The Power ay Suggestion
The street’s silent an cauld, the last bite ay winter’s teeth clamped tae the mornin, hingin oan in a furtive, futile last effort, in defiance ay the advancin spring.
Ah hear Joe’s van afore ah see it, the diesel engine announcin his arrival as it chunters roon the coarner at South Chester Street. Thick bluey-white smoke spews oot fae underneath it an the gearboax grinds as he tries tae select a gear, the high revs raspin oot the command, screamin fur compliance until he finds it, an the sequence begins again.
A waw ay exhaust fumes drift oer the parked motors oan each side ay the road, like waves in the wake ay a boat, coursin oot behind him as he hurtles doon the street afore comin tae an abrupt stoap acroass the road fae me.
Chokin diesel fumes waft lazily by, overtakin the stationary vehicle, blawn by the mornin breeze, rollin doon the street in a noxious, chokin fog.
The driver’s side door’s blue while the rest ay the van’s white, darkenin tae a sandy, beige colour the lower oan the boady ye look, caked in a thick coverin ay dirt.
There’s the obligatory work van graffiti scrawled intae it oan the passenger side ah cannae mind bein there afore:
I WISH MY WIFE WAS AS DIRTY AS THIS.
‘Awright Joe, ah wis beginnin tae hink ye wurnae comin there.’ ah sais, gettin intae the passenger seat.
‘Rough as a badger’s tadger wee man, ah wis doon The Railway last night wae a few ay the boays.’ he sais, his bleary eyes supportin the statement.
He sets aff, careerin in an oot ay traffic like a fuckin head-case, presumably cos we’re late, only tae throw away any time we’ve clawed back by stoappin at the wee bakers oan Bellgrove Street fur a bacon roll an a cup ay coffee. Goat tae be done right enough, nae danger. Canae work oan an empty stomach, late or no.
Ah’m no that hungry so ah just get a roll an sausage, tottie scone an black puddin an a cup ay tea. An a chocolate eclair.
Joe inhales his roll like a fuckin whale eats plankton an skins a number up; sais his heid’s burstin an he just wants tae tune in tae his graft an get the day oer wae. Fair enough, ah suppose, cos judgin by the hoppy, ethanol infusion ay the odour in the van fae the sweat he’s expellin, his heid must be.
Ah take a couple ay digs an aw as we get gaun again, afore haunin it back an he finishes it, pappin it oot the windae as we arrive at the site.
We’re an ooir late an the car park in the basement ay the buildin used by contractors is full tae capacity.
‘ACH, FUCK SAKE MAN! FUCKIN BASTARN SHITEHOLE AY A JOAB!’ Joe shouts, punchin the windae, the tendons in his neck aw taut an pronounced. His voice reverberates aroon the echo chamber that is the car park, an a couple ay the auld Irish brickies that ur gettin tools oot their van look oer, afore promptly decidin it’s nane ay their business, avertin their gaze.
‘Whoa, Joe calm doon man, ye awright?’ ah sais.
‘Ah um fuckin calm.’ he sais, his flarin nostrils suggestin otherwise.
He flicks oan the hazard lights an screeches tae a halt just ootside the site entrance oan Hope Street efter reversin back up the ramp an intae the road, against the flow ay traffic, in defiance ay the signs plastered aw oer the place tellin ye no tae.
‘Right, Danny boy, ah suppose we better get in there an dae a bit, eh?’ he sais, aw measured an calm again; a different guy.
We’re at the back door, gettin the daisy roots an hard hats oan when his phone goes. Signallin that he’ll be two minutes, he gets back in the front tae take the call.
Ah’m in the van, tryin tae fish oot some ay the tools we’ll need when a voice comes fae oer ma shoulder. ‘NAW, NAW, NAW, NAW. WE’RE NO HUVIN THIS!’ It’s John Draper, the Site Manager, shakin his heid, pointin an shoutin wae another young, plukey faced, student lookin cunt who’s noddin his heid in agreement.
‘Kin you fuckin read, stupit cunt?’ he sais.
‘Whit?’ ah sais, as much tae make sure that ah’d heard him right as anythin else.
‘Kin. You. Read?’ he sais slowly, makin a show ay it, smiling an lookin tae his minion in a show ay authority.
‘Aye. Ah. Kin. Read.’ ah sais tae him. Fuckin Site Manager or no, ah’ll heider this cunt.
