A Road Runs Through It by Frankie Gault
A short story of hope, hardship and heartbreak…
Charlie opened the kitchen door, Michael c’mon son, that’s half seven, yer breakfasts ready and you’ve work tae go tay.
Marie put her cup on the table Ah wish ye widny call it work when ye know fine well it isny.
So ye’ll no be lookin for any money on Friday then?
Ye know whit ah mean, the last thing we want is him growin up thinking that scratchin aboot the council dump is an actual job. He’ll end up like they other lad’s oot there. Nae harm tae them Charlie but the cowp seems as far as they want tae go.
Charlie stood behind Marie put his arms round her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. Don’t worry hen ah no whit he’s capable of, an ahll tell ye something, so dis he.
Michaels aw we’ve got Charlie, an we want him tae try for college or even university. That wid be amazing, imagine oor boy at university.
Listen Marie ahve been watchin they surveyor guys, they’re aw over the place. The cowp’s days are numbered hen, changes are comin, aw the way doon the river. They’re walkin aboot measurin things an they reckon there’s gonny be a new road goin through it. We’re jist runnin the clock doon here.
Aye, an that’s another thing, what if they guys are no surveyors? Whit if they’re fae the social or the broo? If you get done for that again that’ll be you back in jail an then where will we be? Ah couldny cope wae you in Barlinnie again. No at oor ages. Ah didny mind trailing up there when we were younger, Christ knows ah did it often enough, but no noo Charlie, we’re by wae aw that.
Listen hen, see this witch ay a Prime Minister she’s jist another burglar, a thief that’s broke intae her ain country. See when ah wis a wean, ma older brother used tae rattle oor ain gas meter. He had a pocket full of single shillings. That’s whit Thatcher is, a fuckin meter bandit. The shipyerds are on their knees and none of the factories are takin on anybody. She’s efter the unions as well, and its lookin like she’s gonny go toe tae toe wae the miners. She’s actually drivin people tae work buckshee cos she’s no givin anybody an ounce of hope; she’s totally, eh whits thi wurd again.
Immoral Da, is that whit yer lookin fur?
Charlie and Marie smiled as Michael walked into the kitchen.
Aye that’s the very word son. Mornin. Sit doon, here’s yer breakfast
So whit ye got on this morning son?
Ahve got an appointment at the Job Centre Mam, so ahll no make the cowp till dinner time.
Aye, that’s great son, nae problem.
When Michael left the kitchen Marie dug Charlies ribs. Noo listen, ah don’t want him divin in aboot lorries at his age so get this cowp business hit on the heid completely, awright?
Charlie nodded, but said nothing.
Michael met his pal Hunter at the cemetery gates and they made their way into town.
Here ye’ll never guess who ah shagged at the weekend.
Michael laughed an shook his heid. Aw this’ll be fun. On ye go then Romeo, surprise us both.
Michael laughed again. Heard it lover boy. Dae ye no mean Pam and her 5 sisters?
They both laughed an carried on walkin intae town. Signing on at the dole they headed for the Jobcentre. As they reached the door Hunter stopped dead.
You’ve went a wee bit quiet Micky boy. Anythin tae dae wae the gorgeous Alison behind the desk here?
Michael laughed as he pulled the door open but didny reply. He sat down to fill in an application form. It didn’t take long and he’d filled in loads in the past couple of years. Then he smiled an handed the girl behind the desk his form.
The girl scanned his form and nodded. It’s only a Manpower Service job and it doesn’t pay a great deal but it’s a start.
Michael smiled again. Dae ye think ah wid earn enough tae take a lassie oot wance or twice a week?
Well, ah suppose that would depend on what type of girlfriend ye had. Some girls might be prepared tae share things with ye, nights out an maybe nights in. Maybe it would depend on how serious ye were.
They both blushed. Hunter, who had been on his best behaviour so far decided tae get involved.
Warm in here innit?
Alison smiled nervously. Look, I’m going out with somebody just now, it’s nothing serious, maybe in a week or two things will be different. Let me know how ye get on with the job.
Michael nodded and left.
