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Tea & Blood

Short Stories by Tim Diggles


Tea and Blood Short Stories by Tim Diggles

Visit Tim Diggles’ blog at timdiggles.wordpress.com Tea and Blood © 2016 by Tim Diggles. All rights reserved. Cover photographs and designed by Tim Diggles Tea and Blood is a collection of works of fiction. Where real people, events, establishments, organisations, or locales appear, they are used fictitiously. All other elements of these stories are drawn from the author’s imagination. This edition: January 2016


Tea and Blood

Contents The Interloper (2015)

page 3

Doris Stories (2014) Retrouvaille page 15

Moss Rose

page 18

The Blue Dress

page 22

All Dressed Up

page 28

The Final Firing (2010)

page 32

Toby Jug (2013)

page 38

Mongo (2014) page 45 Christmas Card (2014)

page 50

Working (2012)

page 53

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Tea and Blood

Tea and Blood Tea and Blood is a collection of short stories I have written for special events at Renegades Writers such as Christmas or Armistice Day; stories about Doris a performance character who artist Chris Reader has invented and wanted to take on a journey; stories I wanted to tell which came to me as inspiration. I hope you enjoy them, share them and have a look at my novels on ISSUU. Visit my site at timdiggles.wordpress.com

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The Interloper

The Interloper “John, lovely to hear from you” “How are you Vi?” “Oh, you know… how did the faculty meeting go, did you get that room, I take it that’s what you’re ringing about?” “We got it!” “Oooh, come over and celebrate, Martin will be back soon, he’ll be so pleased. Well that’s one in the eye for old Mildew!” “Merrydrew Vi! That’s no way to talk about a man with a knighthood! He gave in quite easily actually, however he did get use of those labs on the fourth floor for some experiment he reckons will bring him a Nobel Prize…” “Humph” “No it wasn’t that I was ringing about” There was a short silence. “Are you OK? It’s not a bad result from those tests is it?” “No, no, no, that was months ago. I’ve not heard anything; they only get in touch if there’s something wrong, no, no far from it” “Good, well what then?” “I’m going to be a father” Vi laughed.

3


Tea and Blood “Oh John don’t be silly… so you’ve decided to replace Lucifer have you?” “No no, there could never be another Lucifer” “You’re telling me, whoever was driving that car should be made a saint. Martin’s still got scars on his hand, vicious little madam” “She never scratched me” “Knew the hand that fed her” Vi laughed even louder and John had to hold the phone away from his ear for a second. “No Vi, I really am going to be, well I suppose am a father” There was another short silence. “Who’s the mother? You’ve not got a student pregnant have you, I thought all that malarkey stopped when Nick Saunders left” “No, she’s not a student” “Well you’ve not said anything about seeing someone. We’ve never seen you with anyone. She certainly can’t be your age if she’s pregnant…” “I’m not that old!” “You’re sixty-two” “It’s just someone I’ve been seeing for a while, we have an arrangement” “An arrangement? How long’s this been going on?” “Nearly ten years” “Ten years, just after Mary left and you’ve never said anything! Some arrangement” “You make it sound sordid” 4


The Interloper “Well it is, a bit anyway. And how old is your… arrangement?” “My arrangement is called Julie, and she is forty-four” “So when did Julie tell you this?” “A few days ago” “And you are certain it’s yours?” “She says so” “Yes I bet she did. So how does your arrangement with Julie work?” “Well, we meet up a couple of times a month and I help her out with some bills…” “…And I suppose there’s always a bill to pay whenever you go?” “Usually… well yes there always is” “So it’s that sort of an arrangement…” “You’re making it sound sordid again Vi” “Well you’re better than that. Is she getting rid of the child or has she found out you are quite a wealthy man?” “She wants to get rid… but well … I’d like to keep it…” “What!” “Yes keep it and bring it up. I don’t mean with Julie, she’s had six already…” “Busy woman your Julie, what does she do, have another whenever she needs some extra cash. So who’s going to look after John or Joanna Junior?” “Well I will” “You… you! You are s i x t y – t w o, you are an academic, you live in a house so stuffed with books even the book worms 5


Tea and Blood are squashed flat… you have at least two text book that need finishing… you have experiments to write up and publish from well… the last twenty years…” “Yes, yes, I know all that. But when Mary and I divorced it was partly about not being able to have children, almost as soon as she moved in with Bendt she became pregnant…” “The sexy Swede” “Yes him” “But he was at least what, twenty years younger than you? Well if you couldn’t have children then, how come now? She’s just trying to get money out of you, don’t you see? You’re the most brilliant man on the campus, no one in the whole university has the intelligence you have in just your little toe, you are a giant in your field, but sometimes… God, sometimes you can be so naïve!” “I know, but I believe her” He was actually going to say ‘want to believe’ but didn’t, just thought it. “Has she asked for money?” “No, she wants to get rid of it; she just felt I needed to know” “Oh yeah, and how many other potential fathers have needed to know at the same time. Look John, where does she live, I’ll go and have a word, get this sorted. You’ve just got silly romantic notions in your head” “About what?” “About being a father, looking after a child. It’s not that easy, remember I’ve had three. It was expected, wrecked my career, look at me now fifty-nine and still teaching bloody teenagers who haven’t the slightest interest in chemistry, I’m desperate to get early retirement and been thwarted by bloody policy 6


The Interloper changes every time it looks likely to happen. Martin and you went playing with bloody magnets or whatever it is you did, all round the world, while I had to stay at home changing nappies, cleaning shit up, sorting schools. I never had the chance to develop my work. Never.” “You could give up work tomorrow, I mean Martin…” “Martin lost nearly everything when he went in with that Hedges man, he didn’t get the proper rights over those patents, and when Boeing pulled out…” “Sorry, Martin’s never said, I thought…” “A baby takes all your time, it can’t be put down like a book, put on hold like an experiment. And, well I hate to say it John, when that child is ten you will be in your mid-seventies, and when it’s time for University you’ll be well into your eighties. Is that fair to it? Looking after a cranky smelly old man when they are so young, watching you die before they’ve even begun to live?” “Well thanks Vi, that’s made me feel really great” “It has to be said, what are you thinking about? Have you really thought about it? You’ve not gone all religious on us have you, abortion against your beliefs and so on?” “No, no, I will abide by what Julie wants. But I have thought about it long and deep and I want this child, and if I have to look after it, then so be it” John put the phone down. It rang straight away but he didn’t answer. As he poured out the last drops from a bottle of Johnny Walker he knew he could have scripted what Vi would say. Looking round at shelves stuffed with books and papers, he took down a faded out-dated book on electronics, opened it, closed it, looked at the spine, then threw it hard at the wall behind him, then 7


Tea and Blood another and another and another. Hand written notes, pages, bookmarks floated slowly down amid sparkles of dust. Books arched through the air, tumbled past the brass chandelier, cart wheeled over the aspidistra. In no time there was a mountain of broken backed ripped volumes in the corner – a mountain of blue, orange, black, red board covers – browning pock marked paper - cyclostyled, Photostatted, carbon copied, Xeroxed, photocopied, mimeographed, duplicated, blue-printed pages of figures, theorems, charts, formulae, deductions, hypotheses, suppositions, assumptions, practices, experiments successful and failed. Amalgamating, fusing, sharing, integrating into a pile of knowledge of the known and unknown. And finally, a twenty pound note drifted down through the dust cloud of learning, settling beside the empty bottle. John picked it up and feeling clear minded left the house and striding down the hill to Discount Booze. As he opened the shop door Mr Khan, without a word, took down a bottle of Black Label and placed it in a thin blue carrier bag. “Have you been decorating Professor?” John looked down at his clothes and realised he was covered in dust. “Having a clear out Mr Khan, getting rid of the past” He paid with the £20 note and put the change in a plastic disaster appeal box. “You have a family don’t you Mr Khan?” “I do Professor, three sons, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and of course am blessed with Mrs Khan. My youngest, she will be joining you at the University in September, the first in our family” Mr Khan’s pride was obvious. “That’s good, that’s good. Would you say your family is the 8


The Interloper most important thing in your life?” “Of course Professor, what else is there?” As he left John raised his left hand in a sort of wave salute.

Two weeks later John was sitting in his car in the hospital car park eyes closed, thinking. ‘Unfortunately’ that’s what Mr Kale said, ‘Unfortunately Professor Fynder’. Not the word I’ve had used. So John, what would I have said – sadly; tragically; unluckily; sorrowfully? Is that what my students think when I have to tell them they’re not capable of finishing their degree? Do I get it as wrong as Mr Kale? Unfortunately. Unfortunately. Unfortunately. And he says he so wants to be wrong. ‘I’m always pleased when I’m wrong’ he says. Always pleased. And did he get all those graphs and figures out to show me because I am a scientist? To prove that although he wants to be wrong, his analysis of my re-run tests proves categorically he’s not going to be wrong; that because I am a scientist I would want to know the hard facts; that because I am a scientist I can take an awful undeniable truth? But maybe I don’t want to hear the truth. Did he even think of that. M-a-y-be I’d have liked to hear that there may be just a possibility, a prospect, a chance. That there is some hope, that miracles happen and I may be that miracle. He could have, no, should have said that. I’m like Mr Kale - I like being wrong, but know that actually I’m right. Odd that isn’t it, when I’m right it takes years to try 9