‘Well. . . you’ll huv nae trouble readin that sign oot then, wull ye?’ he sais, ignorin ma question an pointin tae the sign oan the scaffoldin above him.
‘Aye, yer right. Nae trouble wae that.’ ah sais, fully aware ay where the condescendin wee prick’s gaun wae it.
‘Well, whit dis it say?’ he’s staunin, expectantly, airms croassed, like a school teacher.
‘RESTRICTED AREA. NO PARKING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.’
‘Well done, ye kin read. Noo, dae ye mind tellin me whit yer parked here fur well? Ah’ve goat the Cooncil breathin doon ma neck aboot ve-hi-cular congestion oot here! Ah’ve goat better things tae be dain than dealin wae this pish! Is that cannabis ah kin smell?’ he sais, casually appendin the last sentence.
Afore ah kin muster a response, the door ay the van slams shut as Joe gets oot.
‘Listen cunt, Ah’ve just sat in there an heard every word you’ve just sais tae that boay. Who the fuck dae ye hink you’re talkin tae, eh? Kin you fuckin read?’
‘Eh. . . aye, of course ah kin. . .’ he replies, flustered. ‘If you could just give me a moment Brandon -- I’ll catch up with you in my office.’ he sais, turnin tae the wee understudy who disnae need tae be telt twice an fucks off, lookin relieved tae leave him tae it.
‘Well, whit dis that sign up there say?’ Joe asks. Draper sais nothin fur a second afore relentin, ‘It says RESTRICTED AREA . . .’
‘No that wan.’ Joe interrupts, ‘the big wan up there oan the scaffoldin, whit dis that say?’
‘Jamieson Construction Ltd. but ah fail tae see whit that’s goat tae dae wae anyhin.’
‘Aye, Jamieson Construction. Established by Wullie Jamieson in nineteen eighty-wan. See, he’s a good mate ay mine, Wullie. We go back years. Ah first met um when we were servin wur time as boays. Done awright fur himsel, the big yin but he’s still the same guy. Diamond, so he is. Ah wis just talkin tae him last night as a matter ay fact. Dae you know him?’
‘No well, ah’m aware of Mr. Jamieson but ah huvnae been wae the company fur too long so. . .’
‘So. . . ah’ll tell ye whit’s fuckin so, if ah ever hear you talkin tae any cunt oan this joab like that again ah’m gonnae fuckin burst ye, okay? Then ah’m gonnae phone Wullie an tell him whit it wis fur. Noo we’re just gonnae get this van unloaded an then we’ll shift it oot yer road, right? See ah find, if ye speak tae people the waiy ye’d like tae be spoken tae yersel, ye get oan just fine waeoot any problems whitso-fuckin-ever, know whit ah mean?’
‘Eh, aye. Well, you certainly make a strong argument for it. Most illuminating. How’s the fourth floor coming on?’ he sais, drawin a swift veil oer the incident.
‘It’s comin on fine pal, we’ll be finished wae it the day ah reckon, then we kin make a start oan the third next week.’
‘Right well, good stuff. Ah’ll eh. . . I’ll speak to you later then.’ he sais afore sheepishly backin away, an headin back in the site entrance.
‘Fuckin prick.’ Joe sais quietly as he grabs a tool bag an starts in the same direction, ‘ . . . mone, we better get this finished the day noo.’ he sais an ah grab the drill, the big bead an a bag ay plaster, shuttin the door wae ma arse afore duckin in the doorway efter him.
He’s a good cunt, Joe. Bit ay a mad swingin personality mind. He’s either chirpy an full ay banter an that or he’s gaun aff oan wan, wantin tae burst cunts. Still though, he’s bran new wae me, so that’s aw that really matters.
He’s no done me a bad turn yet an the wages ur good — he gies me a bit extra cos ah don’t mind hingin back till he gets his measure done fur the day — which makes me feel shite aboot aw that kerry oan at the fitba.
He’d clocked the marks oan ma coupon oan Monday mornin an made some comment aboot me lookin like ah’d been talkin when ah should’ve been listenin, but didnae push it any further. He didnae notice the knife missin, or if he did, he didnae say anythin aboot it. It wis a ten-a-penny stanley knife though so ah doubt it even registered. Still, that’s no the point man.