He got changed and made his way to the footbridge over the railway which led to the cowp. As he was about to climb the stairs he noticed a wave from a couple of bodies about 200 yards along the road. He headed for the lads who were sitting on a wall, it wis Ped and Hughie, two of his pals.
Alright lads. Yeez goin oot the cowp?
Aye Micky but we’re waitin tae get a lift over.
The road bridge over the railway wis narrow an it meant that every lorry or skip would have to slow right doon. Men wid often jump on the wagon so that by the time they got to the cowp they would have had a look round for anythin decent. Some drivers widny move until they got aff the lorry. Some didny ask.
Here ah wis at the Job Centre this morning, tried to get aff wae that Alison wan behind the desk.
Ped nodded. She’s gorgeous by the way, did she sling ye?
Michael replied Aye an naw, told me tay see her again in a fortnight.
Hughie pulled a face Ach she’s at it by the way. She’s jist tryin tay con ye intae a job.
They all laughed and Michael said Nae chance for you then Hughie, you’re that scared ah work ye wid even think twice aboot a blow job.
Ped shouted. Edge up guys here’s a lorry comin noo.
As the wagon slowed doon the three of them jumped on. The driver never even looked. It took less than a minute tae reach the cowp. Michael looked aboot for Charlie. There were about a dozen people workin, wrapped up well as the wind blew in from the river. Most people preferred the cowp in winter, mainly because it was harder for the social tae identify ye if all they could see wis your eyes. Michael began rummaging around and the driver shouted that he would start tipping and loosened the bolts on the tailgate.
As the wagon began to tip, a grey box caught Michael’s eye. At that moment Charlie appeared and shouted, C’mon son, jump aff, leave that.
Michael threw the box to his father but slid doon wae the load as it reached full tilt. Ped an Hughie jumped aff tae the side but Michael fell onto the frozen ground along wae the load. The lorry moved slowly forward and as it did so a massive lump of sandstone slid from the wagon right on to where Michael was. The whole thing had taken less than five seconds.
Everyone stopped and stared. Nobody said anything. Charlie ran from his side an looked at the pile of rubble, unable to speak, every word catching in his throat. The full horror lay in front of him. His son had disappeared. He couldny see Michael but knew he wis under the lump of sandstone.
In the months after Michael’s death, Marie jist sat in the livin room, starin at the tv. She hardly ever went oot an rarely spoke a word. Charlie stayed away as much as he could. Each day they said less to each other until, eventually, they just passed each other by. The odd glance now and again said everything. Charlie, six months sleepin in what had now become the spare room, came and went and Marie barely noticed. Sitting in a haze of Valium, Tuinal and anti-depressants, she hardly knew if he was in the house or not. Then wan mornin at the end of February there was a knock at the door. As soon as she heard it, she knew. She knew exactly whit this knock meant. The surveyors found Charlie’s body oot at the cowp. They reckoned he must have been there aw night. He was still sitting cross-legged, his face buried in his hands. The fire had long gone out and they found a vodka bottle and an empty grey box beside him.
This section: stories and poems, Writing
- Alan Sharp and From Greenock to Hollywood at the Glasgow Film Theatre
- To See Ourselves – film about the lead up to the Scottish Referendum in 2014
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: The Magic Scales by Paul Murdoch
- Cast A Cold Eye – Robbie Morrison
- Secret Wrapped in Lead by Braw Clan
- Glasgow Writers: Pauline Lynch
- Mary Irvine: Review of ‘Gods of the Crossroads’ by Robin Lloyd-Jones
- SCCAN Stories for Change – PLACE Workshop
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Review of Warp and Weft by Ann MacKinnon
- Home Grown In Glasgow – a poem for International Women’s Day by Ruby McCann
- Le Vent du Nord, Celtic Connections 2023
- Best Laid Schemes – Dexter Gordon Place
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: ‘Blackbird Singing’ – an evening with Graham Morgan
- Spark My Words – Creative Writing Sessions with Lesley O’Brien
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Review – The Way Home by Robin Scott-Elliot
- Roy’s West End View: History is bunk …and it ends just outside London
- Aye Write Three Debut Authors (interviewed by Matthew Keeley)
- The Literary Treatment of Racism – Lola Rose
- A Road Runs Through It by Frankie Gault
- The Wanderlust Women – three poems