Tea and Blood and prove I may be wrong, that’s my life, huh, or maybe was my life. John opened his eyes. How’s that van going to fit through that gap? Mrs Amelia Jefferson that was her name, did he realise I wasn’t taking things in… her card… damn did I leave her card… see not thinking, not thinking clearly; think John clear your bloody head. Perhaps I needed to show emotion, to shout and scream, to question. Support Worker. That’s what he called her, her title. A Support Worker. She will offer me support. Did he say she’ll get in touch or do I have to ring? Card, he gave me a card. Wallet, must be in there, but then where is my damn wallet? He sat back and closed his eyes. Odd, can’t remember fifteen minutes ago - but sitting at a desk next to Elizabeth Jones in a sunlit classroom, is as clear as day, she’s wearing a green and white check school dress, bare scuffed knees, white ankle socks. We’re listening to Mrs Kirkham reading Dickens to us, I can hear her voice – teachers spoke properly back then, like the BBC. I had nightmares about sleeping under a coffin and Mum snuggled me to her in their large dark oak bed, icy white sheets, like steel, whispering ‘John, John, John it’s only a story, it’s only a story’. Large crackled cream framed windows looking over the valley, in the distance were dark millstone crags where giants lived, that’s what dad said, when we went up there he showed me the huge stones that he said the giants had carried from the North Pole so they could play ten pin bowling like on the telly. God that old telly standing in the corner on four spindly gold legs, couldn’t get a picture if one of us sat in the wrong place on the settee. Dad’s face when I told him about the glaciers and how when they receded they had left those rocks behind, called erratics. ‘Know a thing or two you do John don’t you, should go on University Challenge lad’. He liked the stories better, the 10


The Interloper magic, of course I knew he knew they were stories, but at nine being right was more important. Education education education. And Dad’s face when I came out of the Senate House my degree rolled up in my hand, desperate to get to the pub with all the rest. Mum was crying, I was so embarrassed, Dad just kept shaking my hand… she had an Instamatic, bought it specially from Boots, and asked the Vice Chancellor who was just passing to take our picture, didn’t know who he was. I could have died but now, now I wish I had just ten minutes with them, to say how proud I was of them of all they did. Thank them. Mum tidying her hair, looking in her compact pouting her lips, shaking herself so her dress hung properly, brushing down dad with her hand, ready to pose. ‘I never take a good photograph’ she always said and said it then. She’d bought a dress in Marks, pale blue, that was it, pale blue edged with dark blue, wore it when she went in that last time, twenty years later, looked after her things she did. It’s what just getting by does to you. She always had to look good for the Specialist. Wonder if he said ‘Unfortunately Mrs Fynder’, I don’t know I wasn’t there. Only to pick up the black plastic bag of her belongings. I moved my head at the wrong time, that stupid mortar board covered half my face, long scruffy hair and a messy beard, the picture was always on the mantelpiece in a silver frame, until it faded almost to nothing. I was educated out of their world, a Cambridge man. John opened his eyes again as another noise intruded. Is that someone wanting this space, he can wait I’ve paid for two hours. “Unfortunately. Unfortunately was not a good word to use” John said out loud. “So what happens now?” 11


Tea and Blood Who do I tell first? Do I need to tell anyone? Nice just to go on, if not it’ll be like a finale every time I meet anyone. Isn’t it odd I never used to cry, but the last few years. And its stupid things, like bad films, war memories and tacky television. And now, why now? Bloody tears, they are quite sore, my cheeks feel sore. John looked in the car mirror, wiping his cheeks with a greyed white handkerchief. I should talk to that Mrs Jefferson, she’s supposed to be the expert, help me organise my time, she must know who I should tell, but I don’t want to tell anyone, no one close. What the hell do I say to Julie? Oh stop crying John! Come on look at you sitting in a hospital car park crying, and about what, yourself, what you’ll miss… what I’ll miss. It’s my own fault, must be, Mr Kale told me six years ago to cut down on alcohol. NO John don’t kid yourself he told you to cut out alcohol altogether, and what do you do? A couple of bottles of Johnnie every week. STOP lying to yourself John, come on cut out the shit, three or four bottles, ah well… does it really all matter? Well it used not to, but you are a father now, well will be soon. Wonder what his first name is? It’s always so formal, calling me Professor; we work for the same University for heaven’s sake. Curly Kale? My son my daughter will be well set up. Mary will want the house, oh gawd… all that shit is to come isn’t it, she’ll be fighting for every penny, but all that was sorted, agreed upon, bugger her, she had enough. Must go and see Mr Campbell get all of it sorted, what a bloody barny it all is. I must make sure all those contracts are sorted. 12


The Interloper He looked in the mirror again. Is that damn car still there waiting? John closed his eyes. That evening, it was like now, warm a bit overcast. I gave them the tour, the punts on The Cam, King’s - Mum said ‘…it’s just like in the books’. I remember telling her off for reading hospital romances, I think – NO John – you know she was hurt when you did that. Didn’t understand did you, you daft prat, for her learning to read at what nearly forty, was much harder than you getting a first – I should have helped her – should have been proud of her achievement, I can see it now. Like they were of me – but you couldn’t see could you, just wanted to show off how clever you were, it was so easy for me, and I felt so ashamed when she tried to read something in front of friends, it didn’t matter, it really just didn’t matter… Mum had made sandwiches and a cake. That homemade spread, wish she’d written the recipe down, I can taste it now, what was it, sardines mixed with tomatoes, lots of pepper, but there was more in than that, God it was good. The cake, she made my favourite, it wasn’t a cake it was date and walnut loaf, clarty like it should be, clarty. Stop crying you daft bugger! So how old was my Dad when he died. Two months after he retired, two months. Fifty years at that factory, ‘best lathe operator they’d ever had’, so what’s-his-name said at the funeral… He was never the same after Mum went, you could have done more for him, remember though what Mary said ‘… if he moves here we’ll never be rid of him’, yeah Mary and your Mother was there every flaming’ day putting her nose in where it wasn’t needed. Oh stop going on it’s all gone – gone long ago – you can’t change things. Unfortunate, it bloody well is Mr Kale. So John what do you do now. God, no I don’t want God, be 13


Tea and Blood funny if I end up standing in front of the old git, saying ‘well that’s a surprise’. They’ll all want a funeral, come and celebrate my life or whatever it is they say nowadays. What do I do now? People write lists of all the things they’ve always wanted to do and go and do them; or become a hero climbing Kilimanjaro raising thousands for research, bugger that; do I finish what’s left to finish in the lab, bugger that too; or drink myself stupid and get it all over sooner. John opened his eyes. “That sounds the best option” he said to his reflection in the mirror, started the car, put it into gear and drove off to Discount Booze.

14


Doris Stories

Retrouvaille Doris pulled into the truck parking area at Hilton Park Services, she’d forgotten how awful traffic could be on the M6, and so rude, couldn’t they tell that Vera (the name she gave her VW Camper) couldn’t go above 51 mph, and that it was always safest to drive in the middle lane. The trip south was already beginning to tire her, still a nice cup of tea would help. Doris plugged in the new kettle she’d bought for the journey, but it wouldn’t switch on. She tried all the sockets in the van. Nothing. “Oh dear” she said and was annoyed at herself for not bringing her trusty old steel kettle that had lasted her well for the past twenty years. A huge green truck pulled in beside her, it’s engine making Vera rattle until the trucks engine died down and brakes settled, sounding like it had had enough driving for a while. ‘Truckers have kettles in their cabs don’t they, maybe the driver can help’ she thought. Doris knocked on the drivers’ door. A thickset man with hair like Elvis looked down on her from quite a height. “I’m having a problem with my kettle, I wondered if you could help?” “Doris? Is that you Doris?” Doris knew the voice, but couldn’t place the face. 15


Tea and Blood “I’m Ken - Ken from Farmer Street. Don’t you remember?” As he said that she recognised him and blushed. The last time they’d met was just a week before she married Tudor, the night she had a few too many with the girls on her hen night. ‘He’s aged’ she thought, ‘Ken used to be so handsome, wide shoulders, a bad lad all the girls said’. All that Doris had deliberately forgotten about for more than thirty years came flooding back. “Ken, Ken Deakin, well I never. How’s your mother?” “Oh, she’s fine, in The Oaklands now, no memory but as fit as a fiddle. How are you Doris, I haven’t seen you… since…”. Doris blushed again. “Yes, it’s been a long time. Good heavens, fancy meeting you here of all places”. “I must stop here most days, one of my regular routes. What are you doing here?” “Well I needed a change, it’s been such hard work lately at the café, and now Tudor’s gone, well it’s all on my shoulders. So I thought to myself, Doris, you need a change. My friend, Emily, you remember her from Gladstone Street, she sent me a card from Bognor, asking me to go down for a visit, and I thought, Doris, why not go and see her, see a bit of the world. Tudor and I only ever used to go to North Wales, so have a change I say. So that’s where I’m off to”. “Sorry to hear about Tudor. Well I never, Doris. I often think about you...” “Oh go on Ken, you could have any girl you wanted in those days and probably had most of them round us”. “You were a good-looker; a real doll; I remember that. And you couldn’t half sing. Hey Big Spender, that was what you 16


Doris Stories sang, could do all the wriggles” “Oh go on Ken, that was years ago, I was just a girl. They were good times in The Prince. Closed now of course, flats for single mothers. It’s years since I even thought about those days. I’d offer you a cup of tea and some cake I made, but my kettle won’t work” Ken jumped down from his cab. He was about at least a foot taller than Doris and more than three feet wider. “You’ve put a bit of weight on” she said, “...mind you I’ve never liked a man with nowt on him, can’t trust them”. “Let me have a look at that” Ken took the kettle and the lead, “…oh Doris, they’ve given you the wrong lead. Hang on…”, Ken climbed back up into his cab, and brought out another lead, “…there and keep it, it’s my spare, now let’s have that cup of tea, what cake was it you made?” “Cut and come again” An hour later Doris, a bit flushed, drew back Vera’s blue daisy patterned curtains and waved at Ken as he started up his truck and rumbled off towards the motorway. She took a deep breath, made sure her hair was tidy and patted down her dress which was very crumpled. ‘Well that was a bit of a surprise, Ken certainly hasn’t lost his touch, I didn’t expect that and it’s not even lunch time yet…’ Doris thought, and made a ham and tomato sandwich before continuing southwards.

