Ah couldnae see fer greetin, but ah knew ah’d been hurt bad an’ ah had tae see whit damage had been done. Ah stood wi’ ma back tae the mirror an’ dropped ma troosers. Whit ah saw made me bawl even worse.
It hudnae been a bad day. Ah’d saved ma shilling an’ had asked ma maw tae take me to Cameron’s tae see if they had any new Airfix sodjers in. As usual, this had taken oors. Ma maw has the awfy habit of bletherin’ tae every second person she bumps intae, so it took mair than an oor tae travel doon the two hunner yards of the main street. Six times ah had tae listen tae the same story full of “an’ he said, an’ she said, an’ ah said tae her,” while another wee wumman wid staun, arms folded, listening tae ma mither recounting every single word that had been spoken. Ah cannae even remember whit the story wis aboot, something tae dae wi’ a wanton hoor probably. Aw ah mostly remember wis the “he said,” an’ “she said,” an’ the other wee wifeys saying things like “she didnae, did she? Weel she wis aye a one.” Ah knew ah had tae keep shtum. Ah’d strayed fae the path on many occasions an’ been punished each time, so ah wisnae going tae dae it today, as ah knew the trip tae Cameron’s wid be cut short.
On we went, making oor way along the street, stopping at Mackay’s the Butcher fer a steak and kidney pie. Ah loved the pastry but hated the kidney. Ma maw met a neighbour ootside Mackay’s an’ it wis another round of “she said, he said.” Then it wis the paper shop fer the Daily Record, where she met some yin else she knew, so even mair “he said an’ ah said.” Ma life wis slowly passin’ me by as we crawled along the street. Cameron’s wis right at the other end an’ no a normal stop fer ma maw, but they did huv the best selection of Airfix sodjers in the toon, an’ ah knew there wis a new set oot. It had probably been oot fer a month but, because we were an island, everything aye took longer tae get tae us. This time it wisnae sodjers, but Tarzan an’ his cronies. The Airfix magazine had shown pictures of Tarzan an’ Jane, Tarzan’s chimps, and that daft wee boy Jai, as weel as a load of wee African animals. To be honest, ah wisnae sure where they were going tae fit in wi’ ma Commandos, Rommel’s Desert Foxes, an’ the Foreign Legion, but at least they wid be company fer Daktari an’ Clarence, and wid look good in the stripy wee jeep.
Finally, we got tae Cameron’s an’, of course, ma maw met anither wee wifey, Missus McBride.
“Noo hurry up,” she snapped. “We huvnae got aw day. We’re already late, an’ ye know yer faither willnae be pleased if we’re no back soon.”
That wis a joke. It wisnae ma fault we were late. Still, ah knew ah had at least twenty minutes tae huv a guid look in the shop, before ma maw wid be finished tellin’ Missus McBride aw aboot the toon hoor, whatever that wis.
Ah scanned Cameron’s shelves fer Tarzan, but he wisnae there. Mr Cameron came oot fae behind the counter.
“Is there something in particular you’re looking fer?”
“Aye, ah wis lookin’ fer Tarzan, he’s only just oot.”
“Oh aye, I think I remember seeing Tarzan,” Mr Cameron scratched his chin.
Noo ah wis excited.
“Morag,” Mr Cameron shouted tae his wife behind the counter. “Dae ye remember seein’ Tarzan comin’ in this week?”
“I dinnae think I’d forget if Tarzan came in tae the shop,” Morag laughed.
“No, ya daft wumman,” Mr Cameron sighed. “The Tarzan Airfix models.”
“I know, I know,” Morag shook her heid. “We had wan box, but wee Jimmy MacDougal came in an’ bought it no even hauf an oor ago.”
Jimmy MacDougal, the wee bastard. An’ as fer ma maw, if she wisnae so bothered bletherin’ aboot aw the hoors in the toon, ah’d have Tarzan in ma hauns right noo. Mr Cameron could see that ah wis awfy disappointed.
“Listen son, we’ve got something else new just in – German paratroopers.”
“Ah’ve goat a paratrooper,” ah sniffed.
“No like this wan ye don’t. He’s made of metal, so when ye fling him in the air an’ his parachute opens, he comes doon mair lifelike. He disnae get blawn awa’ in the wind like those cheap wee plastic yins.”
