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Two Bridgwater Days

Two Bridgwater Days

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Two Bridgwater Days

Länge:
291 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
2. Jan. 2010
ISBN:
9781452310077
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Using the third person overview narrator Paul describes the background to those 2 days of his Bridgwater life which included parenthood, bike rides, drinks, fights, a stabbing and a robbery. As the True Stories included attest, events of those two days were nothing unusual for Bridgwater then.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
2. Jan. 2010
ISBN:
9781452310077
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Editor of The Journal (once 'of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry')and publisher of Original Plus books, I was born Blackpool 1946, have ended up living in a Welsh valley. Prior to picking up my state pension I almost made a living as a freelance writer/publisher/editor. My last day job was as an amusement arcade cashier, I have also been a psychiatric nurse, residential social worker, milkman, plumber, laboratory analyst, groundsman, sailor, computer operator, scaffolder, gardener, painter & decorator........ working at anything, in fact, which has paid the rent, enabled me to raise my three daughters and which hasn't got too much in the way of my writing. I now have several poetry collections and novels to my name.


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Two Bridgwater Days - Sam Smith

Two Bridgwater Days

Sam Smith

Published by Sam Smith at SmashWords

Copyright 2010 Sam Smith

Discover other titles by Sam Smith at Smashwords.com

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The right of Sam Smith to be identified as the author has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The right of Sam Smith to be recognised as the sole author is further asserted in accordance with international copyright agreements, laws and statutes.

This book is a work of fiction. Any similarity between characters in its pages and persons living or dead is unintentional and co-incidental. The author and publishers recognise and respect any trademarks included in this work by introducing such registered titles either in italics or with a capital letter

*****

Two Bridgwater Days was blogged at Bibliophilia. '.... a smooth read...' or so said BintArab

*****

Two Bridgwater Days

Prologue One:

A love story.

i)

Many love affairs can be conventional. None are typical. These two candidates for love worked in an ordnance factory. The factory was on the edge of a marsh a few miles outside of town.

He was on a government training scheme for the young jobless.

Classified as neither apprentice nor as unskilled labour, the factory did not seem to know what to do with him. He was as unsure of his role, felt that he had been foisted on the factory by someone in an office somewhere else.

The older men in the factory resented and patronised him in equal parts. They resented him because he represented the threat of cheap labour. They patronised him because he was young and therefore ignorant of many of the ways of their world. Left forgotten in a shed he spent the whole of one afternoon pondering the apparent innocence of acid's pale viscosity.

The only good thing to have come out of the job and the government training scheme, so far as he was concerned, was that he had been given free driving lessons and, the first time of taking it, he had passed his driving test. He wasn't, though, paid enough to be able to buy or to run a car. He owned a yellow moped.

He was tall and skinny and seventeen years old. His name was Paul.

Her name was Julie. She was twenty one years old and worked in the ordnance factory's canteen.

Julie worked to escape the inside of her flat and the company of her four year old son. She was small and compact, her dark hair clipped, her clothes pressed.

At work Paul wore a baggy blue boiler suit. Julie wore a green and white tabard.

ii)

In this prelude to the two days, in this history of histories, let us first tell of Julie's.

Julie was divorced. Her ex-husband was a big man. He had been a big man when Julie had met him. She had been fifteen then. In those Bridgwater pubs to which he had taken her, everyone had seemed to respect, if not to fear him. His parents had long been divorced and he had had his own 'flat'. She had conceived in the grubby single bed of that beer-smelling bedsit.

He had married her. Others, male, had expressed their surprise at his doing that. Julie hadn't considered that he would or that he wouldn't. As she hadn't considered falling pregnant. It had happened. She had been young. The young are passive. Life happens to the young.

At sixteen she had been working as a shelf-filler and living at her mother's. She had had no practise in controlling her own life, nor had she examined the world which had been controlling her. Without question she had accepted that, in her 'condition', she would go to the top of the council house waiting list. As she had also accepted the interest that she would have to pay on the credit that she would have to have to buy the furniture. She had not, however, accepted her husband's idea of marriage.

As she had become more pregnant, and less able to go to the pub, she had been left alone with the unpaid-for furniture. And, as she had become less able to go to work, she had become more aware of their finances. Their outgoings had soon — with her diminishing wages and even before he went out for a drink — been more than their income. Julie had tried to talk to her husband.

