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  • Colin Burnett

From Wuhan to Leith

Updated: Sep 3



This image was kindly taken by my friend and artist Rab Harling who can be found on twitter @RabHarling


When ah first heard aboot this coronavirus business ah thoat tae masel ‘’These Chinese are resilient wee bastards. They’ll soart this oot before teatime’’. But now look, eh? the hale country’s in loackdoon and ah’m a prisoner in ma ain haime. Aw, and as if that wisnae bad enough. It turns oot the virus is maire racist than the fuckin LAPD. Which means ah’m walkin aboot wae a great big fuckin bullseye oan ma back. Ah kin hear a bit ae a commotion coming fae the landin ootside ae ma flat. Ah’m tellin yae, likes. Ah’m ready tae lit oaff a few live roonds in the direction ae this selfish bastard. Of course, ma abuse will need tae be volleyed fae a safe socially distant space. So, as ah swing ma front door wide open ah’m surprised tae find its auld Mrs Henderson who steys in the flat opposite mines loackin up her hoose. Ah’m no sure what age she is but wae her wrinkly auld puss and winter white hair ah’m guessin she wis still kickin aboot fur the Spanish Flu.


‘’Mrs Henderson’’ ah sais ‘’What ur yae dain oot here?’’


Efter she finishes loackin up her door she slowly turns tae face the direction ae ma voice. And ah kin almost hear her brittle bones creakin as she turns aroond.


‘’Aw, it’s you, Aldo’’ she asserts, wae a half herted smile.


‘’Yae do ken there’s a pandemic goin oan?’’ ah ask her. ‘’Ah thoat you auld yins wid be hideing under yur beds’’


‘’Aye’’ she sighs. ‘’ But ah need tae go tae the shoap. Ah’ve ran oot ae toilet roll’’


‘’Kin yur son no go fur yae?’’ ah ask her.


‘’He’s stuck doon south. He cannae git back up until nixt week’’


Ah stare at her aw sympathetically ‘’That’s a shame. Ah’m alweys tellin the lads the problem wae society nowadays is naeboady’s goat any respect fur you auld dears anymaire.’’


‘’What kin yae dae’’ she concedes


‘’Well, ah tell yae what yae kind dae fur me. Grab me twenty L and B and a litre ae vodka fae the shoap when yur there’’.


She seems a bit taken a back wae ma request but reluctantly gees me a nod. Ah quickly pass her twinty quid note withoot actually touhin her hands.


‘’Jist ring the bell when yur back and leave ma stuff at the door. We dinnae ken what yae might bring back wae yae’’.


Mrs Henderson turns awey tae heid doon the flight ae stairs. Appearin a wee bit doonbeat if truth be telt. Then, in a moment ae weakness, ah decide tae show a bit ae mercy.


‘’Mrs Henderson’’ ah sais.


She glares back at me wae a twinkle ae hope in her eyes ‘’Aye, son?’’


‘’Here’s a mask’’ removing yin ae they flimsy cheap blue yins fae ma poacket. Before passin it tae her. ‘’Ah dinnae want you dying oan me’’


‘’Thanks’’ she tells me. Before she goes tae make her wey oor tae the shoap.


Ah shout tae her as she goes doon the narrow flight ae stairs. ‘’And dinnae you listen tae that Johnson. You auld yins are gonnae be awrite’’.


And even though she doesnae lit oan tae ma wee confidence boost. Ah cannae help but feel a wee bit better aboot massel as a heid back intae the flat.


Ah walk intae the kitchen tae make ma mornin ritual cup ae coffee. Jist a wee caffeine boost before ah hit the drink and snort some snow, later. Jesus, ah’m faced wae a sea ae bags ae bog roll layin in disarray oan the bunker. Ah ken what yur hinkin, eh? what aboot auld Mrs Henderson, right? Well, ah could huv done the honourable hing, ken? be the gid neighbour and gee her yin ae packets ae toilet roll. If that, wee bit ae philantrophy floats yur boat. But that widnae git me ma smokes or voddie, wid it? Nah, ah mean ah um wae these auld yins in spirit. Only, you ask me, eh? then they’ve fell oan their swords fur this generation before. And ah hink it’s only fittin that they dae the same hing wae corona.


