Excerpt from Scream If You Want To Go Faster by Russ Litten (Cornerstone - January 2012)
Michelle’s popped round to her Mam’s, but she’s starting to wish she hadn’t have bothered. She’s been buzzing her tits off all day - all week in fact – but ten minutes with her Mam is enough to piss on the brightest of bonfires. Plan was to show her face, stop for a quick cuppa, get back to their Chrissie’s, get changed, then meet Darren at the top of Walton Street for three. All Michelle wanted was a quick in and out with no head stress. Instead, she walks slap bang into the middle of yet another domestic drama, number four hundred and twenty six in an ongoing series.
One of the builders has sawn through some pipe under the sink and now there’s water pissing all over the kitchen floor. Marvellous. Michelle’s Dad’s going berserk. She’s sat in the caravan with her Mam and she can hear him shouting and bawling from inside the house.
It’s dead cramped in this bloody thing. There’s the portable telly from the kitchen jammed up on the side and a few of her Mam’s ornaments dotted about, but it’s not exactly home from home. Michelle doesn’t know how her Mam and Dad haven’t murdered each other, the pair of them in here. It’s only a matter of time though, surely. She’ll come round one afternoon and one of them’ll be dumped in that skip, along with all the old kitchen units and bits of sodden lino.
The little electric kettle clicks off and her Mam pours the brews.
- It’s just one thing after a bastard nother, she says.
She’s always been a gloomy get has Michelle’s Mam, but since the floods she’s been unbearable. Michelle knows it can’t be much fun stopping in a caravan on the front drive, but it’s not like her Mam’s the only one who’s been inconvenienced. Both Michelle and Nathan have moved out, him to his mates in Anlaby and Michelle to her Auntie Chrissie’s, just off the Square. Chrissie’s place isn’t exactly a five star luxury hotel, but you don’t hear Michelle moaning and groaning. They just have to get on with it, all of them. Michelle’s Mam though, she’s never happy unless she’s totally miserable.
She treats Michelle to the full run down on all the things that have gone wrong this week and all the bastards who are to blame – the council (“them bastards”), the loss adjusters (“them clueless bastards”), the insurance company (“them thieving bastards”), the builders (“them lazy bastards”) and last but not least Michelle’s Dad (“that useless bastard”). Michelle will say one thing for her Mam, she’s very fair minded. She doesn’t leave anybody out.
She sits and listens to her go on and on. It’s vaguely amusing at first, but after about ten minutes of useless bastard this and clueless fuckin twats that, Michelle’s previous good vibe is in very real danger of being totally wrecked.
She sups her tea and tells her Mam she has to get off.
- What, already? You’ve only just got here.
- I know but I’ve gotta go and get changed.
- Why, where yer going?
- Round Fair, then off on Prinny Ave.
- Oh aye, is this with your new bloke then?
Wonderful. How does she know about that? Best thing to have happened to Michelle all year and now her Mam’s going to rag him to bits before she’s even met him.
- What new bloke?
- Don’t give me that, says her Mam. - Angie said you were seeing some new lad. Danny innit? Danny off North Bransholme?
Their Angie. Michelle might have known. Can’t hold her own piss, that one. It’s a wonder that bain’s stayed in her belly these last nine months.
- I’ve only been seeing him two weeks, Michelle tells her. - I wouldn’t go buying a new hat just yet mother.
- Who is he anyway, this Danny? What does he do?
Michelle’s Mam lights a tab up and opens the caravan door.
- His name’s Darren, says Michelle. And he’s a builder.
Her Mam takes a long hard drag on her cig and exhales a plume of blue smoke. She’s always moaning about being skint but she must get through about forty tabs a day, at least.
- Oh well, she says, - at least he won’t be short of work.
She leans out of the caravan and flicks ash.
- Can’t he come and sort that bastard lot out, she says.
- I don’t think he does houses, I think he just does shop fitting and that.
- Shop lifting more like, if your track record with blokes is owt to go by.
Before Michelle can answer her back, this builder comes stomping out the front door of the house, closely followed by Michelle’s Dad. Neither of them look best pleased. The builder goes off down the driveway, jabbing a number into his phone. Her Dad kicks his boots off and stands them outside the caravan. The entire thing shudders with his weight as he steps inside. He has to constantly stoop down to move about.