17


Tea and Blood

Moss Rose ‘Moss Rose’ Doris thought, ‘that’s nice. Adds a bit of class’. Doris sat in the River View Café in Henley-on-Thames. She’d always wanted to go to Henley, thought it would be a ‘bit posh’ and she wasn’t disappointed. As she was driving through Henley she’d passed the Café, and thought, ‘that’s the place to go’. When she’d seen the prices she was a bit shocked but felt awkward just leaving, so ordered a pot of tea and a scone, with jam and cream, ‘a bit of a treat’ she told herself, ‘it’s not every day is it’, and it had been quite a surprising day already. A well-spoken lady about her own age brought a silver tray of china. ‘Probably just polished steel’ Doris thought as white and delicate pink Royal Albert was set out on a gleaming white table cloth, edged with lace. It was so perfect Doris hardly wanted to spoil the effect. When the lady wasn’t looking she took her Instamatic from her handbag and discreetly took a photograph. She was the only customer on what was a beautiful day. The Thames sparkled and trees bowed towards it. Sometimes a motor boat would amble along with rich looking people lounging on the decks. Then all went rather dark as a large deep blue coach stopped in front of the window. A man in a uniform shirt carrying a clipboard entered the Café, Doris overheard him saying to 18


Doris Stories the lady that he had forty-seven Chinese tourists who wanted afternoon tea. The lady was a bit flummoxed explaining that she was the only one working today and she wasn’t sure if she could sort them out. The man left and stood outside looking up and down the street. Doris took an instant decision and went to the counter. “I overheard what you said to that man and I can help you if you’d like me to, I own a café in Stoke and well, forty-seven customers on a quiet day is far too much to lose”. The lady thought for a second. “Well that would be wonderful, are you sure, it would help so much, I’m Veronica by the way” and she skipped outside and told the man to bring them all in before Doris had had time to introduce herself. For the next ten minutes all was chaos as Doris and Veronica laid out the table cloths, set out china, unfolded spare chairs. Doris then busied herself making a mountain of cucumber and salmon sandwiches, Veronica carefully placed cakes on doily covered stands, and both sweated under the steam of the kettles readying a river of tea. An hour later all was calm, the coach full of satisfied customers eased away towards their next destination. Doris and Veronica filled the dishwasher for the umpteenth time, brushed crumbs from tables, squeezed table cloths into washing bags, swept the floor, cleaned and polished surfaces until all was as it should be. “Cocktail time I think” Veronica said in a satisfied way and from under the counter pulled a half empty bottle of Gordon’s, tonic, slices of lemon and a bucket of ice, then turned the Cafe sign to Closed. “It’s a bit early for me Veronica, but, well I am on holiday so 19


Tea and Blood why not”. “You did a grand job Doris, couldn’t have done it without you” Veronica said clinking her glass against Doris’ and placed £40 in front of her which Doris unobtrusively pushed down her bra. They both took a long drink and Doris felt a lot better for it. “You should see it here during Regatta Week, like that all day, I make enough to cover the rest of the year, all those posh people throw their money around. Perhaps you could come and help out, it would be worth your while”. Doris told her she’d think about it and felt a bit fuzzy from drinking so early and the strength Veronica mixed the drinks. A couple of hours later they were relaxing beside the river, sitting next to Veronica’s boat house. Doris couldn’t imagine living on a boat, but it seemed rather romantic. The evening sun was warm and they were both well into their third or fourth glass, Doris wasn’t sure by now. The smoke from Veronica’s ‘cigarette’ was also making her feel a bit dizzy and she marvelled how well she rolled them using four Rizlas and carefully putting a little tube at the end, very different than the thin ones Tudor rolled to eke out his tobacco. When she was half way through one Veronica offered handing it to her. “I haven’t had a cigarette since I was seventeen” Doris said, “but that smells so good I’ll try one”. She took a lengthy drag and slowly the World seemed a rather different place, ‘smoother; no, sharper; no, happier; maybe dizzier’ Doris thought and couldn’t help laughing but didn’t know what it was she was laughing about. As the evening meandered on she drifted in and out of Veronica’s tales of adventures in India, Morocco, South America, where she told in great detail of a succession of lovers, affairs and dalliances and soon Doris lost count of how many Veronica 20


Doris Stories had had; and how many drinks and fat cigarettes she’d had. Veronica’s life had been so different to hers, but with all her adventures Veronica seemed lonely, and her incessant chatter reminded her of some of the old ladies who came to the café, just so they could hear another voice in their silent lives. Doris woke with a start, quite chilled and realised it was very late. A few well lit motorboats plied up and down the river with the clink of glasses and soft music coming from them, and people straddled across each other on the decks. There was one light on in Veronica’s boathouse and it looked cosy, she thought she could stay there forever, but knew she must get on and walked back to Vera. Doris folded the bed out and dreamt of crossing a desert in a huge green truck…

21


Tea and Blood

The Blue Dress “Oh no!” Doris exclaimed as Vera stuttered to a halt. She looked at the fuel gauge. There was plenty of petrol; the oil light wasn’t on; the temperature showed normal. Doris turned the key, but Vera just spluttered and died. She got out and was struck how utterly silent it was. Doris had taken a quiet lane across the Downs that had shown very feint on her map. To her left she could see the aquamarine sparkle of the sea in the distance and surrounding her were the rolling Downs which shone in the afternoon sunlight. There wasn’t a house to be seen and she couldn’t remember seeing anywhere for the last few miles. She went to the rear of Vera and lifted the engine cover. There was no smoke, all looked quite normal, however Doris had no idea about engines, Tudor used to do all that sort of thing. She could strip down an oven or dishwasher and get it working, but engines were beyond her skills. She wondered whether to walk and find a house to ring the AA, but decided as it was such a beautiful day, she’d make some tea, sit and read in this beautiful spot and just to wait for someone to come along. Doris was deep into These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer, when she realised that standing over her was a man on a bay horse. When she looked up he tipped his riding hat. “Good afternoon” he said in a rich rounded voice, “I see you 22


Doris Stories are having some problems”. Doris thought he looked just like a young Roger Moore, and felt a bit of a flutter travel through her. “Yes, Vera just stopped. I’m not in your way am I?” “Oh no, this is all our land, you’re very welcome, it’s nice to see someone up here” he jumped down from the bay with the ease of an expert. “I’m Hugh – Hugh Avon” “I’m Doris”, and they shook hands. “I must say that looks delicious cake”. “It’s only cut and come again… would you like a slice and a cup of tea?” “I’d love some, but first I’ll have a look in the back of your VW, see if I can fix it”. Hugh took off his tweed jacket and handed it to Doris who could feel the quality of the fabric and lining. She noticed his shiny brown leather riding boots and the way his gleaming white shirt showed off fine rippling muscles, and for just a moment wished she were thirty years younger, then told herself not to be silly. After a few minutes he emerged, splashes of oil on his shirt and hands. “Well I can see what it is, I can fix it enough for you to get to the Hall just the other side of that hill, and my man can fix it.” “Oh that is so kind of you” and Doris handed Hugh some kitchen roll and hand cleaner, then when he’d cleaned up, cake and a cup of tea. “Perhaps you would like to stay, have dinner with us, some friends are coming, I’m sure my sister would love to meet you, it gets awfully quiet here” 23


Tea and Blood “Well that is kind of you as long as it’s no trouble” “Of course not!” Hugh dashingly leapt onto the horse, “I’ll ride on and let Burke know so he can get his tools ready” then swept off over the fields. Doris wasn’t quite sure what to think, except for wondering whether they dressed for dinner, and she had the perfect petrol blue evening dress which she’d brought just in case something like this occurred. Just as Hugh had told her the Hall was over the next hill. A tree lined drive led to a sweep of gravel outside an impressive portico and tower. A man in grey overalls lumbered towards her, she guessed that must be Burke. As she got out of Vera, Burke said “Miss Jessica is expecting you in the Conservatory. I’ll make sure your bags are taken to your room…”, then got into Vera and drove the camper van away. Doris entered a broad high entrance hall, there were large paintings of ancestors in ornate gold frames; a staircase swept upwards lit by a magnificent Japanese inspired stained glass window depicting Fukurokuju, with his book, crane, turtle and deer. “Is that you Doris? I’m in the Conservatory” a disembodied woman’s voice called from one of the open doors to Doris’ right. She followed the sound through a dark wood panelled room toward a blindingly bright doorway which led into a Conservatory overlooking a picture perfect view of garden and hills. “Hugh said you’d be coming. He’s had to go and deal with some estate business, but he’ll be back in time for dinner. Please come and join me”. 24


Doris Stories Jessica was sitting on a well cushioned white wicker chair in a shaded area, a wheeled table was set out with a gleaming white tea set and a bottle of wine sat in an ice bucket. Jessica had a half-finished glass of white wine in front of her and poured one for Doris. “This is a beautiful house and what a lovely garden. Are you sure it’s convenient for me to stay, after all we’ve never met…” “Of course Doris. We love meeting new people, old friends are coming over tonight for dinner, you’ll be most welcome. Hugh said what wonderful cake you make, you’ll have to give cook the recipe… and I must warn you Doris we like to dress for dinner when friends come, sort of adds to the fun!” Perfect Doris thought. They chatted about the garden and Doris’s journey and after a couple of glasses of wine and some rather lovely canapés, (that’s what Doris thought they were called) Jessica showed Doris to her room, where her overnight bag and evening dress had been placed on the bed, by who she wasn’t sure. Her room was in the tower, the window overlooking the downs which were becoming olive green and pink in the early evening golden light. There were some watercolours of the Hall hanging on the rose patterned walls and a wonderful dressing table. The bed looked deliciously comfortable and Doris went off to sleep almost as soon as she tried it out. A clock ringing out the hours woke Doris, and she hurried to the en-suite bathroom to prepare herself. As she descended the stairs she could hear voices coming from an open door. “Ah, our guest of honour!” Hugh said as she entered and handed her a cocktail. “Oh what a beautiful dress, I adore the colour” Jessica said. Doris wasn’t sure whether to tell her she’d bought it at Iris’ Cats in Need for £2 and decided not to. Jessica introduced her to 25


