Ghosts (Part One)
A woolly sunlight creeps acroass the rain sodden tarmac ootside the East chapel ay the crematorium, breakin through the clouds above, increasin in intensity as the blanket ay grey is lacerated; torn apart an dispatched by high, volatile winds. Unbuttonin ma suit jayket, ah see others dain the same; removin overcoats an anoraks an takin doon umbrellas in response tae the sudden chainge. In minutes it’s warm in the glare an ah shield ma eyes, watchin puddles pooled oan the grun ascend skywards, slowly evaporatin.
Groups ay the aulder division staun aboot talkin quietly. Respectfully. Reflectively. Some ay them ah recognise; relatives ay Pearcey’s; others, familiar faces fae aroon the area. Aw ay them united in their grief; aw ay them destined to end up in the same place.
Tracey’s talkin tae ma Ma in hushed tones, the waiy people dae at funerals. Unsure whit tae say – whit’s appropriate, they find common grun in how we came tae meet each other through McDade, ay aw people an ma Ma berates me fur them huvin tae meet like this.
‘Aye, Paul’s a nice boay, right enough. So, ur you oan the McDade side or Trisha’s?’ ah hear ma her enquirin, an tell them ah’m away tae see if ah kin see Pearcey aboot.
His Granny, it is. She passed away a week ago oan Monday. Ma Ma hud a phonecall aff Pearcey when ah wis at work, lookin fur me. Poor wee cunt wis besides himsel she sais. Ah went straight roon tae see if there wis anythin we could dae, ‘anythin at aw, mate. Just let us know.’ ah sais tae him.
He didnae know where tae start. Kept sayin how he couldnae dae it; couldnae organise the thing. There wid be mare phone calls tae be made: registerin the death, paperwork, informin other members ay the faimily, an obituary in the Evenin Times – he’s illiterate tae aw intents an purposes. Well, he’s no able fur aw that, put it that waiy. Education passed him by. Ah cannae begin tae imagine how bewilderin it must aw be fur him.
That’s when ah sais tae ma Ma that we should take oer; help him dae everythin that needed tae be done. It wis beyond him an he’s no really goat anybody else. There wis his Ma but he telt us in nae uncertain terms she wisnae tae be involved at aw. She’s no been seen fur years in any case, an he sais as far as he wis concerned, it wid staiy that waiy.
The D.S.S. ur there, aye, but the wan thing he kept sayin wis that he wanted a good send aff; wanted her tae enjoy the opulence in death, she never hud in life. Well, ah’m sayin that, but that’s whit he meant.
Ma ma organised a whip-roon wae aw the lassies in the Calder Millerfield factory where she works part-time. Pearcey’s Granny used tae work in there back in the seventies an eighties afore she retired. She asked ma Granda tae get a collection gaun doon the bowlin club an aw. Folk aboot here might no huv much but they look efter their ain. Me an ma Ma put in oor menage money that we put away every week fur the Christmas hoalidays. Ah’m workin noo so it’s no as much ay a lifeline as it wis, that dough. We’ll be sound. It’s only right. Anythin tae help the wee man oot. Nae danger.
‘Awright Daniel San?’ a solemn lookin McDade sais, walkin oot fae behind a group ay mourners, pullin a ten deck ay fags fae his poakit.
‘Aye, no bad.’ ah sais, ‘ . . . crash the ash, then.’ ah nod at the fags in his haun, ‘Huv ye seen Pearcey yet?’
He gies us a snout an offers the flame ay his lighter up in his cupped hauns, ‘Aye. He’s doon there talkin tae the undertaker cunts.’
We walk oer taewards the hearse an the other funeral motor parked up ootside the Chapel. Seein us approach, Pearcey breaks aff fae his conversation wae the undertaker an makes his waiy oer tae us.
‘Everythin awright mate?’ ah goes.
‘Aye, ah just want tae get oan wae it, know whit ah mean? Ah mean ma heid’s puggled wae it aw an aw these people want tae talk tae us aboot her; how they knew her an aw that. There’ll be time fur aw that later oan.’
‘The bowlin club, is it? Ma ma wis sayin.’ ah sais, sheepishly, realisin it might no be the opportune moment.
