‘You don’t need to be daft and drown yerself. You can just drink the poison to kill yerself.’ Bruno is deft at sneaking up on people and has big lugs always are on listening mode. His cropped hair and large pale eyes shine, without an absence of doubt in them. His stick held like a baton ready to swish between them lying in the long grass.
Tony scrambles to his feet. ‘Shut up!’ He pushes him away. ‘You’re stinking, never wash, always farting on the fly. That’s why nobody can put up with you. That was a stupid thing to say. Fuck off! Fuck off! Why don’t you?’
Bruno drops the stick, steps backwards into the shadow of the tree and into the gentle sounds of whirring and buzzing. His face beams, ears redden, and he tries to change the subject. ‘Phew, it’s boiling hot.’ He fans his cheeks waving his hand in front of his face. His chimpanzee grin, overbite of yellow teeth on display, a plea to be forgiven.
A banging noise near the house and a wood pigeon rockets across the sky. Bruno holds his hand over his eyes to get a better look, squinting sideways at Tony. Behind him blonde hair, a pale face and the stretch of pyjamas and round knees jerks into view beside his roommate.
‘Why did you say that?’ Tony asks.
‘Whit’s poison?’ Angela says.
‘Why don’t you cry?’ Tony needles Bruno, wriggling away from Angela’s hand on his arm to face him. ‘Wah, wah, wah, I want my mum. Wah, wah, wah, I wet myself.’ He picks up the stick and pokes at his chest, holding him captive. ‘You’re fuckin’ mingin’ and nobody likes you. Don’t you ever forget it.’
‘I like him,’ says Angela in her big wee voice which sets Bruno free. ‘He’s funny.’
Tony drops the stick. Three smokers from the backstairs nip round the side of the house, the flame of Carrot’s red hair comes into view and his laugh is like the distant clatter of machine guns. It draws Tony and Angela sideways into the green luminescence of their shelter, hidden by a spur of rhododendron and protected from prying eyes.
‘Whit’s poison?’ Angela hunkers down, enjoying the feeling of being hidden and playing games.
‘It’s when—’ Bruno crosses his eyes, hands and fingers over his throat and makes strangulated noises ‘aaaah, ahh, ah,’ while dancing in a half circle in front of her and falling sideways and lying on his back, legs kicking in the air. He looks up at her, the usual grin on his face.
‘Remember when the wicked queen puts poison on the one half of the apple?’Tony waits until she registers what he’s talking about. ‘Takes a bite and tries to make Snow White bite the other half?’ He glances over to where he’s left his Grimm’s book lying in the open. Wonders if he should go and get it, but that would mean they’d be spotted by the others. ‘And she does bite the apple, the poison apple, and falls asleep?’
‘Yeh,’ says Angela, unconvinced.
‘We could show her?’ Bruno shrugs, raises his eyebrows and meets Tony’s gaze, waiting for him to take the lead and trying to make amends.
Bruno beetles away from them into his familiar musty world, stirring leaves underfoot, brittle and broken branches snapping behind him. Angela’s mouth falls opens. She pushes the hair of out of her eyes and into her ears to see better. Watches him take the brick from the wall and take a doll out, the long straw hair the colour of her own. That interests her more than the dull bottle he brings back. He hands it over to Tony to show her.
Tony feels a bit embarrassed. Something a few days ago had seemed the most important thing in the world, but no longer seems to matter. ‘This is it,’ he says, trying to whip up an enthusiasm he doesn’t feel. ‘Poison.’
Angela gives the bottle a fleeting look. ‘Whit was that other thing? Was it a dollie - for me?’
‘No,’ Bruno says too quickly, flustered. ‘I mean, aye it wiz a doll, but no’ fer you.’
Angela laughs, waves her arms and clutches onto Tony. ‘He’s funny,’ she says.
Tony strokes her hair and cheek, hides the bottle, with his other hand, behind his back. ‘The dollie might be for you,’ he says, his voice rising up a note, getting his on back on Bruno. ‘But you’d need to keep it a secret.’
Bruno doesn’t answer, his eyes remote, looking into the distance. His feet lose their agility and he crashes through the bush, returning with the doll in his hand. ‘Here.’ He gifts the stick-like Sindy.
His surly tone goes unnoticed, Angela cuddles the doll close, cradles it, rocks it back and forth like a baby. ‘Whit’s her name?’ she asks.
Bruno doesn’t wait to answer, flees away from them small and splay-footed into the sunshine, tears scattering his wits, wiping his eyes as he approaches the smokers.
‘Angela,’ whispers Tony. ‘All dolls that look like you are called Angela. Don’t you think?’
‘Yeh,’ she says.
‘But you need to take good care of her,’ he says, smiling down at the earnest way she fusses with the doll’s clothing and coos at it. ‘And you need to keep her a secret and thank Bruno for her, the next time you see him.’