Tea and Blood their friends, Doctor and Mrs. Camberley. Hugh looked magnificent in his dinner jacket, and Doris felt a little quiver inside again; Doris thought Dr Camberley looked like the turtle in the stained glass. Jessica’s evening dress was deep red shot silk and Mrs Camberley’s a quite stunning green damask that Doris felt would probably look better as curtains. They made her feel most welcome. The Conservatory had been set up with a dining table which was laid with silver, candles and flowers. “I thought we’d eat out here for a change” Jessica said, “as it is such a beautiful evening”. There were a wide range of knives and forks and Doris was pleased she’d watched Downton Abbey so knew which was for which course. Six courses were served and as Doris ate and drank each seemed to outdo the former. She told stories of her customers which had Hugh and the others in gales of laughter, Dr Camberley told stories of patients who had some very strange illnesses. The evening ended with a stroll around the garden and they took coffee in an Oriental pergola next to a large subtly lit pool where orange and white carp glinted like diamonds. “It’s so quiet here” Doris said to Hugh, “it’s like there’s no-one else in the World”. When she returned to her room Doris carefully hung up her dress then sunk onto the bed and fell into a deep sleep. She woke to a bright morning. A silver tray set out with morning tea was on the dressing table, which she drank sitting at the window marvelling at the clean sharp colours of the Downs. Then went down for breakfast. 26


Doris Stories As she entered the dining room a butler told her that Lord Avon and Miss Jessica had had to go to Town early, but she was welcome to stay until they returned. Doris had never met a butler before and wasn’t quite sure how to address him. “Thank you” she said, “but I must get on, I have a friend to meet and I am already a day or two late”. Breakfast was set out in silver serving dishes, and as she ate she thought she must get the recipe for the bubble and squeak for her café. After lingering over everything that was on offer, Doris reluctantly gathered her things and put them in Vera, which had been cleaned and polished, never looking so good. The engine purred into life with a smoothness that surprised her. She was sorry not to have been able to say goodbye to Jessica and Hugh, but had written a note and left it in the hallway, inviting them to visit her in Stoke. She drove away, thrilled with her time at the Hall, then just over the hill she realised she’d left her dress behind. “Oh no” she cried out loud, turned Vera round and drove back towards the Hall. On the long tree lined driveway she stopped. In front of her was an ivy clad ruin; instead of the tall tower she had slept in there was a broken down wall, the window where she’d sat having morning tea was a roost for three rooks who cawed at her; the elegant conservatory where they’d eaten dinner was a few green stained columns entwined with weeds and rotten wooden frames with splinters of glass; the pergola rusting and overgrown; the pool dried up. When she got to the entrance hall she found her petrol blue evening dress lying on the moss covered steps, and as Doris picked it up she noticed the sound of the breeze whispering in her ear, sheep on the hills bleating and birds singing. 27


Tea and Blood

All Dressed Up… Doris shivered in the early morning mist and took in a big breath of sea air which felt good as waves broke against pebbles. “Oh what’s that?” she said out loud to no-one but the seagulls searching for titbits in the carpark. A yellow envelope was tucked under one of Vera’s windscreen wipers. It was an invitation to Ron and Ronnette’s wedding. The previous day Doris had met them on the Undercliff Walk in Rottingdean. Doris had taken a picnic basket and was sitting enjoying the afternoon sun whilst having a flask of tea and some coconut cake. Ron and Ronnette stopped to say hello and soon they were talking about almost everything possible it was possible to talk about. It felt to Doris she had known them all her life not just a few hours, and had later spent a lovely evening with them at their bungalow. During the evening they had mentioned rather excitedly that after being together for nearly thirty years they had decided to get married and it would be a very special ceremony. “Well, that is nice of them” Doris said, and wondered what she should wear as it was happening the next day. She looked at her map and found that the wedding would take place at a country park, which seemed a bit odd to her, but then life was very different around Brighton, people seemed freer, but not always quite as friendly as in Stoke. 28


Doris Stories Doris decided to give herself a treat and buy a ‘new’ dress and some shoes, “Oh, and I’ll need a hat” she said to herself feeling quite excited and Brighton was just the place to find what she wanted. After some agonising decision making and what felt many hours walking up and down the Lanes, Doris had chosen a yellow polka dot jewel necked dress with full pleated skirt, she thought it looked just like something from an Audrey Hepburn film and was amazed how well it fitted. She’d found a wonderful pair of Charles Jordan kitten heels, which looked hardly worn and would go with so many things, a bit pricey but top quality. She’d decided on a simple white wide brim straw hat and bought some matching yellow ribbon and small silk roses to dress it up with. It had been a long day and Doris treated herself to a coffee and tarte aux frambroises at Patisserie Valerie, which was rather rich and gorgeous. By the time she parked Vera up for the night she was quite worn out and soon slept deeply. The next morning was clear and warm, the sea was flat and still in the morning sun, seagulls drifting lazily over the surface. After breakfast she drove to a quiet spot near the country park and got changed and ready for the day. Doris felt a bit nervous as she wouldn’t know anyone but it was an adventure and she loved her new dress which she kept telling herself was ‘just about perfect’. At the entrance an official in a reflective jacket pointed her to a car park, where about twenty cars were parked and she wondered if she was late as no-one else was around. There were some signs pointing along a path through a wood indicating where the wedding was. Looking at the state of the pathway Doris thought she may not be appropriately dressed. Soon there was a hum of happiness filtering through the trees. Then as she reached the ceremony Doris stopped dead still. 29


Tea and Blood “Oh dear” she couldn’t help saying out loud, and flushed. “Well I never did”. Ron and Ronnette turned towards her and looked very pleased to see her, and all the rest of the guests turned around to see the new arrival. Ron bounced towards her. “So happy you could come Doris, so pleased, it’s so lovely to see you!” Doris wasn’t quite sure where it was appropriate to look, as among all the congregation she was the only one wearing any clothes. For a second she wondered if it was some sort of reverse dream. But no, Ron put his arm round her as he pecked her on the cheek, and she felt Ron’s ‘parts’ rub against her dress. Ronnette skipped over to Doris and hugged her. “Oh it’s lovely to see you Doris, what a beautiful dress! Are you going to join us?” Ronnette asked, and gestured to a wooden hut, “…we change in there. It’s so freeing to feel the fresh air, so stimulating becoming as one with nature”. ‘What does one do?’ Doris thought. For a few seconds Doris couldn’t speak, she looked around, some guests had jewellery on, some had hats, and there was what she took to be a vicar with just his dog-collar on; most seemed well over fifty and no-one seemed concerned, in fact they all looked highly contented. “…I didn’t expect” Doris stumbled out. “We thought you’d seen the photographs on the sideboard when you visited. I hope you are not embarrassed, after all we are all the same underneath…” Ron said. ‘Hey-ho’ Doris said to herself, ‘if you never try something then you never know’. 30


Doris Stories “Yes, of course” she said, “it was just a bit of a surprise”. Doris went to the hut and carefully hung up her dress brushing off a few pine needles. She took a deep breath and joined the celebrations, making sure she kept her hat on.

31


Tea and Blood

The Final Firing Noeux-les-Mines, December 19th 1944 “He’s a Brit Sir… Sir he’s a soddin’ Brit… not a Frog Sir!” Second Lieutenant Walker couldn’t hear above the rumble of engines from the endless column of tanks and trucks that had halted at the sound of gunfire. He ran across the ploughed up narrow field to small a graveyard. “What did you say Baines?” “Look Sir he’s a Brit!” Sergeant Baines held up a tattered red leather dog tag for the Lieutenant to see. “Sure it’s not just a souvenir Baines, that’s from the Great War. He doesn’t look like a Brit? And anyway what’s a Brit doing here?” “Looks like he was brushing leaves Sir”. A yard-brush untouched by the explosion lay beside a mangled body alongside the blood splattered high white and grey stone wall; leaves were still floating down in the breeze. The remains of his clothes were bloodied and scorched but clearly the blue grey clothes of a French workman. Walker looked around at the grey/white gravestones collapsed like a deck of cards, some broken. 32


The Final Firing “Damn Baines, damn. You know what this is don’t you?” “A graveyard Sir?” “A bloody war grave cemetery Baines… a bloody war cemetery”. “Bit small isn’t it?” There were twenty nine stones, not like the massive cemeteries they had passed the day before. Walker knelt down on his haunches and read aloud from one of the unbroken stones. “Private Harold Arthur Potter died in action 17th October 1916 age 21”. Baines read out another. “Private Stanley Turner died in action 17th October 1916 age 20”. The North Staffordshire Regiment emblem, the Staffordshire Knot, was carved on each stone. They turned over a couple of other stones, some were smashed beyond recognition. Walker read some others, but to himself. “Looks like they all died on the same day Sergeant, all the same regiment”. “Yes Sir... The lads… they’re a bit knackered… can we brew up, there’s a shed over there, probably got water?” “All right, but don’t be long we’re behind schedule already. Major’s not going to like this, he said specifically to be careful of the war graves. What the hell was Thompson doing firing at that burned out tank?” “Said he saw it move Sir”. Walker looked at the rusting remains of the German tank. “Move! That thing hasn’t moved since ’40! There isn’t a 33


Tea and Blood bloody Jerry for two hundred miles!” “Only dead ones”. “Thompson missed anyway, bloody good job it wasn’t Jerry or we’d have all been joining these lads here”. “Bloody Thompson eh, typical” Baines laughed, “couldn’t hit a piss pot in a bog!” Baines started towards the shed. “Sergeant!” Baines stopped and turned to the Lieutenant. “Radio Battalion and tell them that we’ll clean up, get the squad moving and make sure there’s no boobies in that shed. No more fuck ups Sergeant! Make me a brew while you’re at it”. “Yes Sir! No more fuck ups”. Baines chuckled to himself, murmuring ‘bastard officers’, as he trudged towards the knot of men hanging about the graveyard looking bored. The level of engine noise rose to an even greater level as the endless column began to move again slowly eastwards. Fed up squaddies not asleep in the back of trucks glanced at the mess Thompson had made. Walker crouched beside the body again and looked closely at the dog tag. Sergeant 445088 Machin it read. He could see that the torn and blooded jacket had something in an inside pocket. He pulled out dog-eared half burnt papers and a French identity card. He was a Brit alright but with French papers, Edward Albert Machin. Walker knew that meant more paperwork, took a deep breath and exhaled, this was all he needed. 34