Ah wis glad nothin came ay it cos efter McDade chibbin the boay an then ma Granda’s revelations aboot ma Da, ah’d hud ma fill ay drama fur the week. Ah kept wonderin if the cunt wis awrite; the state ay his Chevy Chase an that. Ah even thoat aboot phonin the hoaspital at wan point afore thinkin better ay it. Nuttin good wid come fae it, just increasin the likelihood ay gettin nipped fur it. Ye cannae turn back the cloack, man. The damage is done.
* * *
It’s another late wan as ah knew it wid be. 19:06 it sais oan the big Irn-Bru cloack ootside Central Station as ah load the gear back intae the van. Hope Street’s quieter than usual, the majority ay the day’s commuters huvin cleared oot, back tae the suburbs, schemes an peripheral toons they came fae. Only the occasional, lingerin group ay oaffice workers mingle wae the first ay the night’s revellers, spillin oot ay taxis, hittin the pubs tae wash away the week; nullifyin whitever shite it flung thur waiy, if only fur a few ooirs.
The van’s still sittin in the same spot that hud caused the flashpoint wae Draper in the mornin. Ah’d asked if we should move it efter we’d goat aw the tools an materials we needed oot. ‘Fuck it! It’s there noo.’ he’d sais, addin, ‘. . . ah’ve already told him we’d be by wae this flair the day anyway. He cannae huv it aw waiys.’
We drive aff, gien the auld security gerd a wave (efter Joe barked at him tae mind his ain business when he telt us we shouldnae be parked there) ah decide tae broach the subject again, ‘That wis lucky, eh? You knowin the owner ay the company an that. Did ye see his face?’
‘Whit?’ Joe sais, confused, afore recallin, ‘eh, aye ah know. Too right. That’ll teach the cunt. Bet his arse wis makin buttons aw day.’ he sais, swervin tae overtake a taxi that’s suddenly stoapped. ‘Arsehole.’ he mutters, under his breath.
‘Still though, some coincidence, int it?’ ah sais, probin further.
‘Aye well, ah’ll let ye intae a wee secret, ah might huv overstated ma relationship wae Wullie Jamieson a wee bit.’ he sais wae an impish smile.
‘Whit, so ye don’t even know him then?’ ah sais, laughin at the baws oan the cunt.
‘Well, ah’ve met him. Aboot a few month ago tae be exact, just before that wee tube, Draper took oer the runnin ay the site. He was oan a walk-roon ay the joab wae aw the big wigs; the developers, the money men behind the refurbishment – architects an whit huv ye.’ he sais, weavin the battered van through the traffic oan the Broomielaw, ‘. . . the power ay suggestion Danny. Well, mibbe a bit mare than suggestion, but the end result’s the same, He thinks me an his gaffer ur like that.’ he sais, croassing his fingers and takin his eyes aff the road fur longer than he should, ‘. . . so it foallies, that he’ll think twice afore gien me an you any mare ay his pish for the rest ay oor time there, which isnae long noo, anywaiy.’
‘He could always check up.’ ah decided tae point oot.
‘True, Danny boy, true. He could decide tae dae a bit ay research but -- na, he’s aw mooth an nae troosers, that cunt. Fuckin kidology wee man, every cunt’s at it. It’s aw smoke an mirrors oot here in the real world, kid. Ye just need tae know how tae play thur gemme. Did yer Da no teach ye nothin?’ he sais, afore realisin, ‘. . . sorry wee man, ah didnae mean tae. . .yer Da’s deid, int he?’ Ah must’ve mentioned it in passin, although ah cannae mind.
He pulls up at ma close, the acrid diesel fumes envelopin everythin in a twinty fit radius roon aboot us again, announcin wur arrival.
‘Don’t worry aboot it. He’s deid awright, he topped himsel, ah’ve just recently found oot.’
‘Fuck sake. Ah didnae know that kid. Whit wis his name?’ he sais.
‘John.’ ah sais, an he kind ay contorts his face, his eyes widenin.
‘John Coyle? You’re John Coyle’s boay? Fuck sake, ah knew yer Da when we wur boays. Some fitba player he wis, by the way.’ he sais. He seems ill at ease though, which is hardly surprisin, given the subject matter, an there’s an awkwardness noo between us somehow – an uncomfortable silence.
Ah address it in the best waiy ah kin think ay by gettin oot the van.
‘Huv a good wan Joe. Go an get yersel a pint. We baith deserve wan efter that shift.’ ah sais.
‘See ye oan Monday, kid. Bright an early mind.’ he sais, afore grindin the van intae gear an takin aff, leavin a trail ay smoke behind, hingin in the mild spring air ay the evenin.