What she had seen before as his attractive and manly taciturnity, she suddenly perceived as his being stupid and surly. What she had seen as his masterful domination of her, now became pure and simple bullying. What had been a flattering lust for her, now became but beered-up randiness.

But, she told herself, this was the world of adults. Her mother lived on this same council estate. This was where, all her life, she had heard women complaining of their husbands. Julie hadn't wanted to be like them. But when, finally, her own husband did come home, all that he too had wanted was to screw. Even if he was incapable.

Her contempt for him had grown with his every unsatisfactory performance. So had she come to notice that the beer was swelling his belly at about the same rate as her pregnancy had been swelling hers. She had been sixteen. He had been twenty.

Julie's belly had gone back to flat after she'd given birth. His hadn't. And he'd been drunk elsewhere at the time.

He had hit her the first time during her pregnancy. And he'd been apologetic for days afterwards. He had even promised to sort out some of their debts. They had been behind with the electric as well by this time. He had worked overtime, had drunk less for a few nights, had gone out later, had come home earlier.

Before her bruises had faded, however, he had again been coming home only to eat and sleep; and she had been left with her worries and the television, unpaid for and unlicensed.

She had had to stay at home with the baby. The only time she had been able to talk to her husband sober had been when he had come home for dinner. His single response had been to tell her to stop nagging. Occasionally, and always grudgingly, he had given her a few extra pounds.

Such became the habit of their life together. If she refused him sex when he came home beered-up he had hit her. With contempt for herself for staying, consoling herself that this was the real world and not some glitzy soap, she had fatalistically accepted the thumps and bruises on her small frame, even the occasional swollen lip and black eye. As payment she had emptied his trouser pockets just as soon as he had been snoring. And, by way of remorse, of apology, he had never questioned this morning absence of change in his pockets. So had she kept the creditors at bay. So had they continued for a year and more — she and the baby inside the house, he out drinking.

By backwards logic she came to view the odd bruise and beery screw as the price she had to pay for peace of mind so far as the creditors were concerned. And, not wanting the world to know what had become of her, she had confided in no-one, had admitted to no-one her hurts. (Julie is one of three sisters, the three each having a different father: her mother having been passive too, so far as men were concerned.)

Then, one night, Julie's two year old son had been awake with a fever when the father had come home wanting to screw. The child's being awake, and the child's condition demanding his mother's exclusive attention, had infuriated the father. He had punched both wife and son.

Injury to herself Julie could accept: it was her own fault, she had allowed it to happen to her. Her little boy, however, had not asked to be born. She had taken herself and the boy screaming through the empty streets of night to her mother's.

It took her groggy husband a half hour to realise what had happened. He had then pursued them. Julie had refused to let him in. Roaring he had banged on the door. Michael, the boy, had screamed. Child abuse had been in the news. Julie's mother had called the police.

The police had taken the husband away. Julie had refused to return to the matrimonial home unless he was kept away from it. The police had been able to offer no such guarantee. She had stayed in her mother's house. Her mother told her that she couldn't live there indefinitely.

So had Julie and Michael entered the world of Social Services.

Julie, it has to be said, saw here the opportunity to be rid of the matrimonial home and its debts. So she became obdurate in her refusal to return to her own house. Every offer of reconciliation and promise of reform from her husband she rejected out of hand. She wanted her whole life divorced from him, to be disassociated entirely from him.

Her husband could not understand her unflinching refusals, came beer-fuddled to bang on her mother's door. Julie called the police and had them remove him. She made sure that the Social Services knew of the every latest episode. They found her a flat on the other side of town; and she was left on Benefit, but otherwise in charge of her own finances.

At first it had been enough, on her own, to make an independent home for herself and Michael. But a toddler is no company and the Benefit didn't stretch to much. Julie's being a single parent, however, meant that Michael was now eligible for a State nursery place.

Solely to get out of the third floor flat, she looked for a job. The only job going, whose hours matched those of the nursery, was at Puriton. So that Julie could travel the four miles without relying on bus services or lifts, her mother leant her the money for a secondhand moped.