The Final Firing Machin had a local address which was hard to read through the blood stains. One page was covered in fading German rubber stamps. His schoolboy French could just about understand Gardien, a gardener or caretaker, he wasn’t sure. The man looked about fifty, though with half his face was missing it was hard to tell. “Sir! Come over here sir and look at this!” “What is it Baines?” Walker said resignedly and clambered over the collapsed gravestones towards a group of soldiers lounging around a stone shed built into the cemetery wall. “Looks like he lived here” said Baines holding up a kettle and teapot Walker entered a warm dimly lit shed which was about ten foot square, a small window was covered in hessian. There was an old army camp bed, wooden chair, small table with a chipped white enamel top, white sink and a tap, some basic pottery, bread waiting on a well used cutting board, potatoes in a basket, cheese under a new looking mesh frame. In the corner was a black stove which was lit and giving out considerable heat, two of the squaddies stood next to it warming their hands. On the wall was a faded hand written list of twenty-nine names, a tick by each one and next to each name a plot number and address in England. Walker studied it then put it in his pocket. Baines opened a cupboard built into the wall. “Good God” Walker joined him. “Bloody hell!” Hanging up was a uniform from the Great War. Brass Staffordshire Knots on the epaulettes, three stripes on each 35


Tea and Blood arm. The buttons were polished but beginning to tarnish. A Lee-Enfield rifle leaning up at the back of the cupboard, cleaned and ready for use. Bursley Vale Pottery, October 16th 1914 In the open square in the middle of the pot bank Mr Longshaw stood self importantly on a pile of wooden packing cases, straw bursting from the seams, his ‘Napoleon look’ the lads called it. “Well lads I’m proud of yer. I wish I were comin’ with yer but I’m too owd now and anyroad someone has to keep this place runnin, what with all them orders from the army, don’t know what they want so much hospital equipment for, but it’ll keep things going ’til yer all get back. Yer jobs are open, yer know that, and next year I promise when you’re all back from France, I’ll pay for a day trip to Llandudno for you. Yer families can come half price. Aye…”. There was a muffled cheer from thirty young men. Other white aproned workers stood around the yard or looked out from open dirty windows. “Aye… as I were saying your jobs are kept open. I tried to go to South Africa beat those bastard Boers, but they said I were too short”. There was another cheer and a loud laugh from the lads. “I know some of yer are a bit young to be joinin up, but I had a word down the barracks and assured ’em you’re all over eighteen and keen as mustard!” There was another approving cheer. “Aye lads and I arranged that you’d all be together, so you 36


The Final Firing can do Bursley Vale Pottery and Bursley proud, show those Prussians what for eh! You’ll be eating off Kaiser Bill’s plates in Berlin this Christmas, bring us one back and we’ll copy it for a victory souvenir eh!” The lads laughed and some threw their caps in the air. “Aye and if you happen end up in Meissen, bring us a few of those pretty figurines eh! Anyroad, you all march off tomorra’ afternoon, so just come in the morning do half a day, then finish at twelve, gives plenty of time say goodbye. I’ll make sure your families get your wages. I’m that proud of you, no other potbank in Bursley’s sent so many! So lets sing together God Save the King!” The lads and the rest of the workers stood and joined together roaring out the anthem, then cheered until they were hoarse. When they were finished the foreman, Albert Machin stood up on some packing cases. “Lads, I propose three cheers for Mr Longshaw” then he turned to his boss, “and I’ll keep ’em safe, look after ’em for yer Mr Longshaw, I’ll bring ’em all back home”. “Hip Hip Hooray” they all shouted, caps flew into the air falling to the ground like autumn leaves.

37


Tea and Blood

Toby Jug “I’ve sorted it Sarge, Mr Turner’s a bit odd but harmless. Appears he was burning an old sofa and some rubbish in his back garden, still smells a bit, doesn’t help with that pig farm behind… I advised him to get the council to take stuff away, don’t think there’ll be another problem. I’ll go to the Callaghan’s in the morning and have a word, tell them it’s sorted… OK, I’ll call in after I look into that broken window, probably just kids…” PC Peter Sutherland switched off his radio and began to walk away from Jim Turner’s house, he liked foot patrol, it felt like real policing. He hesitated; something was bothering him which made no sense. He decided not to radio in as he knew they’d take the piss out of him at the station when he got back if he did. It was that face - it seemed so familiar. Jim Turner’s home was a bit worn out, like the man. In his front room was a wall of shelves displaying toby jugs, thirty five Jim had said proudly. Peter hadn’t clue what a toby jug was and they looked ugly, he wasn’t from the Potteries and couldn’t understand why so many of the houses he went in were full of figures and flowery china often worth a small fortune. These were different, odd, like Jim Turner. Peter had only been in the dimly lit room a few seconds before Jim had shown him through a greasy kitchen to the garden and his burnt out rubbish, so maybe it was just a trick of the light. 38


Toby Jug Peter knocked on Jim’s door. “Can I help you again officer?” Jim said as he opened the door. “Sorry to bother you Mr Turner, it may seem an odd request, but could I see your toby jug collection again?” “Of course, of course, only too pleased, no one ever seems interested nowadays.” Peter followed Jim into the front room and stood before the jugs. “Can I have a look at this one Mr Turner?” Peter said picking up one of the jugs. Then it came to him, it looked just like that poster on the Missing Persons board. Peter felt a cold sharp jab, then another, which turned into an excruciating pain; wet heat against his skin. He looked down and there was a pool of deep red black blood forming, he looked round at Jim who was blurred; he felt faint; all he could see were black and red spots. Peter moved his hand towards his radio. “I don’t think so officer” Jim said gently and took the radio off him. “I better take this as well, don’t want to damage it do we”, carefully removing the toby jug from of his hand and placing it back on the shelf. Jim helped Peter to the floor, “… there that’s better, you’ll be much more comfortable officer”. Jim then slit some arteries; Peter jerked then lay still. There was a lot of blood, Jim hadn’t had time to plan this one and was a bit annoyed with all the cleaning he’d have to do. But important work had to be done first. He went to the cellar and collected what was needed. Working quickly, but expertly, he covered Peter’s face with Vaseline; stuffed tissue up the nostrils; mixed up casting plaster; then 39


Tea and Blood with a spatula he worked around the face and carefully built up layers of plaster until it was about a quarter inch thick. While it was drying Jim made a pot of tea, sat at his front room table and planned the process as he dunked a rich tea finger biscuit. He’d never made one of a policeman, the only uniformed jugs were of a fellow National Serviceman, who’d stolen his girl in Singapore, and that Sergeant who’d made him clean out the jungle camp latrines for a week in Malaya. They were numbers six and eight. Both sat on the bottom shelf, the stolen girl, number seven between them. On the shelf above them was his only real ‘star’, Lord Lucan. Jim was pleased with how he’s got the moustache just right. Lucan never paid him for some work he’d done sorting out the nanny, so he’d got what he deserved. He jolted himself out of these musings; the cast would be ready now. The blood on the floor had begun to coagulate and was sticky under Jim’s feet as he carefully lifted the cast away from the hardening face. It came off cleanly. Perfect he thought and carried it to the cellar to harden off in his rapid dryer. Next he needed to deal with the body. He knew it would probably be easiest to cut it up where it lay, so he took up some thick plastic sheeting, bowls for draining blood, an air sealable bin for the stomach and bowels, and his flaying and butchering tools. Hips were always a problem, thick bone, as his house was detached no neighbours would hear the electric saw, but on second thought, this late at night sound may travel, he decided to do most of the work by hand. As he sawed off the head it dropped with a thud, and some brain splattered onto his face, the smell was getting very strong so Jim put a mask on. He liked to use the skull and hands to grind down for the bone ash, they seemed most apt, though 40


Toby Jug skulls did take quite a long time to turn to ash. The constable was quite a big man and there was quite a lot of muscle to cut away, his young skin came off quite easily and the butchering saws made light work of the joints. Even though Jim was in his 70’s he was still strong and very fit, so the work though tiring was within his capability. He had the nagging thought that sometime soon other police would come looking for the constable, he knew he had radioed in. But as he watched him walking away Jim had noted the hesitation and that he hadn’t used the radio as he returned toward the house. So perhaps he had some time. The worst thing was the pervading smell. By 3am Jim had scooped out the eyes, tongue and brain and got the bones he wanted. They would need boiling to remove the ‘meat’ he hadn’t been able to. The rest of the constable filled quite a number of thick plastic rubbish bags. The bin was very full and would need careful handling. The blood on the floor was now the biggest problem. He realised the only way was to rip up the carpet and replace it with some vinyl he’d bought for the cellar. He was tired now, but knew this was imperative before anyone came with questions. It took Jim until nearly 6am and it was getting light outside, the flooring looked a bit odd but they would have to lift it to find any bloodstains and if it came to that it wouldn’t matter anyway. Jim was not sure if there was a strong smell, as he had become accustomed to it, so opened all the windows which may look a bit odd if anyone passed by; he’d brewed coffee, burnt some toast, rubbed as many surfaces as he could with polish. The pig farm behind Jim’s was free-range, so he knew he was able to feed most of the body parts to them, that would have to be done over a couple of nights, the rest would have to be 41


