Ugly Puggly 69
I drove home. Molly, in the passenger seat beside me, rocked backwards and forwards clutching her stomach and urging me to hurry. But the traffic ahead of us kept us penned in. ‘Think about somethin else,’ I told her. ‘Tae keep yer mind aff it.’
‘Whit?’ she asked.
I chuckled, giving the game away. ‘Waterfall and whirlpools, ice-cream runnin doon a glass. Ice cubes slowly meltin.’
She crossed and uncrossed her legs and dug her hands into her crotch. I fiddled with the radio, Billy Joel, warbling Uptown Girl, while waiting for the red light on Dunbarton Road to turn amber.
‘You’ll need tae let me oot,’ she clutched at and dug red nails into my arm like a cat drawing blood.
I hit the hazard lights and pulled up opposite The Lovat. She jumped out of the Bongo and waited for the traffic to slow, but waved an arm and held up her hand. A discoloured Ford van in need of a wash juddered to a standstill. An elderly thickset guy glowered at her with bushy eyebrows and ginger whiskers. He held his hand over the horn, chasing her along. I held my hand up in apology, but the van had already moved twenty yards toward the next set of lights. And I wasn’t sure he’d seen her barrel on and through the doors of the pub.
I leapt out of the van and Ugly Puggly slid the side door open and stood on the pavement beside me. ‘You think she made it?’
‘Fuckin hope so,’ I spoke out of the side of my mouth, while waiting for a break in the traffic. ‘For our sake, or we’ll ne er hear the end of it.’
We dashed across the road. Standing outside the pub. ‘You any money,’ I asked him, thinking about that first pint sliding down my throat and settling me.
He looked me up and down. ‘Aye,’ he said. ‘But I’m gieing yeh fuck all. She’s away for a pee, no a party.’
‘Aye, but yeh might need tae buy a drink,’ I was trying to be reasonable in my unreasonableness.
Dave sidled up beside us and put his arm on Ugly Puggly’s shoulder. He stooped slightly and shrugged his hand off. A sign of surprise and irritation appeared briefly on the playboy’s face. ‘She’s takin her time,’ he pushed his blonde hair back from his right eye. ‘I hink I’ll jump in for a wee-wee tae.’
An elderly guy in a long coat came out of the pub. He leaned his head back, gawking and taking in the playboy’s features after hearing his feminine voice, before slowly doddering away.
Ugly Puggly grabbed Dave’s upper arm before he could push through the door. ‘Yer better no goin in there,’ he whispered.
‘How no?’ Dave’s voice shrilled. ‘It’s a free country.’
‘Aye,’ I said. ‘Free if you don’t mind yer face gettin smashed in. I played darts and pool in there. They don’t like strangers. They don’t even like their friends much.’
Dave stared at me and his eyes flickered towards Ugly Puggly’s face for confirmation. His features hardened and his jaw tightened. He pulled at the waistband of his trousers, hitching them up on his thin frame. ‘I don’t care. I’m goin in. How can you expect tae risk drownin, and crossin the Channel, if you cannae even go intae a pub in Clydebank?’
‘It’s Yoker,’ I corrected him. ‘Glasgow. No Clydebank.’ I appealed to Ugly Puggly. ‘Mind that time we went tae Drumchapel Baths.’
He shrugged, his sunken chin moved a fraction, which I took for affirmation.
‘Aye, we were aw right when we went in there. Big pool. Big dale. Great changin rooms. Fair taken up wae it, wee were. Until we came oot. A gang of boys rushed oot after us. Surrounded us.
“Where yeh fae?” the biggest lad, wae wee squinty eyes asked, pushing me in the chest.
“Naewhere,” I said.
They’d herded us back against the fence. And he must have been about fifteen, he’d pimples on his red face.
I dug into my pockets and held out about ten pence in coins as an offering. He swiped it out of my hand and squinted at Howard.
“You got any money?” he asked him. Then grinned in recognition. “Nah, yev got fuck all,’ he answered for him in recognition of a fellow traveller.
He took a step back to give him more room as the gang shuffled forward. “You support the Celtic or Rangers?” he asked us.
We’d a fifty-fifty chance of getting beaten to pulp. “Partick Thistle,” I said.
His hand whipped out and cracked me on the side of the ear. I clutched at it swelled and stood out like his wind-reddened face.
“That’s no a team,” he growled.
Howard answered in a quiet voice, “We don’t support anybody. We don’t care about fitba. It’s a lot o shite.”
“Whit dae yeh mean?” the leader’s forehead furrowed. He squinted at his gang as if waiting for them, or the fat guy with a stick to explain. But they were shocked into silence. And they opened a gap for us to squeeze past them. And when we ran, they didnae even chase us.’
‘You jist made that up,’ said Dave with a flick of his hair to show he wouldn’t be so easily put off, but before he could say anything else, Molly came out the door, smiling.
‘That was a relief,’ she said, clutching at my arm. She glanced at Ugly Puggly and Dave. ‘Whit yehs aw daeing outside here.’ She nodded her head in the direction of the pub. ‘There awful nice in there. They asked if I wanted anythin tae drink. And when I said “Nah, I was gonnae pee myself” a couple of guys at the bar chuckled. They said “They’d buy me a drink when I came back”. She stuck her wee chest out and there was a hint of pride in her eyes.
‘I’m sure they did,’ I muttered, putting my arm through hers and guiding her across the road. ‘I was gaspin for a drink tae. But naebody offered tae buy me wan. I wonder why that is, eh?’
Ugly Puggly lumbered across the road behind us. Dave trailing behind, a lost waif.