Ugly Puggly 3
‘I’ll need to nip hame to get my Keycard,’ I told Ugly Puggly.
He stared out of the window and said nothing. Drifting snow camouflaging the kerb edges.What little traffic there was on the road seemed to be heading for cover. I turned the heater up another notch. Council tax money well spent.
‘It’s too late anyway to buy yeh a pair of shoes. I’ll see whit I’ve got in the house.’
I started the engine and allowed a red Volkswagen out at the junction before hitting the road and the bend of the hill.
‘But your feet are smaller than mine. I’m size eleven.’ He angled his head to look at my work boots. ‘And you’re about size eight or nine.’ He added in his monotone dial-a-tone voice, ‘That’s the most common shoe sizes in Britain.’
‘Fucking shut it,’ I said, turning the radio up. ‘We’ll figure somethin’ oot.’
‘Eight into eleven doesn’t go. Unless you cut off the toes, but even the breadth of your feet is different for the left and right foot.’
I braked sharply at the bottom of Duntocher Road, running parallel with the canal. A man used to live in a gypsy caravan there when we were kids. He chalked inspirational words on a blackboard to help you through the day. Jesus wept, sprung to mind.
A bouffant, blonde-haired boy stumbled out in front of the van. Broken sunglasses perched on his nose. Blood from his nose and lips streaked his white t-shirt. He was wearing shorts and flip-flops. I banged on the horn.
My breathing went back to normal. I whispered in that jokey tone, ‘I could have hit him,’ but it was wasted on Ugly Puggly.
He jumped out of the van and his basilisk stare looked beyond the bloodied boy. Two heavily built lads wearing Rangers t-shirts screamed over at us from the shelter of the high flats. ‘Yah, poofy wanker, yer fuckin’ deid.’
A car swept around and past us, picking out the bloodied boy and Ugly Puggly in its headlights. He’d his hand out gripping the boy’s wrist. ‘Hooligans,’ he shouted into the wind.
I was quick out of the driver seat and standing beside them. ‘Shut it,’ I muttered, looking over at the lads glaring at us.
‘We’ll gi’e him a lift,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘Take him home.’
‘No, we willnae. There’s only two seats in the van.’
‘I’ll jump in the back.’
The thin boy cowered behind Ugly Puggly. ‘It’s all my fault. It wasn’t meant to be like this.’
I didn’t have time to explain that there wasn’t much room in the back because it was full of my tools, because the two heavily-built lads were running across at us. The taller of the two was in the lead and brandishing a bottle of Buckfast.
I yanked open the passenger-side door looking for a weapon. Pulling out a plastic scrim for the windows, clenching it in my fist. Waving it about. ‘Come ahead, ya bastards,’ I screamed.
It didn’t put the frightners on them as I’d hoped. I’d just as well have been flinging snowballs. He kept coming and lifted the bottle to use it as a club against my head. Another car came down the hill and caught him in the headlights. It swerved around him. Around us, and he hesitated, and stepped sideways.
Ugly Puggly swivelled and shot a left hook to his solar plexus. A grunt expelled from his lips as he danced on stocking soles, and he put everything in his lanky frame into a straight right to the jaw. The bottle wielder toppling to the ground. The side of his head hitting the road with a heavy thud.
His crew-cut backup threw a wild swing at Ugly Puggly. But he jerked his head back and delivered a straight right to his nose, bloodying it, and a left-hand jab in combination to his chin. The left-right combination had the backup sagging and staggering rather that falling. He stumbled across the road.
I glanced around to see if any police were going to appear. At least one of us was on the run. Lights in a mosaic pattern came on in the kitchen windows in the flats. Faces that had been hiding in darkness appeared.
‘Get in the van,’ I shouted to the boy in the bloodied shirt. ‘And I’ll gi’e you a lift.’ I glanced at the well-built lad who’d crawled to the side of the road.
I fingered the van keys, darting around to the driver’s side. ‘You as well, Rocky Marciano.’
Ugly Buggly stared at his bloodied knuckles as if he was looking at someone else’s hands.
‘Who’s Rocky Marciano?’ the boy in the flip-flops asked. But he’d already made his way and tucked himself into the front passenger seat.
‘Ne’er mind.’ I pulled the door shut. ‘Squeeze up,’ I told him as Ugly Puggly got in the passenger side, but found it hard to get the door shut. I didn’t wait, but took off while he was still crouching. ‘And if anybody asks we’re just…’ and I glanced at the two of them sitting snug on each other. The young boy glowing pink faced. ‘Doesn’t matter…if anybody asks, we’re fucked.’
‘Where we goin’ tae?’ I asked the young lad.
‘Partick,’ he answered.
‘I’ll drop you at the train station I told him.’
‘But I’ve nae money,’ he chuckled and hid behind a shy smile.
‘Fuck aff,’ I muttered. ‘Why is it always me? Partick it is, then.’
I leaned across when we got the lights at Clydebank. ‘Where’d you learn to dae that?’ I asked Ugly Puggly.
‘You do boxing?’
‘One of the best aerobic exercises devised. I gained a certain proficiency.’
For anybody else that would sound like boasting. But Ugly Puggly just told you how it was. And you could take it or leave it.
Little traffic, we jumped the lights and coasted. ‘You certainly did. But it would ha’ been a lot better if you’d learned that kinda stuff at school.’
He shook his head. ‘It wouldn’t have made much difference. We were brought up in a cauldron of violence. People took pride in hurting each other. I wouldnae have wanted that.’
The snow was cleaning up the world and I was going to argue with him, but found myself agreeing. ‘Aye, your right. If a teacher sneaked up on us at the smoker’s and asked us whit we were daeing. And we said, “We’re jist finishing nailing Jesus to the cross.’ Religion! Reminding us to clear up any scrap bits of wood, he’d have walked away, as long as he hadn’t caught us smoking, or worse, kissing or trying to grope a girl.’
‘Or a boy!’ The young lad wiggled to get a better position in the seat and clutched at his wrist. ‘Anyways, I’d just like to thank you. It was meant to be a date. But they were waiting for me.’
‘They’re always waiting for you,’ Ugly Puggly said.