Tea and Blood burnt, which may cause a little difficulty as the neighbours at the end of his road. The Callaghans with their noisy children, had made the complaint, so Jim knew that PC Sutherland’s death was their fault. He was worn out, Jim had to sleep. When he woke it was the middle of the afternoon, he found a business card pushed through from the police, requesting him to contact them. Get it over he thought. Jim rang and spoke to a sergeant who asked if PC Sutherland had visited the evening before, Jim confirmed that he had and said he’d left at about 9pm, he remembered the time because he’d missed the end of Great British Bake Off, and no, he hadn’t seen PC Sutherland after that. The sergeant thanked him and that was it. Though Jim thought it probably wasn’t the end of the questions, so he’d need to work quickly. First he fired up the kiln, it needed to be at its hottest to turn the bones into dry ash to grind into powder. Whilst the kiln was heating up Jim made a positive from the cast of the face with slip and left it to dry. He prepared the clay making sure there were no air pockets. It was a satisfying process of folding, slamming and kneading. It was beginning to get dark again. The body parts couldn’t be burnt as the smell would give him away, so he made sure as much flesh and muscle was removed. He climbed over the rear fence into the pig farm, there was a little movement as he spread some of the ‘meat’, then the ‘word’ seemed to spread and most of the herd was chewing the remains of PC Sutherland. But what to do with the barrel full of intestines, he knew the pigs would eat them, but he also knew the smell would linger and the farmer could get suspicious. The barrel was well sealed, but it had to be got rid of soon, that Jim decided was for another day. The remaining bones could be buried deep, so maybe another concrete path was needed in the garden. 42


Toby Jug When the bones were ash they were left to cool. By midnight Jim was grinding them in a pestle and mortar. They needed to be a fine powder and when ready he mixed it with the clay, again making sure no air pockets were created; these ‘toby jugs’ were one offs and he didn’t want any explosions in the kiln. He was an experienced craftsman, 30 years in the pottery industry until they closed down the factory; he always liked to stick a finger up at Toby Jug number 24, that American guy who’d bought the company and moved production to Taiwan, but never got to enjoy the profits. To create the jugs Jim had made a standard mould, to which he could fix the death mask, then add other decorative features to fit the character. On PC Sutherland, he added a police helmet and a bent truncheon for the handle. He was able through a bit of modelling to make the face come ‘alive’. When he had finished he realised it was getting light again, and like the day before he needed sleep. The Jug needed to dry out anyway before firing. Jim didn’t get much sleep and was mixing glazes while the Jug was biscuit firing. By mid afternoon it was ready to paint. This was the part he liked best. PC Sutherland had a bland face, so he increased the colour of the cheeks and gave him sparkling green eyes. He’d been able to create a smile on the death mask, it looked a bit sinister, but worked quite well he thought. It was dark again by the time he left it to dry for the final firing. Jim was still concerned what to do with the entrails and decided there was no choice but just go for it and burn them. Not easy, but he had plenty of dry wood, maybe have a barbecue at the same time and blame any smell on the sausages, after all he thought they were the same thing really. He got a fire going and the soon the guts were bubbling away and being consumed by the fire. The smell wasn’t so good, but the wind was blowing the opposite way from the Callaghan’s house. 43


Tea and Blood The finished Toby Jug was sitting on the top shelf, number thirty-six. Jim sat in his armchair drinking tea admiring his work, he thought that maybe to complete his collection, a family group of descending sized jugs would look good, make it a nice round forty. Maybe, he thought, go and visit the Callaghans later, while he was in the mood.

44


Mongo

Mongo ‘You are looking right at me, you can’t see me. Twenty meters, adjust the sight, and…’ “Zut! Go get him Mongo, go get him!” Arthur shouted. Mongo leapt across the mud and in no time was shaking a large brown rat clamped in his jaws. He looked back at Arthur his tail wagging fast, blood spattering his muddied white coat. “Good lad, good lad… come here, bring to Arthur…” Mongo cautiously made his way through the sucking mud and dropped the bedraggled rat beside the blood oozing sack. “Good lad Mongo, twenty one, good work, good work…” Arthur gave him a morsel of sausage from his pocket. Arthur lifted his head warily above the shell-hole, he knew he was close to the German lines and scanned the land for more rats. ‘I’m going to have to go right into and through that hole and up the other side’ he thought and dived down flat as he heard a whoosh. ‘Christ that was close!’ “Le crapouillot - missed me you bastard poilu!” he bellowed as he turned towards his own line, “can’t you see I’m one of yours?” He heard laughing and someone shouted “Thought you 45


Tea and Blood needed a haircut Arthur!”. Arthur settled back on the edge of the shell-hole. ‘Don’t want that Boche sniper to see me, must have heard me; let me off the other day, don’t think he’ll miss again’. Another rat ran across the edge of the next shell hole, it stopped sniffed the air and looked around, disappeared behind a mound of earth. Arthur put his gun to his shoulder. ‘Now where have you gone my little fella. There you are, nice juicy pickings eh. Just stay there and...’ the Lebel jammed. “Zut” he muttered, “Mongo!” he shouted “Mongo! Get there boy, over there” he pointed out into no-man’s land, Mongo ran off, but the rat had gone. He took a rag out of his pocket and cleaned the gun as best he could. Arthur’s foot sank into the mud and a bit of khaki uniformed arm emerged. “Yuchh, how long have you been there Tommy, you stink” ‘There’ve been no Tommies down here for months, forgot you did they’ he scraped some mud away from remains, three fancy brass buttons on an epaulette glinted in the late afternoon light. ‘A sardine as well’, he felt down into the mud as there may be a leather belt or some good boots but all he found was rotting flesh and guts. “Zut!” Arthur pulled his hand out wiping it on the sack. Then his eye was taken again by more rats. “Ah there you are and with two friends, right in my sight”. Arthur took aim at the group of big brown rats feeding on body remains. It fired. “Got you…” then the gun jammed again, “he’s a big one. 46


Mongo Mongo get the others!” Mongo scampered off again disappearing over the top. ‘Sounds like a Woof coming…’ Arthur dived down into the hole, he sat up wiping his face of rotting flesh blown onto him by the force of the explosion. The Woof had landed about twenty five meters away from him loosening mud, limbs, putrid innards, bits of uniform and smashed equipment from Germans, French and British. He crawled through the soup of human remains and grey black mud, until he could see the land around. “Mongo! You alive Mongo?” Mongo appeared again dropping another rat at his feet. Arthur gave him more sausage. “Do I take him Sergeant?” Sniper Koestler asked, “look it’s the rat-man again” “What’s he doing?” “Putting his kills in a sack”. “Doing us a favour then, where is he?” Sergeant Fallensteller took a pair of field glasses off Koestler and watched Arthur at work in the middle of no-man’s land. Arthur was cleaning his gun and Fallensteller could see him swearing at it and laughed, sharing in his experience and annoyance. He dived to the floor of the trench as a feldhase wooshed over their position landing just behind them. “Close one lads” he said brushing dust and mud off his uniform and returned to the tiny slit of light. “Let his dog get that huge fella, then tickle him up a bit, don’t want him too close; try to capture the dog, we could do with him in here. Best ratter I’ve ever seen. If you kill him that dog will scarper back 47


Tea and Blood home. Go get a bone off the cook’s wagon, entice him to change sides”. The metallic thud of a high velocity bullet against an old amunition box made Arthur dive behind what was left of a tree. His sack of dead rats was a couple of meters to his left and as he tried to hook it onto his Lebel, his arm wrenched backwards as another bullet crashed into the rifle almost breaking it in two. He crossed himself quickly, burrowing himself into the tree stump and rubbing his sore shoulder as another bullet slammed into the charred remains above him, showering him with splinters. He looked around for Mongo, no sign. “Damn dog – Mongo!” ‘Sending me out here, bit of a joke was it? Arthur’s not a real soldier I’ve heard them say it, give him a bit of action eh, bet that’s what you all said you bastards. Wait til’ those big fat fellas are eating your frost bitten balls as you sleep, then you’ll want me and Mongo! That Boche he’s got my number any time he wants, what’s he up to?’ A huge mud covered rat was just a meter away sniffing at the blood oozing sack. Arthur took hold of what was left of his rifle and slammed it on the rat’s head as another bullet ripped remains of the gun apart; Arthur leapt back behind the stump. “Mongo!” he shouted. It began to rain heavily creating a foggy haze, Arthur pulled the sack towards him and at first inched himself on hands and knees towards a shell hole, then ran as hard as he could and leapt over the edge to safety. “Mongo!” he shouted again when he was settled. “Can hardly see in this rain” Koestler said, wiping the site on his rifle. 48


Mongo Sergeant Fallensteller looked out and saw Mongo, he was only a few meters from their trench. “Give me that bone” he said to the sniper, and he held it up over the lip of the trench. “Ulrich!” he said, “come here boy, come on Ulrich, come on boy, come on”. Mongo’s head peaked over the brink sniffing the air. “Here boy, good boy, good dog Ulrich”. Mongo looked at him quizzically. Sergeant Fallensteller held out the bone. “There’s more meat on that than we get in the soup” Koestler said. “Good boy, come on... look at this... good boy...” Mongo was almost in the trench, Sergeant Fallensteller leapt towards Mongo to capture him, the bone flew in the air, Mongo caught it, spun round and ran as fast as a greyhound across noman’s land towards Arthur. Sergeant Fallensteller took Koestler’s gun, aimed at Mongo, the bullet whacked off the top of his tail, but Mongo’s teeth were clamped like a vice on the juicy bone, there was no way he’d yelp and lose that. “Verdammt nochmal!” the Sergeant muttered. Arthur heard the shot as suddenly Mongo landed on top of him the bone clanging onto his helmet. “Has he got you lad?” Arthur said as he rubbed Mongo’s bleeding tail, “where’d you get that bone eh? Trying to make you to join the enemy? Ha ha, well you’re a real poilou aren’t you, eh lad, now let’s get back to our line and get that tail sorted”. 49


