the tug boat
The Tug Boat pub was infected by McAllisters. He turned to go before he was spotted, but he made his move too late.
‘Happy Anniversary’ went the war cry round the pub.
‘Fuck off,’Sonnie said, in as gruff and good-natured way as was expected of a man of his years. The pub had done him proud. They’d streamers and pictures of him and Mattie from all those years ago making sheep eyes at each other. A table was covered with a gold cloth and sandwiches and sausage rolls sat under cling film. Coffee and tea pots, glittering and clean, had been wheeled out of the cellar and put on display. Worst of all a slab of cake, blue and white icing spelling out the words ‘50’. It reminded him of marzipan and wedding cake and made him want to throw up. Not that anybody would have minded. The Tug Boat was a pub were you went to get rat-arsed and picked a fight with your best mate if nobody else was available. It was a McAllister stronghold. And they’d made a sacrifice by moving the pool table into the corner of the room and cleared the pool cues that people got accidently stabbed with behind the bar. There was a pause and then Sonnie said, with his face suitably flushed ‘I hope you’re not expectin’ me to make a daft fuckin’ speech’.
Most folk guffawed. Sonnie was mobbed by McAllisters. His hand was roughly shaken. Pecked on the cheeks by the perfumed and rouged young female members of the clan. Thick legs and carthorse shoes clopped round about him. Somebody took off his cap and patted his bald pate. Laughed at him. Pushed forward. He was gratified to get a seat even though it was near his beloved wife Mattie.
Mattie had made an effort, the pick of the wardrobe, a yellow smock that made her look like a pumpkin. She took his hand as he tried to throw back a half whisky that had been put down in front of him on a defaced place mat with a picture of a thistle with, in bookie-blue biro, added cock and balls.
‘You took your time,’ Mattie said.
‘Very nice,’ he said, looking around the room. If he’d have known he’d have went somewhere else. Australia wasn’t that far. Not with modern flights. He’d a brother out there somewhere. He was sure he could find him. He quaffed his half. Another was put in front of him and he spilled that down his throat too.
The Karaoke guy in a black ensemble was belting out Elvis crap making it difficult to hear, which was a godsend. Though not given to theological speculation Sonnie wondered why him? Why not some other poor bastard? God was never there when you needed him. When He was He was playing for the opposition.
Mattie’s sister Norma was perched in the seat next to him. She made a dreadful wheezing sound before she spoke. ‘Cat got your tongue?’
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘And all the rest of me.’
She squeezed his arm. ‘You always were that funny way.’
‘Simply the Best’ was being song by Tommy, Norma and Matt’s son. A big lad, face like a shut drawer. Everybody was up stamping their feet and cheering. The singer was giving it big licks. Voice like a dustbin falling down a lift shaft. Gesturing towards their table in windmill arm movements learned from the telly, hand out inviting the audience to join in. At first it was only the drunker ones like little Jeanine McKay that did. Then the whole pub, rocking and singing. Getting all emotional falling and rolling voices, eyes smoked with tears, like a Toronto blessing for drunk folk. When it was finally over they cheered.
Sonnie waved up at Tommy, held his half pint glass of lager up in salute. As if to say that was great. When he should have said was I shagged your ma, many a time, and she was a duff ride and makes a noise like a squeaky toy when she comes. But looking at your thick square heid I know you’re no mine. Ya daft cunt.
When on the rebound from Joan Gardiner, her of the pendulous breasts, Sonnie had gone nookie-nuclear in response and married Mattie McAllister. Any kind of life in his vicinity was immediately wiped out.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Archie, Matt’s other son squinted down at him, the same pug face, but with a thicker neck and more gold on display. ‘Somebody’s looking for you, ya auld cunt.’ He nodded towards the bar.
‘How’s the kids?’ Sonny patted Archie’s hand. Somebody waved over at him from the bar. He peered through thick lenses, couldn’t make him out, but waved back. ‘Still playing fitba?’ he said to Archie. He could never remember his nephew’s names, faces like play-doh, but he remembered the pride Archie took when one of them almost signed forms for a team when he was ten. A fat bully, swatting the other kids aside, he’d peaked too early.
‘Och, no,’ said Archie. ‘Don’t be so fucking daft. That was years ago. I’m a grandpa now.’ There was evident pride in his voice that his sons could impregnate some poor cow.
‘I Will Survive.’ Gloria Gaynor came on the Karoke and swallowed Sonnie up on his way to the toilet. Women he hardly knew gave out howls and war cries and bumped and pushed at him to dance so that he thought he was going to pee himself.
God was he grateful to make the safety of the men’s toilet. His nephews looked up from the sink beside the mirror, checking out who was invading their domain. Omerta. Noses down they ran the race against one another. Eyes bleary, they let him pass.
Sonnie was glad to get away. To finally get home and the bedroom downstairs. Mattie was lying beached in bed, shimmering an orange rayon nightie. ‘You had quite a skinful the night,’ she said.
‘Aye.’ He took his time getting undressed, putting on his jammies, hoping she’d put the bedside lamp beside her out. She was hurting his eyes. He pulled back a flap of blanket and slid in beside her.
‘You certainly enjoyed yourself, up dancing all night like a fool.’
He tugged the blanket and buried his ears. ‘Aye, it was great. We’ll need to do the same thing in another fifty years.’