by Richard Hardwick
Me granda was a gentle man, understanding as well. Knew how to speak to people, how to listen. Fuck knows how he was related to me mam. Lived to the age of seventy eight or something and I never saw him drunk once. Me mam said she never did neither. Don’t get us wrong, he liked a pint or two. Went to the club every week, every few days or so. But he only went for a couple of hours, only had a couple of pints. Unless the toon were on the telly, then he’d come back half an hour later at halftime cos his dinner was ready, said it was only right, me nana had cooked it for him.
He said when I was eighteen he’d buy me first legal pint for us. That’s what I’m gonna do on me eighteenth birthday: go to the Crem where he’s got a stone or something, take some flowers, have a chat with him. I’ve never done it yet, never been able to, but when I’m eighteen I will. Then I’ll go to the pub, buy meself a pint, me first legal one, dedicate it to me granda, take me first sip, hold it up into the air.
Won’t have more than two cos that’s all me granda would’ve had. Some of the other blokeys used to take the piss out me granda, that’s what me mam said. Call him a lightweight and that. They would wouldn’t they? The way they staggered out after a lock-in, pissed out their heads, in their fucking seventies and eighties and still getting mortal. Me and the lads used to wind them up, watch them take the bait like dense fish.
It’s what we called all the old men.
‘Me names not Stan,’ they grumbled. Them that weren’t too deaf or too mortal.
‘Tell us about the war Stan.’
‘Tell us about what a hero yer were.’
‘Tell us about how yer only had one egg to last you and yer ten brothers a whole fucking month.’
‘Tell us about how many prisoner of war camps yer escaped from by digging with a teaspoon for six months non-stop.’
Pissed ourselves laughing.
They waved their walking sticks like rifles, like they’d give us the biggest braying of our lives if only they could catch hold of us. If only they were sixty years younger. I mean, it might sound a bit cruel and that, looking back now, but all they ever did was fucking complain about us, about how we were good for nothing, about how in their day they started work on the shipyards when they were fucking six or something.
But our granda; he never once told us I was good for nothing, not even once, not even when I taxed his tabs, bust his radio by chucking a golf ball I’d found on the fields at it, knocked it off the table. He saw us trying to put it back together again, realised it was an accident, said not to worry. He listened to us instead of going on all the time. He couldn’t change nothing but he listened, took it all in. Yer could tell he listened by his eyes. The way they looked too big behind his glasses.
I went upstairs to find Lucy. Needed to talk to her. Needed to explain. She wasn’t in, either that or wasn’t answering. I walked past Gemma’s room, still trashed. Went to Goochy’s, asked for me granda’s watch and compass from his chest of drawers. He gave us them, tripped us up as I walked out the room with them.
I picked meself up, didn’t even look back at him, carried on walking. Went downstairs to the office, thought I should put them in the safe just in case. Sat down, turned them over in me hands. Me eyes glazed over. I wanted to cry, wanted to really fucking cry. Wanted to cry floods so it never fucking stopped. But I didn’t. Not with someone else in the room.
‘Yer must’ve been close to yer granda.’
I nodded, kept looking at them, kept turning them over in me hands. Feeling the metal, how solid it was, how old.
‘He was the only person I could trust, the only person who loved us for what I was, instead of going on at us all the time to do something else, change into someone else.’
‘Maybe he’s up there, looking over yer.’
I looked up; a dirty ceiling. Above that, the lasses double.
Back at the compass; wondered about all the places it’d been. Me granda fought in wars and that: India, Egypt, somewhere like that, somewhere miles away. His compass had been with him, helping him out, making sure he knew which way he was going. It might even have saved his life one time. Taken the impact of a bullet, like in that film. I turned it round again, looked for bullet marks, couldn’t see any. Maybe they had spears in them places, poison darts.
Me granda had done things, lots of things. I hardly knew anything about him, not really. He’d travelled, been to faraway places. He’d seen things, had stories to tell. Me granda had a point to his life. And there I was, three miles from home or something, in a hostel that was falling down. Totally fucking lost.
Kicked Out by Richard W. Hardwick is a Burning House book, £7.99 ISBN 9781905636457; http://beautiful-books.co.uk/256.html