Tea and Blood

Christmas Card Kevin was woken by persistent beeping. “Damn” he said as he checked the electric meter. He pushed the green plastic key in. “…there should be plenty” he mumbled, but it appeared the credit hadn’t gone on. He found the receipt soaked with tea at the bottom of the bin, it told him he’d put £30 on the key the previous day, Christmas Eve. He pressed the Emergency, all but 1p had already automatically been used during the night. “Damn!” he said again as the room went dark. Opening the curtains the room flooded with orange street light. Kevin rang Customer Services a message wished him season’s greetings and told him they were closed until the 27th. He rang Emergency and was told there was nothing they could do as he wasn’t registered as a person at risk. He thought the only place that may be open would be Rupyal’s, they didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was drizzling but mild for the mile and a half walk, many homes had lights on as children woke early to open presents. They usually opened at 5am, but today a notice said they wouldn’t open until 10am. Three hours away. As Kevin turned towards home the rain changed into an icy blizzard of snow which surprised him, it hadn’t been mentioned 50


Christmas Card in the weather forecast. The street lights were transformed from orange into an odd pale creamy yellow, morning hadn’t broken and it felt much darker. He choked as he breathed in what smelt and tasted like a bonfire. The snow was thickening and getting slippery under foot, Kevin pulled his jacket in. A clanking and crackling was approaching behind him. He looked around and there was a single round light pushing through the storm. The noise stopped beside him and a tram pulled up. A man in grey coat and peaked cap leant out from the back. “D’you need a ride mate?” he called out. “You going up High Street?” Kevin said without thinking. “Of course”. Kevin jumped on. The tram was empty, it smelt of stale tobacco and sweat and was cold, but dry. A sign told him ‘no spitting’. The conductor came to him. “Sorry” Kevin said taking a five pound note out, “I’ve got no change on me”. The conductor smiled. “I conna’ change that, dunna take that much in a day, but dunna worry duck, it’s Christmas, no Inspector’s today” he said and winked. As he put it back in his pocket Kevin noticed that the five pound note felt much bigger than usual, perhaps his cold hands he thought. The tram rattled along, it didn’t stop. Kevin wiped clear a patch on the steamed up window to look out. The streets were much darker than usual but the snow was relenting. He recognised the church in the gloom, he couldn’t see the war memorial which 51


Tea and Blood was his usual place to stand up and get ready for his bus stop. As he stood the conductor pulled at a wire which ran along the ceiling. A bell rang in the drivers’ compartment. The clattering slowed down and the tram stopped. “Is this a special for Christmas feels like the real thing” Kevin asked the conductor as he was getting off. “No, we run everyday, usually packed at this time for the pot banks” he replied looking at him oddly. The tram grumbled off up the hill. As Kevin turned towards his flat the snow stopped and it felt much milder. He looked back up High Street, there was no sign of the tram or snow. Orange streetlight glare competed with a pale lightening in the sky. When he got in he tried the electric key in the meter, the power immediately kicked in, the tree lit up, the television flickered into life and the central heating pump hummed into life. Kevin was making a pot of coffee when he heard an envelope drop through the door. It was a Christmas card. “Odd” he said when he’d opened it, “…how very odd”. It was a picture of a tram in the snow dated 1908 travelling through Turnhurst, inside it was unsigned.

52


Working

Working Gail emptied the Panda Pops bottle down the brown stained sink. She washed it out, smelt it, and washed it again. She’d only been able to get cherry pop at that time of night. When it smelt of nothing, she half-filled it with water then pushed her fag against the curved ‘shoulder’ and made a hole. Her fag now tasted of plastic and she spat into the sink. PakiJaki and Leanne were waiting for her sitting round a square coffee table, one leg was wonky and pushed against a wall. “Sorted?” Leanne asked. “Yeah, you got any foil Jaki?” Jaki ripped a two inch square off and gave it Gail, who pushed it hard onto the bottle opening, she took a needle out of her purse and stabbed a series of holes in the foil. “What you do with that ash, told you save it?” “Used it on the last pipe, here have this” Jaki dragged hard on her fag and passed it to Gail, who carefully dabbed the ash into an ashtray. She looked at her sternly. “You better not have been scraping me stone, you’ve had two pipes off me, an I let yer have that guy in the blue car” “Fuck off Gail, you’re getting para. Fuckin bastard anyway wanted full for twenty” 53


Tea and Blood “Bastards” they all said in an out of synch harmony. “Blokes, they have a hole in the brain the shape of a cock” Leanne said. “Bloody hell Leanne, where you get that, out of a Christmas cracker!” “More like the fuckin crack!” “That’s a pissa Jaki… fuckin crack, a pissa” they were all laughing. It went quiet. Gail was cutting her stone up with a tiny sharp penknife on an old nursery rhymes CD she always carried. “Who d’you get off?” Leanne asked. “Baz, bloody tiny, but the other one was OK, better than the shit he had last week”. “That was shit last week, everyone had shit stuff, tasted like butter”. She positioned some ash on the foil, then scooped some crack up with a triangle of card ripped off her cigarette packet and placed that on top; put her mouth to the hole in the bottle and with a lighter burnt the crack and ash. The bottle filled with smoke and she inhaled hard, put the bottle on the table and closed her eyes, holding onto the inhalation. Leanne was using a vial, she preferred that. It was made from a halogen bulb, with the ends cut off, smoothed and the element removed. She had a small scar on her lip from when one wasn’t properly smoothed. “Who d’you get off Lea?” Jaki asked. Leanne sat back taking the crack in. After about a minute she answered “…Black Bobby, but he’s only got fifties left he says and they’re only as big as twenties, fuckin’ cunt.” 54


Working Jaki was scraping her old bottle. She’d cut the bottle off about half way and was carefully scraping the green brown sediment left on the inside onto a glass coaster with the Queen’s head on. A dog barked at the door. “Don’t let that thing in Jaki, it’s fuckin mad!” “D’you remember Mel and that little mutt Chloe had?” Gail told her story between pipes as they all smoked. “…you remember Mel, fuckin nutter he was. We were at Chloe’s, she’s out soon be good to see her. She had this little white dog, bloody mutt it was, she called it Alvin after he ex. Anyway, we were sitting having a smoke and Mel came, he had a fifty stone, and that’s when a fifty was really something, fuckin huge it was. He put it down on the table, remember that low thing she told us she’d bought in India, had all elephants carved round, anyway he turned round to get foil, and the fuckin dog, sneaky bugger it was, ate his stone. ‘He’s eaten me stone’ Mel shouted, the dog bolted out of the room, Mel leapt up, pulled out that bloody great knife he used to carry and chased after him. Denny was just coming in and Alvin shot outside into the street with Mel chasing him, well that little dog ran like a rocket. Mel was chasing behind shouting ‘he’s got me stone… he’s got me stone’, and ran straight into babylon coming out of Wellington Street, he leapt over the bonnet, with that great machete thing waving in the air, shouting ‘he’s got me stone’. Well we were standin at the door pissin ourselves. Took about ten Babylon get him down. Next day when he got out he beat the shit out of Chloe and hung the dog in the back garden ripping it open to try and find the stone… fuckin bastard mutt!” They were laughing nearly to tears. “Did he find it?” Jaki asked. “No, and for fuckin’ weeks he went round lookin’ through dog shit”. 55


Tea and Blood “Can imagine you Gail, you’d be goin mad like Mel!” “I’d be following the mutt for a week lookin through it’s shit as well I tell yer!” “God Denny, that’s a while back”. “Clean now, but you should see how much weight she’s put on. Saw her when I went up the Unit for me script, she’s doing care work now in the Roselands, you know, next door to the Unit”. “No shit, my Gran was in there”. Leanne took a tiny foil wrapping out. “What you get a twenty?” “Yeah, White Bobby only had a few left” Gail phoned Bobby. “Got any brown left?” He had one, she told him to keep it for her. “Share that with you Lea, then share mine later?” They agreed. Jaki ripped off a large square of foil. Gail made a foil tube round a biro and Leanne carefully placed about half the brown powder onto a square of foil, then with a lighter under the foil melted the powder which turned into a deep brown liquid. Leanne followed a brown line across the foil inhaling the smoke through the tube. She passed the foil to Gail who took a line, then Jaki. There was enough for two lines each and they agreed that was a good bag as last time they’d only got four lines off. Everything was finished up. “I need get back” Gail said, “Lisa’s looking after the kids, told 56


Working her I’d be back by ten” It was nearly midnight. “I’ll do one more, clubs out soon. You coming Jaki?” Leanne said looking in a mirror putting lipstick on, dunno why I bother with it, they only want me lips round their cocks”. They all laughed. “I’ll come later” Jaki said “...that Don said he’d ring, always late. I’ll be out if he doesn’t ring by two, depends what time his wife goes to sleep” “You coming Gail?” “Yeah, kids will be ok with Lisa”,. Gail put her jeans back in a bag and squeezed a tiny black skirt over her hips, followed Leanne out and went back to work. 2am “You got any foil left?” Gail asked Jaki, as she screwed up the blackened square of foil from the top of her bottle then to noone in particular “…some good scrape on this”. Jaki looked at the bottle “I’ve got another if you want to scrape it, how long since you last rang him?” Gail looked at her mobile “Twenty minutes, fuckin’ wanker told me five, nearly here he said”, she pressed ring on her phone, “…where are you Bobby, told me five… yeah yeah… I’m busy too can’t be all night got get back for the kids, bloody three of us waiting here… ten? Well where the fuck are you, you said five half an hour ago…ok”. She put the phone down. “What’s he say Gail?” Leanne asked. “Ten. Fuckin’ black wanker, why do they all mess you around 57


Tea and Blood eh” and Gail cut around the top of the bottle where the thick snot coloured scrape was. “Good ‘un eh” she said appreciatively. With a knife she scraped off the remains into a little pile of dust on the back of her CD cover, then mixed with fag ash on the new bottle Jacki had made burnt the mix taking a huge intake of smoke through the hole. She held it in as long as she could, as Jacki followed her. “I saw Bingo Bob out tonight” Leanne said. “Bloody hell, haven’t seen him for fuckin’ ages. He wasn’t in his bus was he?” “No, walking, said hello, didn’t want business. On the dole now.” “Fuck me Bingo Bob. Remember that party Lea” and they both started laughing “That was a pisser Paki, a fuckin’ pisser, what a fuckin’ night!” “You were with that Mohammed then Paki living the life of luxury”. “More’s the chance the basrtard” said Jaki. “You missed a good ‘un, that Ginge, she was there doling out stone, remember?” “Ginge, bloody hell, Ginge. She was a two faced bitch, but it was wrong and no-one give a shit, never found who give her that.” “I didn’t know she was pinning. Always smoked when I saw her. You have watch what’s in that brown those Scousers sold, mix it with anything they do, bloody lucky bags” “Fuck me Lea, I remember those lucky bags” “What were they” Jaki asked as she tried another scrape of the bottle. “Those Scousers they used have this thing, fifty wasn’t it, you 58