Julie's canteen wages were deducted from her Benefit. So, although her income was officially only a few pounds more, and the expense of the moped accounted for that, she was still better off because she was able, like the other canteen women, to take home the odd left-overs and the cakes and pies past their sell-bys. She also ate her main meal in the canteen, as did Michael at nursery school, so she could go weeks sometimes without buying any major groceries. Within six months she had paid her mother back the loan for the moped.

Her ex-husband had inevitably discovered where she had moved and, occasionally, he came a'maudlin banging on her door. Only twice did she have to call the police. Other times a threat had been sufficient.

Most evenings, however, she still had to stay at home alone with Michael. Her mother refused to babysit, as did her two sisters, just in case her ex-husband came around. Nor did she have any female friends who would babysit. She had been at school when she had got pregnant. Thus had she abruptly left childish things behind. Those schoolfriends had been children with her. She had talked to no female friend of known adult life.

Such had been the state of her affairs when she had become aware of Paul.

iii)

Julie had noticed Paul on the other side of the canteen counter initially only as one of the younger faces. She had noticed too, but only because she had one, that he too came to work on a moped.

One afternoon her blue moped sputtered to a standstill. Cars went whooshing past her on the straight flat Bristol road. In the kerb were drifts of gravel and chippings. Beside the road was a long ditch and some spindly desolate trees.

She was stood there, looking around her, not knowing what next to do, when Paul stopped, climbed off his yellow moped and unplugged his head from a black helmet. He took three minutes to find the loose lead. He told her, blushing, that in his spare time he made and mended motorbikes. Julie passed no comment on his yellow moped. She had to collect Michael from the nursery and left quickly on her blue moped.

The next lunchtime in the canteen Paul blushed when Julie brightly said hello to him. The other trainees made hooting noises at him.

Julie had never seen herself as having power over another adult. (The responsibility she felt for Michael at times overawed her.) But, thereafter, she took pleasure in making Paul blush, in watching the blush start part way up his long white neck and spread out over his face. The other kitchen women took to nudging her when Paul came into the canteen. Similarly, when she was clearing tables on the other side of the counter, Paul's workmates nudged him as she approached. Those times too he blushed. Thus, by their contemporaries, if only for their amusement, Paul and Julie were already viewed as a pair.

Paul and Julie's only meetings outside the canteen took place on the road. Both finished at about the same time. Over the noise of their whining engines, through the padding of their helmets, the shouted conversations comprised mostly his asking if the moped was alright these days. She'd shout thank you. Paul did manage once, when they both happened to be getting on their mopeds at the same time, to convey to her that if her machine ever went wrong she should bring it to him and he would fix it for her.

He blushed those times too.

iv)

Susceptible to blushes he may have been; but Paul was no virgin. Because he then lived with his mother, however, and he didn't want any girl to meet her, he had nowhere to take a girlfriend. And the possible girlfriends, who still also lived at home, were all getting a bit old now for the walk down by the canal or for ungainly fumbles on their parents' sofas. Consequently, apart from the nudges of those he worked with, apart from her smallness among all those stout kitchen women, it was her having her own flat which most attracted Paul to Julie.

Paul's, though, were the small bounded territories of youth. He did not know how to approach a woman — the word itself denoting her remote status — those colossal four years older than himself. From the factory gossip, which had told him of her flat, he also knew that she had been married, that she had a little boy, and that her husband used to beat her up. Such experiences were but stories to him.

Nights he lay awake fantasising about her, attributing to her all kinds of social and sexual sophistications. Until his mind could bear such fruitless conjecture no more. He had to make at least one attempt to have her; and, failing — as he knew he must — thereafter put her beyond his reach and out of his mind.

Pretending he had a fault with his moped he waited for her in the carpark. He was trembling when she came. Luckily alone.

Hello, he said. Neither had yet used the other's name, Fancy coming for a drink tonight?

Sorry. I can't, she said.

Paul accepted that as a total rejection of himself as suitor. And stood there in his boilersuit, beside his yellow moped, he tried to accept her rebuff with a throwaway insouciance.

Julie felt sorry for him. Tall, white and skinny he may have been, but he was the only one his age in the factory who hadn't been making fist-fucking gestures behind her back.

I have a little boy, she explained, I can't get a babysitter.

Oh, Paul said, realising that her refusal was not absolute, but not knowing where to go from there.

Telling Paul of Michael, Julie conjured up a vision of her evening — alone again indoors.