The shilling in ma pocket wis burning a hole, ah had tae spend it.
“Awright, ah’ll huv him,” ah said, making the worst decision of ma life, an’ adding tae a chain of events that had been started by ma mither, continued by Jimmy MacDougal, an’ wis destined tae end in serious grief fer me.
Ah stuck the paratrooper in ma pocket an’ went ootside. Ma maw wis still bletherin’. Ah tugged her coat.
“Can we go hame yet?”
She grabbed her coat oot of ma haun and carried on yappin’. Ah gave her coat a harder tug.
“Ah want tae go hame,” Ah whined.
The paratrooper in ma pocket was getting restless an’ wanted tae be tried oot, but all ah got was a clip across the lug.
“Dinnae be so rude. Can ye no see am talking tae Mrs McBride?”
“Ach, dinnae be so hard oan him, Nellie” Mrs McBride smiled. “We huv been yappin’ away fer ages.” Mrs McBride wis obviously wanting tae get away as weel.
“Ah suppose yer right,” ma mither smiled back. “Ah’d better be aff hame.”
They said their cheerios and we started up the street. Ma maw always took the backstreets going hame. We hardly ever met anyone this way; she must have known that these routes removed temptation of mair gossiping an’ we’d get hame a wee bit quicker. At first ah wis surprised she had let me aff so easy, but a couple of skelps oan the back of ma legs the minute we were oot of sight of Mrs McBride tell’t me ah wis wrong.
“Stop” – SLAP – “showin’ me up” – SLAP – “in front of ma freens” – SLAP.
Ah felt a couple of salty tears run doon ma face but, in truth, it wisnae that sore.
As we went in the close an’ up the stairs tae the hoose, Ma mither said, “Noo remember tae be quiet, yer faither’s had that operation oan his nose an’ he’ll no want tae be disturbed.”
Ah’d forgotten that he’d been doon the hospital to huv the wee bump in his nose set straight. Ah tiptoed intae the hoose as quiet as a church moose. He wis sitting in his chair wi’ his heid back an’ a bandage taped across his nose.
“How ur ye, Bill?” Ma mither asked.
“Ah’m awright, Nellie. A wee bit sleepy though, an’ it’s awfy sair.”
Ah wis gobsmacked, ah’d never seen him so subdued before. Ma maw turned tae me.
“Right you, dinnae disturb yer faither. Ah’m going tae put the washing oot,” she grabbed the pile of washing an’ went back doon the stairs tae the wee green oot the back of the close.
Weel, ah couldnae wait a second longer. The minute she wis oot the door, the paratrooper wis oot ma pocket. He wis ideal for playing with given my limitations, he widnae make a sound paratrooping tae the groon in the wee living room. Ah took him oot of his packet and wrapped his chute roon his body. Then ah checked that everything wis right an’ launched him high intae the air.
Ma throw was almost perfect. The paratrooper stopped his ascent just before he hit the ceiling an’ started to come doon again. Only trouble wis, his chute didnae open. What happened next seemed tae be in slow motion. Ah watched, open-moothed, as he completed his arc an’ came shooting back doon tae earth at high speed, his metal body landing wi’ a thump right oan the tip of ma faither’s sair nose.
The scream that followed must huv woken the deid up in the cemetery. Even through his pain, ma faither knew right away ah wis at fault, an’ wis oan me before ah could make ma escape oot the door. His big hard hauns cracked against ma backside ower an ower again, until the pain in his nose, an’ ma mither shouting “No, Bill, STOP!” forced him tae collapse back intae his chair, moaning. By this time ah wis making nearly as much noise as he had done. Ah ran tae the mirror tae see the damage. Ah’d never seen ma backside before, so ah wis shocked tae see that not only wis it as red as the end of ma faither’s nose, there wis a big crack right doon the middle of it. Ma faither had hit me so hard he’d cracked ma bum in two.
“Maw, Maw, Da’s broken ma bum,” ah bawled.
Ma faither’s nose wis never right after that. It wis bent tae one side an’ always a bit sniffy, but at least he wis aye able to boast tae his cronies doon the pub that his nose hud been broken by a Jerrie paratrooper.