‘Aye, ma Granny always liked gaun there. Cheap drink!’ he sais forcin an unconvincin smile. ‘There is somehin yies can dae fur me though, if yies want tae help.’ He looks at the two ay us, in turn, ‘ . . . ah’m sorry fur askin but it’s the coaffin, there’s only me an ma Uncle Billy an Uncle Jim fur pallbearers and ah wis wonderin –’
‘Dae ye want us tae kerry her wae ye? Of course we will mate, win’t we McDade?’
There’s a momentary pause as we stare expectantly at him, afore he replies, ‘Course mate, anythin ye need.’
Fae oer Pearcey’s shooder, the Funeral Director quietly interrupts, ‘Mr Pearce, we’re ready to move people inside now.’ an gestures tae the open doors behind him where two members ay staff ur haunin oot the Order ay Service tae the mourners awready shufflin their waiy in.
The funeral director ushers us intae position aroon the back ay the hearse, in descendin order ay height, wae me an McDade staunin astride each other at the back, then Pearcey an another member ay staff fae the Funeral parlour wae Pearcey’s Uncle Billy an Uncle Jim at the front. He pulls the coaffin oer rollers fae the rear ay the mahogany trimmed cabin ay the hearse, an wae the aid ay another worker, they lift it up, directin aw us pallbearers under it, instructin us in hushed tones tae place oor airms aroon oor coonterpart’s shooders afore lowerin the coaffin oan tae us.
We walk doon the aisle ay the chapel tae Pearl’s a Singer by Elkie Brooks quietly resonatin aroon the space oer intermittent wails an sobs fae the noo seated mourners. Seein Pearcey tremblin, tryin tae haud it in, ah reach oot an pat him oan the back wae ma free haun. We walk silently forward until we reach the front ay the chapel where we rest the coaffin doon.
Ah sit doon next tae ma Ma an Tracey, wae McDade squeezin his ample fuckin frame intae the pew next tae us. Pearcey sits doon the front wae his uncles.
The Priest speaks again briefly ay her, as he’d done at St Paul’s earlier, then gies a readin ay Isaiah 26:7-19 afore tryin, wae limited success, tae get those gethered tae sing Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd afore the boady’s committed tae the cremation chamber.
The curtain closes tae Yesterday by The Beatles as wis her express wish. Ah kin see Pearcey doon at the front, his skinny physique quiverin an droonin in the suit jayket he’s wearin, only this time ah cannae reach out tae comfort him as ah’d done afore. A solitary bead ay salt watter rolls doon ma cheek as ah take ma Ma’s haun, squeezin it tightly. She squeezes back an ah feel proud. Proud that she husnae left me yet. Proud that she’s ma Ma.
Listenin tae the lyrics ay the song, it gets me thinkin again aboot ma Da an whit that fuckin screwball McNulty wis sayin, ‘You’ll be headed the same waiy.’
Ah don’t know how long ah’ve been zoned oot, starin at the big rid curtain that secretes the hatch intae the cremation chamber — contemplatin: thinkin aboot ma auld man, an his, an mine, an every cunt’s mortality — but when ah snap oot ay it, everyboady’s filin oot, headin up the aisle an back ootside.
‘Ye awright Danny?’ Tracey asks us.
‘Aye, sorry. Ah wis miles away there.’
She hauds ma haun an gies us a reassurin smile an we edge oot tae join the slow movin queue ay people shufflin their waiy taewards the door.
* * *
It’s immediately less sombre at the bowlin club when we arrive. Men ur busy writin oot drinks lists an organisin kitties fur the bar an there’s aulder wummin cuttin through the throng ay people wae cling-film wrapped, faux silver foil platters adorned wae sandwiches an sausage rolls fur the buffet.
‘Whit yies drinkin Danny? Ah’ll get them in. Ask yer Maw an aw. Ah’m packin. Ma coupon came up last night. Collected ma winnins this mornin at the bookies afore the funeral started.’ McDade sais, pullin oot a wedge fae his trooser poakit. Ah didnae even think there wis any fitbaw oan yisterday. Tellin ye, if that cunt fell in the Clyde, he’d come oot wae a fuckin salmon in his mooth, nae danger, man.
