Eddie was half-pissed after four pints. He been drinking and not sleeping. Badger flung them back and went up to the bar for more as if he’d taken a spoonful of cough syrup, and he’d been matching him drink for drink. Wee Tommy filled the bar with his endless chatter. He considered slinking outside and disappearing into The Rubaiyat nearby. The pregnant girl’s pal was kohl eyeing Tommy and licking her lips, which made him think she might take him off their hands.
‘The thing is,’ Tommy ran his fingers through his hair, ‘we need to get them to the negotiating table. And to do that we need to have some kind of leverage, some kind of threat.’ He supped at his pint. ‘We need to go on strike. Bring the oil industry to its knees.’
Badger cut in before he got revved up again, with a curt comment. ‘Tommy, there’s no “we” about it here. There’s only me and Eddie. You’re just a hanger on. We’ve been down that route before. And let’s face it, the men don’t gi’e a fuck about us. It’s every man for himself. I know that, Eddie knows that. And you’ve never been near a rig in your life. It’s cowboy country out there. And to be honest, I doubt you’ve had a proper job in your life.’
‘Hi,’ Tommy stood up holding his empty glass, whether to go to the bar and buy a round or leave wasn’t clear. ‘Don’t be like that. I’m trying to do my best here. And for your information, I’ve had a job.’
‘Whit?’ asked Eddie.
‘I worked for the Council as a polling clerk during the last election.’
Eddie sniggered and Badger’s head dropped as he studied the empty beer glasses and full ashtrays in front of them. ‘You’ve certainly been hard pushed, pal. That might be classified as work for yer Bearsden type.’
‘Don’t let them get tae yeh,’ the pregnant girl’s pal slurred her word. ‘They’re just old fuddy-duddies. And you’ve got lovely hair and a lovely speaking voice. You can come sit wae me and Bell.’ She swivelled her thin hips to turn and face her pal with glazed eyes. ‘Isn’t that right?’
Bell’s pasty-white hands and red fingernails dug deep in between her thighs. Her face went paler than a Goth’s. She uttered such a deep moan the bar, heads turned to look at her. ‘My waters have broken.’ She pressed two fists against her mouth to stop from crying out further, but tears spilled down her fat cheeks as she slid down almost under the table.
Her pal shifted along the seat away from her as if she’s suddenly flung down a pan of boiling water. ‘But Bell, you said you weren’t due for another week.’
Eddie stood up and jerked the wooden table away, empty glasses falling and smashing. Badger and Tommy behind him as if doing the hokey-cokey not sure where to put their feet or where to look. Eddie had eyes only for the pregnant woman. Her body spasmed with pain. He took both her hands, swept any debris away with a swipe of his boot, and helped ease her onto the floor.
‘Everything’s fine,’ he told her in a calm voice. But he used a different, slightly irked tone when addressing Badger out of the side of his mouth. He yanked his arm backwards, holding a thumb up and throwing it in a curve as if hitch-hiking. ‘Tell the playboy to phone an ambulance, pronto. She’s having a fucken baby.’
He heard crunching glass underfoot as Tommy hurried towards the bar. Bell’s pals shrieked in his ear, ‘Is there anything I can dae?’
He clenched his teeth as he grabbed at her elasticized waistband and pulled her pants and tights off with a bloody tug. Bell screamed long and high. The crown of the baby’s head was showing.
‘Put your jacket down behind her back. Gather up all the other coats and stick them on the floor, tae we make a nest. Quick, quick, quick.’
Sweat ran down his back and his flushed face as he kneeled between her legs. ‘Push,’ he told Bell. Contractions came and went, and he followed them like a blind man by feeling. He got his hands up and turned the baby’s head around and it tumbled out into his hands, a gory mess. He paid no attention to the rising voices around him or Bell’s screams, or the sudden slump and silence. Tears streamed down his face and he felt a hand on his shoulder.
‘The baby’s dead,’ he turned to stare up at the chubby face of a young ambulance man. He took a deep breath and staggered as he tried to stand. ‘I killed it. Killed her. The poor lassie.’
Badger caught his arm, held him upright as the ambulance men brushed past them with thick blankets and a stretcher placed on the floor next to bloodied coats. The bar smelled like a chicken run after the fox had hit.
Tommy slapped the top of his shoulder. ‘Well done, mate.’
The barman stood behind him with a full glass of whisky and handed it to him. He swallowed it in a oner and gagged for breath. Bell’s pal helped her stand, and the blanket was flung over her shoulder like a refugee. The baby was in her arms and she was staring down at it, snuggling and speaking to it in a sing-song voice. Its dark eyes looked back at her and it’d a serious expression on its face. Stupefied and smiling, she stopped beside Eddie, and held it up for him to see. A little mewing cry came from the baby.
‘Whit you gonnae call her?’ he asked. ‘Poor little mite.’
‘Patsy,’ she replied. ‘You kept calling me Patsy, for some reason. I don’t know why. But that’s good enough.’
He leaned across, placed a large hand behind her neck and pulled her towards him, and planted a smacker of a kiss on her forehead. He looked down at the wee mite’s face and started weeping anew.
The rest of the night passed in an alcoholic blur. Old guys queued up to buy him drink. One of them mistook him for a doctor and asked his advice about gout. Badger smoked slowly, dropping a few remarks between puffs about his own medical expertise, and how much it would cost to set up their own clinic.
Tommy the Commie had been busy downing free drink. He phoned the ambulance but he also phoned the newspapers, putting a spin on the story.
‘Fatty Patty’s had a baby,’ Eddie said. ‘And I delivered it.’
That was the caption used in The Sun for copy the next day on page 3, with a re-used picture of the sex doll with Eddie eyes big as walnuts with the drink spliced onto it.