Tell you what, she said brightly, seeing as you fixed my bike that time, (a token excuse to give her invitation some respectability), why don't you come round for a meal?

When?

Tonight.

Shall I, he'd heard this line before, bring some wine?

If you like. But food's all you're getting.

Food was all that he did get. He expertly uncorked the wine, grunting without farting; but neither of them drank much. Which realisation let Julie relax. And in his own clothes Paul looked more of a piece, not the white stringy being trying to escape the blue boiler suit.

All they had to talk about, though, was the people at the factory. And where they had both been brought up and gone to school. And they talked of television, comparing likes and dislikes. He noticed that she didn't have a video. He said he knew where he could get one cheap for her. At half ten he left.

The next day Julie didn't serve him in the canteen, was busy out the back. Paul, though, couldn't let what had just begun end there. He realised, however, that she had no other excuse to invite him to her flat. So that evening he arrived at her door with a video recorder. Michael was still awake.

I can't afford it, Julie blushed. Frightened of debts and of those things she couldn't there and then pay for, Julie was out of step with the credit times.

It's a spare one, Paul mirrored her blush. (The video recorder was his mother's. His mother, though, didn't know how to use it; and he had too much surplus energy to sit before a video for two hours.) You can borrow it till I need it back. He dumped it, trailing wires, on top of her telly.

Thank you, she said, Like a coffee?

While the coffee cooled Paul talked to four year old Michael. This visit, with the excited and exuberant Michael to fill the gaps, Paul and Julie's conversation was less noticeably strained. When Michael's bedtime could no longer be postponed, Paul left, pleased with himself.

Julie was waiting for him by the mopeds the next afternoon.

I can't get the video to work, she worriedly told him, I can't make out where all the wires go.

I'll come round later, he indicated that his boilersuit stank, that he wanted to change.

He got there just as Michael was being put to bed. Michael insisted on kissing Paul goodnight as well as his mother. This embarrassed both Paul and Julie — it betokened an unconfirmed intimacy. Paul hurriedly set up the video. But he had to wait while Julie read to Michael. Then Julie wanted to be shown how to work the video. This entailed recording bits of programmes and playing them back. After that she made him coffee. It was gone eleven by the time he left.

The next day he again missed her in the canteen. Then came the weekend. All that he usually did of a weekend was insufficient. Added to which, most of his usual crowd seemed to be away that weekend. He mooched around the town, mooched around his mother's flat, tinkered with a motorbike that he'd been renovating the last six months, and mooched off up town again. That evening he found himself in the back of a car heading for Taunton. But the three others in the car were looking for trouble more than a good time. They found it. He ducked away, ended up walking back from Taunton. He got home at four in the morning. And he didn't mind because it had filled the hours.

He slept late Sunday. Still he awoke thinking of her. Except that now it was as a real person, not some factory fantasy conjured out of his frustrations. And he wanted to be with her, the real person. But he had no further pretext. She was that much older than him, didn't frequent the same streets nor know the same people. Nor did he want, by some inept advance, to make a complete fool of himself, to have her and the canteen women all laughing at him. He rode his moped up into the hills; and, looking down on the town, all that he saw was her block of flats, its tiers of brown and white concrete panels, and he ached wondering what she could be doing.

Monday lunchtime she was again out the back of the canteen. Monday evening he began walking towards her flats, reached the canal bridge, abruptly turned and walked home again.

Tuesday lunchtime she served him. Neither smiled. From the inside his face seemed an immovable mask. Her pale face too was rigid and expressionless. He couldn't eat the sandwich he had bought.

Only late at work that afternoon did the realisation come to him that, if her expression had been the same as his, then maybe so too were her feelings. Heart hammering he waited by the mopeds.

Can I come round this evening?

Make it eight. Michael should be asleep by then.

v)

Julie too had missed him. Her weekends were usually busy. On Saturday there was the shopping to be done, then the housework and the ironing. And on Sunday she and Michael usually went over her mother's. But this weekend her mother's new man had been there grumbling and opening beer cans. So Julie had taken Michael to the park. Michael this Sunday, though, had tired of the swings before she had, and she had been back in the flat sooner than she had wanted; and with nothing to do. Only then had she realised that her weekends were busy only because she had made them so. And she had made them so only to hide her loneliness from herself.

She had looked forward to seeing Paul on Monday, had been ready to

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