Working got a stone, brown and a couple of tabs, called it a fuckin’ lucky bag” Gail said “Ginge had one and some bastard had mixed the brown with rat poison, she pinned it down at Del’s, found her there, and you know someone had knicked all her stuff, just left her there, bag was empty. Bastards”. “Who had Darren?” “Her mum I think, nice little thing he was, looked just like her”. “What’ll he be now?” “Six I should think, what was he four months, yeah six about. Bloody hell that party, what a fuckin’ pisser” “Bingo Bob’s bus” Gail and Leanne were laughing. “You see Jaks, Bingo Bob used to drive this fuckin great coach, he picked up people on the Heath and took ‘em to the Bingo up town, you know the one on the corner, then some nights while he was waiting he’d come down in his bus and pick up on the beat”. “Where’d you do the business?” “Back seat”. “You remember Gail one night he won a load of money on a horse, that was the party we’re on about, fuckin pisser I tell yer Paki, haven’t laughed as much. He bought a stone the size of a bloody golf ball and about twenty bottles of vodka. Went round the beat and picked up all the girls, then fuck knows where we ended up, you should have heard the bloody racket. Ginger was handing out the stone… And that babylon, fuck me” “Bloody Hell! Stopped the fuckin bus he did, give Bob a breathalyser… looked at all us hadn’t a clue what to do, he was only a young lad”. 59


Tea and Blood “He’s not driving you said?” “No not now. Lost his job. When he didn’t come down the beat he’d park up put a video on, had a TV an everything that coach, and have a wank. Anyway it seems he forgot to take the tape out and when another driver took the coach out the next day, this chapel group going to Southport Flower Show were watching First Time Anal instead of The Sound of Music. He got a good humour has Bob, he said one of the old biddy’s said her Jack’s was bigger than that”, they fell about laughing, “…but I think it was too much and they sacked him”. “Don’t like anal” Leanne said. “Pays well though” Jaki said. “How much do you ask?” “Sixty, dunno why they want it, dirty bastards, they try it on even if they haven’t paid”. “Tell you what I do, trick Marie told me of,” Gail said “…she always has a bit of Vaseline on a tissue. You have make sure it’s really dark, put it on yer hand, get yer arse up then guide his cock with your hand and hold it really tight, make a noise like it hurts and let ‘em think they’re up there. Most of ‘em don’t know any different and come dead quick”. “Good ‘un Gail, where’s that fuckin Black Bobby then? When d’ya phone?” Gail rang again “Where are yer? It’s been twenty, on yer way… ok I’ll listen out” then turning to the others, “…Says he’s nearly here” then to Bobby, “…make it nice fat ones for makin’ us wait like this”. “D’you remember when Ginge was living at Ice Cream Benny’s?” “Lick me 99!” Gail and Jaki said in harmony and all three laughed. 60


Working “See him most day’s in the summer, comes up our street, kids get a free cone…” “99?” Jaki said laughing. “Na... mean bastard” “I remember when I was licking his 99 I set the chimes off, fuckin’ hell nearly pissed meself, it was when he had that bloody light show on top of the van set up, an’ it wouldn’t fuckin’ stop, we were down by the canal lightin’ up the whole bloody lane…” Leanne said and couldn’t finish for laughing. “Used to give me an ice lolly when we’d done” “Did four years didn’t he?” Paki asked. “I think he did… Ginge and that guy she was seeing, what the fuck was he called?” “Joe”. “Paki Joe, yeah fuck me, Joe, wasn’t one of yours was he Jaks?” “Naa, Packi Joe, he was Afgan, he’s in for ten he is, no mine aren’t into that stuff, well except for that Morroccan guy”. “How many you had Paki?” “Six but getting a bit dodgy now, got a warning off this guy from Immigration, do another I could be put away” “How much they pay, you must be loaded by now” “Wish I was, I tell yer. Depends if they want a kid. Fifteen grand was the best, I had to go over there for the wedding, which he paid on top. Bloody shit hole you want to see it, no wonder they all want come here. Money goes fuckin’ quick, had to earn it with that guy, did yer meet him, SaLeem? We had a house in Northcroft?” “No” the other two said. “Tried stop me doin everything, fuckin’ cunt. Told him, I’m 61


Tea and Blood not yer real wife, just yer ticket, if you want me fanny after I’m pregnant you got pay more…” the other two nodded in agreement, “…got out as soon as I had the baby, just give it him and his twat of a sister and went” “How many you had, kids?” “Four, told you they pay more, have a reason to stay here then”. “And you could just leave them, like that?” “Yeah, what do I want with a mongrel kid, got enough with my own two”. “Bloody hell Jaki you’re a hard bitch”. “Was a deal Gail, just a deal, my kids came first, always did. That cash helped out… Where the fuck is that Bobby, try him again Gail”. Gail rang. “No fuckin answer now the twat, probably sittin’ somewhere smoking the fuckin black bastard.” “Bloody wankers, try White Bobby, stuffs shit but he may be around, fuck me Gail, I’ll get a taxi if he’s around”. Gail rang “…says he’ll be here in ten”. “Ginge could nick anything couldn’t she, had to watch her, never left her alone at mine. Always seemed to come in with wallets, phones, one day she had a pair of socks, told us he’d taken them off a punter and he didn’t know” “Load of fuckin’ shit!” “That’s what she said”. “Benny got done didn’t he, the others got away with it” “Well he got caught, stupid fucker, delivering stones at two in the morning in his fuckin ice cream van!” 62


Working “Did yer get a flake with it” Leanne said and they all laughed. “Fuck me Lea I’ll be pissin me knickers” “That Ginge, got away with everything, even when they picked her up, always seemed to be out in no time”. “Probably grassin’, told yer, couldn’t trust her. Made herself look fourteen, punters loved it” “How old was she when they found her?” “Twenty two they said” They were quiet, contemplating. “My Demi, she’s twenty two” Jaki said “How old are you then?” “Thirty eight, first punter I ever did, stupid bitch I was, said he’d give me twenty more if I did it without, got caught” “Fuck me Jaki, lucky he was white, don’t mean be nasty Gail” “Bloody hell Leanne, I wouldn’t have a black guy, won’t even do business with them, don’t want pay especially me, think they’re fuckin entitled fuck around, no one safe, think most’d fuck their own mother. Fuckin Africans worse than Jamaicans, filthy as well, stink! Me dad was black, only saw him once, big guy, went off, think he was in the army”. “Paki’s too, younger the better they like them, specially blondes” Jaki added. “Yeah I remember at Easies” “You worked there?” Paki asked. “Yeah and Gail you did for a while…” “Did OK, most white guys haven’t had any black ass, did ok, then went so slow, could be there all day and only come home with thirty or so” 63


Tea and Blood “Pam needed to tidy it up, good position, she just kept bringing new girls in, long as she got her cut didn’t give a fuck about us” “Remember that girl, oh what was her name… called herself Melody… you know, big teeth..” “Ah yes, she works down at Poundland now, yes I remember, shit what was she called, she’s another put on about ten stone” “Karen, that was it, Karen”. “She was quite a big girl then, anyway we got in about ten thirty, it was her first day, Pam showed her the ropes, you know two songs of oral, strip off and stick your fingers up their arse if they’re slow” Gail and Jaki giggled, “…well anyway she did a couple, punters always wanted the new girl, Pam used to whisper that she was only fifteen, that got them interested… we were sitting there having a fag and the bell went, Karen looked up at the monitor and said ‘Oh shit, it’s me dad he doesn’t know I work here’, well he was one of my regulars and I told her go to a room and I’d sort him, he was one of those who liked his balls twisting. He came in and said he wanted the new girl. Pam and I both said she’s with someone, doing a long session, told him I’d sort him and come back another day. But he said he’d wait, liked what Pam had told him, fancied a fucking change…” “What d’ya do?” “What can ya fuckin’ say? He had a cup of tea, couple of other punters came in, I did one, then Pam did one”. “Pam! Never knew she did any…” “Oh she often had some, regulars mainly older guys, thought some of them would never survive they were so decrepit”. “Not when I was there” said Gail, “…lazy fuckin cow she was, took twenty every punter, anyway what’d you do?” “Well fuckin’ Pam, she had to tell him they were having to 64


Working close, because the boiler had gone wrong… but… and this is a real pisser… Karen’s dad was a fuckin’ plumber! He had his van parked up and went to get his tools. Well while he was doing that Karen shot out the back door and I pulled some parts off the boiler. Fuckin’ laughed like shit later, pissin’ ourselves we were… But he kept on about wantin’ the new girl and coming back another day. She didn’t last long, couldn’t do a proper blow job, kept biting their cocks Pam said.” “I once went to sleep doin’ a blow job, the guy was terrified to wake me up, thought my jaws would clamp together and bite it off” Jaki said. “You never, what you do that for?” “Early morning job, been up all night, you know one of those nights when no-ones around, punters won’t stop and yer dying for a bag” Gail and Leanne nodded in agreement. They sat for what felt like ages in silence but was probably no more than a minute. “Where’s that fuckin’ Bobby?” and just as Gail said it a car pulled up outside the house and she went out.

65


Tim Diggles has been working in the arts since the mid 1970’s. He has worked in and organised many forms of visual, written and performing arts. He has written two novels, had some poetry published and exhibited photographs. To find out more go to his blog http://timdiggles.wordpress.com/


Tea and Blood