Ma Ma’s busyin hersel helpin the other wummin get the food laid oot, so ah tell him tae just get her a voddy an soady watter, an leave Tracey tae help him at the bar while ah go an look fur Pearcey.
Ah last seen him ootside, at the door shakin hauns an greetin people wae his two uncles when we came in, so head in that direction.
Cunts ur laughin an jokin, aw animated an that, sittin doon wae drinks an kerryin oan like it’s just another social getherin, in stark contrast tae how it wis up at the cremmie. Disnae really seem right, ah don’t think; the waiy cunts just revert back tae normal, when less than an ooir ago they wur in the throes ay despair. Ah suppose that’s just whit ye dae though, int it? Ye just get oan wae it. Nae sense in every cunt sittin greetin intae their drinks. It’ll come though. Ah’ve been tae enough funerals tae know that the drama’s no by wae yet. Ye better believe it.
‘Aye aye, here comes trouble.’ ah hear a voice fae a table tae the left ay me as ah’m leavin the function room.
‘Fuck sake. Joe! Whit ur you dain here?’ ah almost fail tae recognise him wae the tin flute oan. He nods tae the guy he’s talkin tae, ‘This is ma partner in crime, young Danny Coyle. Goat him oot graftin wae me, so ah huv.’
‘Aye? Fuck sake wee man, ye must be a glutton fur punishment workin wae this cunt.’ the guy sais, laughin, ‘he goes through labourers like hoat pish through snaw.’
‘Usually, aye, but the wee man’s a trier, ah’ll gie him that. No hud a day aff yet, neer he hus. Heid doon, arse up, an gets oan wae it. No like maist ay them. Ah keep tellin him though: he’s too brainy fur the buildin gemme. Ye want tae hear some ay the things he comes away wae. Fuckin Wordsworth, the cunt.’ They laugh, an ah dae tae, kind ay awkwardly cos ah’m still none the wiser as tae whit he’s dain here.
‘So, ye’ve still no answered me, how ur you here? Ye never cracked a light when ah telt ye ah needed the day aff tae come tae ma mate’s Granny’s funeral. By the way, ah know that sounds like a dodgy wan tae get aff work, but she wis mare like a Ma tae him, ah couldnae no be here.’ ah sais. Surely tae fuck he’s no checkin up oan me, fuck sake.
He nods tae the guy he’s talkin tae an comes oer tae speak tae me.
‘Listen, it’s sound. Don’t get yersel aw worked up, kid. Ah know, well, ah knew Mrs. Adams. Her an ma Maw wur pals years ago. Sure, mind ah telt ye ah staiyed in Shettleston tae, when ah wis a wean? We staiyed in the same close. It wisnae until ah seen it in the paper – the obituary. Ah never made the connection when ye sais. Ah went in this mornin an showed face tae Draper an that, then fucked off at the mornin tea brek. Ah goat there just taewards the end. Ah wis staunin at the back. She’s hud a good turn oot, eh? Mone up tae the bar an ah’ll get ye a pint.’ he sais.
When ah turn roon ma Ma’s staunin there, lookin stern-faced an sullen.
‘Ma, this is Joe. The guy ah’ve been workin wae. Ma boss!’ ah sais tae her but she’s lookin at him; starin right through him.
‘This is the Joe ye’ve been workin wae aw this time? Jesus Christ, Daniel. Ye could’ve sais.’ she sais.
‘How ye dain Steph? Been a long time.’ Joe sais.
‘Ah’m ah missin somethin here? How dae yous know each other?’ ah sais. Ah’m no sure if ah kin take many mare surprises.
‘Aye we know each other. Joe’s another wan ay yer Da’s junkie pals, if ah’d huv known –’
‘Noo, just haud oan a minute, that wis years ago. There’s nae need fur –’
‘Daniel! Get back oer there. That lassie’s staunin hersel. She’s here fur you when ye need her, don’t you leave her staunin aboot while ye talk tae the likes ay him. An as fur you, don’t you think yer corruptin ma Daniel just like ye did John. If he hudnae been hingin aboot wae you an aw the rest ay them he might no huv – he widnae huv went the waiy he did wae that fuckin shite.’