Radio Scotland - Days Like This

Theme: Life

Sunday Nightmare

Cathie Devitt

Surrounded by my shell, I felt excited and scared, hiding in the big metal midden at the back of the tenements. I had climbed up high on the dyke then dreeped down into the bin. Remnants of a boozy weekend after the Old Firm Match the ingrained stewar and muck clung to the sides like Limpets clinging to coral reef. The lid wedged off by other bored kids hours earlier. The guts of other bins spewed out over the tarmac of the back court, evidence that the midgy rakers had been in search of sustenance, finding half eaten fish suppers and rib bones left over from the weekly pot of soup. The Hybrids had savagely fought over the tit bits leaving a paper trail that would lead to my capture.

I could hear my mammy shouting out of the window, we lived on the first floor so her voice was clear and loud. With each call it got shriller.

Katie, Katee, KateeeeeeeeEEEE!

I knew I was pushing my luck but I hated Sunday nights. I knew what was in store. Mammy worked in the schools, what would be known nowadays as a Hygienist. My Uncle John was the jannie. Because of this our house held an unlimited supply of industrial strength carbolic soap. Handy if you ever needed to skin a Rhino.

I never knew how Mammy acquired it. Being an honest woman she wouldnt dream of theft but I suppose cleanliness is next to godliness so if there happened to be some surplus why not put it to good use?

Whilst pondering on the honesty of my Mother I was disturbed by a presence on the other side of the midden. A soft scratching followed by the gentle spray of Mrs McKays scabby Alsatian relieving itself, against the wall of my sanctuary .It wasnt the only one to be relieved. I thought Mammy had tracked me down. Flinching at the banging on the side of the metal bin I almost choked on my penny black jack.

Youd better move Katie, shes gon aff her heid. And with that he was gone. My brother, my hero. My weight had squashed the beer cans and hindered my attempt at a sharp exit. Taking a wee runner in the tiny space I tried to scuffle up the side, ignoring the deep red dribbles from my knees, I thought about the late night pleasure I would have picking at the scab that was bound to follow. The rim was a good eighteen inches higher than me and without the rubbish to use as a springboard I was well and truly stuck Mrs McGintys wee walnut face appeared, looming above me, rubbish poised Whit in Gods name? Im stuck. Ill stick you Katie Bee whit ur you dane in there in the first place? I fell in. My backside. Mrs Mcginty was never one to mince her words.

Did you make aw this mess oot here?

I denied everything, in particular the steaming puddle.

Mrs McGinty was our next-door neighbour .She had a nervous twitch that got worse when she was angry and a hairy mole that she tried to cover up with orange Pan Stick. Sunday night was ladies night at the Railway club, so the customary three plastic rollers were embedded at the top of her head. The angrier she got the more she twitched the more she twitched the more the rollers bobbed around. I could see the metal pins straining to break free, eager to harpoon my eyeballs. Then she stopped. Having squeezed a tiny tear from the corner of my eye I pleaded silently for clemency. It was all too much for her maternal instinct. Leaning over the rim she extended hands that were rough and dry. Gratefully accepting the gesture, I heaved myself to the surface. Couldnt understand why it was so difficult really, being the skinniest girl on the street. Mammy always said I had hollow legs and that the Home Help filled them with pies when Mammy was ill after my wee sister was born.

Sneaking up the close, grateful that the front door was open; I kicked off my plastic sandals. We always got two pair from Woollies; brown for school and red for weekends. The red shoes had a selection of pebbles, grass and doggy doings embedded in their waffled soles, souvenirs of the days adventures. I hovered at the kitchen door. My brother was in his simmett wriggling on the draining board. Mammy was scrubbing at his knees with steel wool, ignoring his screams of protest. Granny was squeezing some candy-striped sheets through the wringer. On the table sat a huge slab of carbolic soap. Pink tongues ready to lick me to the bone.

There would be the humiliation of being steeped in the big sink, right at the window. Two dollops of syrup of figs to keep me regular and a good auld scraping of the bone comb over my skull. There would be no escape. The big towel was folded on a chair ready to sand me down. I was so brave. Closing my eyes I surrendered to the torture.

Later as I sat in the living room in my jammies, Mammy wrapped strips of old sheets through my hair. Knowing that I would have lovely ringlets come morning didnt compensate for the pain as my eyes change to almond slits with each tug.

As my Dad held the big fork over the coal fire toasting bread for supper, Mammy smiled, clucking happily at her polished brood. There Hen. Does that no feel better? God. Sunday Nights.

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