s Pride loaf and a pint of milk.’
‘That’s a good yin.’
They stand together heads almost touching, shaking with laughter.
When Rab straightens up, he goes all serious. ‘I’m no’ sure anyway. My Da says he’ll get us an apprenticeship in Brown's. Welder. I’d be pretty good at that.’ He checks out his fuzzy silhouette in the window.
‘Ach, don’t talk shite. You’re fuckin’ eighteen. Far too old. Think about it. You and some pimply faced kids giving you snash.’ He lets it sink in. ‘Nah, wouldnae work.’ He glances at his mate’s face. ‘Besides we’ve got that other thing to think about.’ He doesn’t need to say the rapes and murder and the ongoing problem about what to do with Godge. Their luck has held, the police haven’t cottoned on yet and are still treating it as a tragic accident. It even got a two-page spread in The Daily Record. He blows out his cheeks in exasperation, ‘besides, working’s for fools and mules’.
‘Aye, you’re probably right.’
‘You know we wouldnae have this problem if we could get our hands on some decent firepower.’
They walk towards the canal bridge and a pretty young girl with freckles around her nose approaches. Their eye burn into her, with her head down, not looking at them, but aware of them, not sure of what side of the pavement to be on, picking her steps like a pigeon. They peel apart at the last second, brush against the shoulder of her leather coat and breathe in perfume, as she walks between them.
Scooting across the road Jaz has another idea. ‘We’d need a driver, whit about that daft cousin of yours?’
‘No sure. Archie can be a bit funny. Besides you know whit he’s like with that car of his. You need to put a gallon of oil in it with every gallon of petrol. All the police would need to do was follow the oil trail.’
They keep walking, sobering up, and stand at the bottom of Jaz’s close. ‘Aye, but we can just steal a car. Well,’ Jaz admits, ‘I couldnae, but you know whit I mean.’
‘Aye,’ Rab holds his hand up as he wanders home. It begins raining. Then he stops and doubles back, whispers. ‘Whit about that cunt up the close with yeh?’
‘Don’t worry about him. We’ve got a kinda truce—until next time. Then I willnae be so slow.’