This is probably the maist time ah’ve spent in the hoose since fur ever. Cos, usually ah’m oot and aboot wheelin and dealin. Or doon the Web huvin a few jars wae Dougie and Craigy. The bordome’s been a fuckin killer, likes. Only saviour is that ah’d managed tae borrae a couple ae sociology books oaff Dougie. And they’ve somehow helped tae idle the hours awey. Been readin yin by this boay cawed Karl Marx and he makes an oaffae loatae sense fur a crout. Accordin tae what ah could understand aboot this sociology game. As soon as the umbilical cord’s been cut, the system’s the puppeteer and you’re the puppet. It’s food fur thoat tae be honest. And ah’ve been tryin tae digest it ever since ma minds eye took it in.


That must be Mrs Henderson back fae the shopas cos someboady’s jist rang the doorbell. Openin the front door ah find that ma boattle ae vodka and ciggies huv been carefully laid ootside. Withoot geein it much thoat ah quickly grab the stuff and then heid back inside. Ah rest the boattle and ciggies oan the oak coffee table in the livin room before ah heid straight through tae the untidy bathroom tae cake ma hands in sanitiser.


Business hus plummeted cos ae this virus. Ah’ve loast a lotae fuckin money, that’s fur sure. None ae ma runners will pick up or droap oaff fur me in case they catch it. Deep doon ah jist wish ah wis still dain ma community service cos nuttin wid deter they retards fae dain business. Thanks largely tae the fact that none ae thum are playin wae a full deck. That’s why ah’ve hud tae diversify ma business by buyin up loads ae tinned food and bog roll jist so ah kin punt it tae the locals fur a marked-up price. Take the lassie above me, eh? Her young bairn is autistic, and he’ll only eat Heinz’s beans and sausages which she jist couldnae git fae the shoaps. So, it retails at a quid and ah selt her a tin fur a tenner. Granted, likes. She wisnae happy aboot peying but like ah telt her ‘’it’s a seller’s market’’. If the Prime Minister and his minion’s kin make a quid or two ootae this human tragedy then why can’t Aldo. At least that’s what ah hink. That wey they’re better gittin fucked oor wae yin ae their ain than some toffee nosed bastard sittin behind a desk. Anywey, ah never heard the Reich Chancellor say anything aboot financial support fur local drug dealers. And at the end ae the day, we’ve goat tae eat tae.


Been buzzin oot ae ma nut maist ae the day. Oan coke and heavy bevyin. Yae could argue it’s a normal day fur me but ah hink it’s a mindset hing wae the boredom n that, ken? Started oan the gear earlier and ah’ve jist been chillin oot. Listenin tae a few tunes, ever since. It’s no the same as bein doon the web though. But the music does help tae keep me sane. Oan a positive note, as well. Ah’ve also managed tae gee the flat a much needed spring clean. Obviously, this new foond love fur cleanin wis inspired wae the energising effect ae the ching. And jist wae the amoont ae sweetie wrappers and empty beer boattles ah collected. Ah managed tae fill up three ae they large black rubbish bags. The coffee table and TV unit are sparkling clean tae efter ah gave thum a wee polish. And wae jist a few blasts ae Vanilla Febreeze air freshner ah managed tae git rid ae the gaggin smell ae ciggie smoke that wis pollutin the air in the room. Aboot half an hour ago there wis raised voices coming fae that lassies hoose upstairs and her bairn wis screamin his tiny heid oaff. Everyhing seems tae huv settled doon noo but ah’m sure ah could hear a boays voice and as far as ah ken she’s no goat a fella. Anywey, ah’m jist settin up another line oan ma Oasis CD case. Which ah’ve carefully positioned oan ma lap. As ah snort the thick line ae white through a rolled up ten quid note it feels as if the stuff’s lit a fire in ma brain.


Jist as ah take a quick swig ae ma boattle ae Budwiser that noise fae upstairs hus started up again but only this time it’s louder and the bairn kin be heard hysterically greetin again. There’s defo a boay up there cos yae kin hear his deep voice roarin ‘’Ya fuckin bitch!’’. The lassies yelpin in pain like some wounded wolf and ah’m startin tae hink this cunts geein her a batterin. Even wae crackin up the volume ae the music ah cannae droon oot her screams ae pain. And now ma mobile hus started tae vibrate oan the coffee table. But, well, tae ma surprise. It’s actually a call fae a landline number which ah dinnae quite recognise. Even still, ah decide that ah better answer the fuckin hing.


‘’Hello’’ ah sais ‘’Who’s this?’’


