Jaz ganders out the kitchen window and sees Pizza Face playing outside, kicking a ball against the bins. ‘Hi,’ he calls through to Angela, but it’s not a warring tone, just calling her like a dog to his side. Her punishment is being kept in for being cheeky and swearing at her mum. Her nose is pressed against the living-room window, watching with puppy eyes what is going on outside and she hurries through.
‘Tell Pizza Face I want a word with him.’
‘Can I get out to play, afterwards?’
A flicker of a smile and he shrugs. ‘You’ll need to ask you Ma, but it’s alright wae me. Although you ur a cheeky wee bastard sometimes.’
Angela dashes away, still in her nightclothes of pink pyjamas and steps into plastic, orange, summer sandals, lying at the front door, without buckling them. She hurtles down the stairs and out into the heat haze of the backcourt and the stink of overflowing bins, but she hangs back, an audience for Pizza Face’s up-swinging arms, flinging of the hips and step-over tricks, which he finishes with a flourish by bamboozling himself and losing control of the ball, toed into the lane. He hurries to retrieve it and is kitted out like a proper football player with the full Rangers strip, including thick blue wool socks and clatters along wearing black George Best football boots.
He mops at his forehead with the sleeve of his strip. ‘You know,’ he says, squinting out of the side of his eyes to see that she is listening, ‘darkies don’t like the sun because they get it aw the time. And when it comes out they go for a lie down, but when they’re playin’ fitba it doesnae bother them. That’s how Pele got to be so good because he could practice aw the time.’
Angela doesn’t wait for him to finish speaking, blurting, ‘Jaz wants to see you.’
Behind him seagulls wait until he is a few steps away, tear into a plastic bag and their gulling scrimmage above their heads, winging at each other, and trying to steal a piece of rotted turnip peel. He doesn’t hang about either, trudging behind Angela up the stairs to the top landing.
Jaz lolls on the couch smoking a Silk Cut, listening to Radio Clyde. Two flies buzz about the living room. Karen sits opposite him sharing an ashtray and the muggy warmth, wearing one of Jaz’s striped shirts, feet tucked under her, belly beginning to poke out, smoking, desultory flicking through a Kensitas catalogue, sighing. She’s got her eye on a toaster. All she needs are 1000 coupons.
‘Here,’ says Jaz, eyeing Pizza Face. ‘Is Tash in?’
A tweak of Pizza Face’s lips which could mean yes or no. ‘He wiz in his bed when I left. He’s no’ been that well and all he does is moan.’
‘Can I go out to play?’ Angela cuts in.
‘Can you fuck,’ says Karen. She doesn’t bother looking around, licks her thumb and turns another page. ‘You’re too cheeky for your own good.’
‘But Mum…’ she whines.
‘But mum nothing.’
‘Och, just let her go out,’ says Jaz. ‘She’s a fuckin’ pain in the arse and I cannae be bothered looking at her.’ Round-shouldered he stabs out his cigarette, exhales as if he’s been hard worked, lights another, and gives Pizza Face his marching orders. ‘Well, go doon and see and tell him to get up here, pronto, I want to speak to him.’
‘Whit if he says he’s no’ wantin’ to go out?’ Pizza Face asks.
His brother cocks his head and scratches his neck as he considers. ‘Just go doon and see,’ he says, waving him away.
Angela is waiting outside the front door for him. ‘You want to go and see Tony?’
‘Nah, not right now. He never wants to go out anywhere. And he never comes doon here to see me now the way he used to.’
‘I’ll go myself.’
‘You cannae go like that.’
‘Wae yer jammies on.’ Pizza Face shakes his head. ‘People will think you’re a daftie. Why don’t you just go in and get changed.’
‘Because they’ll change their mind and keep me in.’ Her hand goes on the bannister to guide her as she clatters down the stairs, humming a tune.
Pedestrians suck on smiles at the burst of blonde hair among them and the serious expression on Angela’s face as she toddles past them. The route to the home is as familiar to her, but Tony isn’t inside, he’s sitting his back to the wall, in the shade, as far away from the building as he can get without straying into another garden, reading the Grimm’s book of fairy tales. Bruno is close by and easy to spot with a dark coloured jacket on, waiting and whacking with a stick bees in the purple blooms of a geranium bush, the grass overgrown at his ankles, meadow buttercups and cowslip galloping through the lawn. He looks over at Angela but ignores her and goes back, with a swish, to murdering bees.
Angela edges closer and closer to Tony, sneaking up and jumping in front of him, with a shout of ‘Boo’. The book drops from his hand she is delighted with her successful ruse. ‘Caught you!’
‘Ya wee besum.’ He mock wrestles and grapples with her and pulls her in close enough to smell her sweet childish breath, cuddling and tickling.
She relaxes into him, giggling, but then struggles to get free. ‘Don’t,’ she cries. ‘It hurts.’
He lets her go. ‘What hurts?’
Pale blue eyes, a sky colour, flicker away from his to the garden below with white sheet hanging on the clotheslines and wee dresses are stuck on the line with clean wooden pegs and lettuce grows green in rows in an ordered vegetable patch and she hasn’t got the words to explain.
‘I want to go under the water,’ she says. ‘Will you hold my hand and take me?’