- You have to stand over these bastards twenty four fuckin seven, he says.
He clocks Michelle sat up at the other end.
- Alright Shell? No college today?
- Hiya Dad. No, no classes on a Friday.
Her Dad picks a mug out of the sink and swills it under the tap. He looks completely knackered, like he hasn’t slept for about a week.
- What’s happening Joe? asks Michelle’s Mam. - Have they sorted that mess out?
Michelle’s Dad shakes his head.
- He’s turned the water off and patched the pipe up, but they’re gonna have to rive it all out again an have a proper look. I’m not happy with him leaving it like that.
Michelle twists herself round and pulls back the net curtain. This builder is stood out in the street next to the skip, his mobile clamped to his ear. He looks seriously pissed off. Her Dad’s head bobs down next to hers.
- I know what it is, he says, - they’re cracking up to get back to Middlesbrough so they can go out on the piss. If he puts them tools anywhere near that van I’ll wrap them round his bastard neck.
- Middlesbrough, says Michelle, - why are they going to Middlesbrough?
- That’s where they’re from.
- Why do we have to have people from Middlesbrough to put a kitchen back in? Why can’t a Hull firm do it?
- Cos these are the insurance companies preferred builders.
- I don’t know, do I? Probably give them the cheapest quote. There int a fuckin plumber among them though, I know that.
- Me mate Sarah, her uncle’s doing their house up. She reckons they’ll be back in for Christmas.
Her Dad ignores this comment. Probably not what he wanted to hear. Instead, he asks Michelle if she’s been round to see her Grandad.
- I went round last week with Chrissy, she tells him.
- You do know he’s going into hospital on Monday don’t yer?
Shit, Michelle had forgot all about that. She knew he was going back in at some point, she didn’t realise it was so soon. He’s only been out a month or so. The cancers all in his liver now. Michelle had heard Chrissie on the phone to her Dad the other night. It’s not looking good, she’d said.
- I’ll go and see him, she says.
- Yeah, you do that.
These three other builders come traipsing out the house laden down with spades and pick axes and heavy bags of tools. Two young lads and an older feller. One of the lads is a bit of alright thinks Michelle, quite fit in fact. Not as fit as Darren though. They go up the driveway and start chucking all their gear into the back of a van that’s parked up at the side of the road.
Her Dad goes flying out the caravan, nearly tipping the frigging thing over, ornaments bouncing about on the shelves. Her Mam pelts her cig and she’s right behind him. Michelle hopes for the builders’ sake that her Dad gets to them before her Mam does.
Michelle rinses her mug out in the little sink while they all argue the toss in the street. She glances outside. The builder’s still got his phone to his ear, one hand held up to Michelle’s Mam, like he’s trying to ward off a vampire with a crucifix. The other three are stood leaning against the van, rolling tabs and grinning at each other behind their gaffer’s back.
Oh dear, thinks Michelle, not a good move.
- WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LAUGHING AT, EH?
Michelle’s Mam’s livid. The older bloke looks like he’s trying to calm her down. Michelle can’t hear what he’s saying, but whatever it is, it’s pointless. Like trying to put a blazing fire out with a can of petrol.
- YEAH, IT’S ALRIGHT FOR YOU INNIT! YOU’VE TURNED THE FUCKIN WATER OFF! I CAN’T EVEN GO FOR A BASTARD SHIT!
All that money on that Swiss Finishing School, thinks Michelle. Wasted on me mother. And her Mam wonders why Michelle doesn’t bring any of her blokes back to meet her.
She taxes two Mayfair out of her Mam’s packet, gets her coat and bag and gets out of Dodge City, smartish. Michelle hasn’t got time to hang about and watch the show. Places to go, people to meet.
She says her tara’s as she hurries past them. One of the lads grins and nods, gives her the once over. Michelle can feel his eyes boring into her as she goes down the street, so she puts a bit of a wiggle on, just for his benefit. Put that in your wank bank and take it back to Middlesbrough mate!
She texts Darren:
RUNNIN L8. W8 4 ME!
Thirty seconds later her phone beeps:
NO PRBLM BABE.
And there isn’t.
Not as far as she’s concerned, anyhow.