An elderly, softly spoken voice replies ‘’Is that you, Aldo, son?’’


‘’Aye, who’s this?’’ ah ask. Whilst takin another swig ae ma boattle.


‘’It’s Mrs Henderson’’


‘’Mrs Henderson?’’ ah say ‘’How did you git ma number?’’


‘’Remember, son’’ She tell me ‘’Yae gave me yur number a couple of months ago? Yae said if ah ever need anything tae jist gee yae a bell?’’


‘’Ah said that? And ah gave yae ma right number? Jesus, ah musta been smashed that day. So, what kin ah dae yae fur?’’


‘’Well’’ she sais. ‘’It’s the lassie above yae. Ah hink her boyfriend is batterin her again. He’s a nasty piece ae work. Could you go up and check oan her? Cos ah’m worried fur her and the wee yin’’


‘’Aye’’ ah sigh. ‘’You git back tae yur coffin, hen. Ah’ll handle this’’.


‘’Aw, that’s great, son’’ she sais. Aw relieved n that. Before she hangs up.


By the time ah thow oan ma pair ae Timberland bits and head up tae the second flair. Her screams huv grown louder and aw the folk in the buildin are standin oot at their door weys trying tae hear what’s goin oan. Finally, ah’m at her door. Starin doon number ‘17’. Ah bang hard and oan the hing. Tryin ma best tae imitate the familiar soond ae they determined polis cunts. Then, the door swings open and ah’m faced wae some gremlin lookin bastard whose sweatin and pantin uncontrollably. His mooth foamin in a fit ae rage


‘’What the fuck dae you want!’’ he roars. And there’s me jumpin back. No wantin any his saliva tae hit me.


‘’Listen, dafty. Ah dinnae ken what this is aboot. And tae tell yae the truth ah dinnae want tae ken. But keep the fuckin noise doon!’’.


Then the young lassie appears fae her livin room. Before she stands, cowarin behind the boay. She’s clearly marked wae bruises and theres blood tricklin doon fae her nose and mooth.


Ah dinnae ken if it’s the coke or ma knack fur mindless violence but suddenly ah’ve goat an urge tae smash this cunt aboot the buildin.


‘’You did this?’’ ah demand take ken. Gesturin taewards the lassie.


‘’Aye, ah did’’ he says ‘’You goat a problem wae that? Dae yae ken who ma brother is? He’s ‘Paul McCann’ ask aroond, pal. You’ll no like what yae hear’’


This threat gees me a soft chuckle ‘’And what um ah gonnae hear, eh? That you tongue his baws every night before his bed.’’


Immediately he tries tae take a swing at me. Which ah duly brush oaff before ah gee him a quick right hand ae ma ain. Dually burstin his puss like a tomatae. Ah’ve then grabbed him before ah start geein him a few boady blows. Until finally ah throw him doon a couple flights ae stairs. And straight awey everyboady in the buildin kin be heard cheerin fae their doorweys ‘’Aldo! Aldo!’’ they chant. It really wis summit, likes.


His motionless boady is speard oot oor the pathway and his puss looks as if it’s jist been ran oor wae a train. Ah’m soon hoverin oor him. Admirin ma handy work ‘’You tell yur wee sister there’s an open invitation at Aldo’s’’ ah tell him ‘’Number eight. Oh, and if ah see yae aroond that lassie and her bairn again, then believe me. You’ll hink this wis a fuckin toy fight’’


As ah heid back intae tae ma flat ah’m met wae a hero’s welcome fae the natives. Men, women, and children are smiling and applaudin me. And tae tell yae the truth? Ah somehow feel a bit like a movie a star. But then this single thoat leaps tae mind.


‘’What if that cunt hus goat corona?’’


As soon as ah shut ma door behind me ah strip doon bollick naked and heid straight intae the shower. Ah scrub ma boady wae hoat water and soap. It feels as if ah’ve jist been violated. Ah’m scrubbin masel that hard wae the sponge that ma skin is almost startin tae peel oaff. And then suddenly, right there and then. Ah started comin up wae a theory. And then ah convince massel that ah’m right. What if her sendin me up tae batter that bastard wis Mrs Henderson’s pay back fur me sendin her tae the shoaps? What if that sweet auld wifey hud actually set me up tae die? And there’s me went and fell fur it. And ah didnae even see it coming. Fae Wuhan straight tae Leith. What if ah’m fucked?


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