First and Fiftieth
Ten Million Years
The Last Saturday in May
First and Fiftieth
Ben and Joe's
A View from the Edge
God would be an atheist
An 18-year-old youth between Edinburgh and London
Ah thought it wid be quiet on the road. Mile after mile a darkness. The Stones on the stereo. B B King. John Lee Hooker. Or nothin. Just Doug an me. But it’s almost as busy as daytime. Where’re they all goin this time a night? Why are they no in bed, asleep? They cannae all be going tae London. And it isnae just cars. Lorries. Coaches. The AA. Polis. A huge transporter wi God knows how many cars. Jags off tae some lucky buggers wi money. Fat bastards who’ve made a killin fae off-licences an bettin shops. Drugs, that kind a thing. No, they‘d drive Alfa Romeos or Porsches. Who drives Jags? Lawyers. The Royal Family. Ronnie, that dee-jay in Glasgow, he’s got one. Not the best, but better than Doug’s Sierra. Not that ah’m complainin. It’s gettin us there.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Ah kid make that sound. It’s just one chord. Play it fast an loud an let it slowly die down. No, that’s no it. It’s no one car at a time; it’s several, all makin a slightly different sound. One’s flat, one’s sharp. Long, short. There’s a second’s silence, just the vibration an suddenly there’s another an another an another. Ye kid lay down a whole song. Tighten it up, give it rhythm, but no so much that it’s predictable. Call it Cars in the Night. Night Traffic. Somethin like that. A modern version a that Tom Robinson number. It wis okay in its day but it’s time fir somethin new, fir the twenty-first century. “Racing down the motorway, don’t give a damn what other people say. Living ma life, no need for a wife, with ma man, we’re roaming the land.” Somethin like that. A song that shouts at the world, that really tells it what it’s like.
Thank God fir service stations. Another five miles an ah wid’ve fallen asleep at the wheel, never mind the B B King. It wuidnae’ve been sae bad if Doug had stayed awake to keep me company, but he wis dead to the world. His mouth hangin open like a wee bairn. A bairn wi a bit a stubble. It made me feel guid that he trusted me enough to fall asleep. Ah know he trusts me; it’s no so often he gets a chance tae show it.
It’s a weird place, this. Two big car parks wi a restaurant on a bridge. A couple a games machines an toilets an closed shops. An a few nightowls like me an Doug. The couple at the next table; the woman’s got a face like thunder, like he’s just told her he’s havin an affair an she’s wonderin whether tae slam a plate down on his heid or walk out on him. Fat man behind Doug lookin as if he’s just come out a prison an he’s on his way back home. Looks a right bastard; ah bet his family are no pleased. The girl clearin tables. Ye kin tell she’s bored. Bet she wishes she wis at home, snuggled up on the couch wi her boyfriend. Watchin tv, kissin an cuddlin an that. Ah wonder how often she’s done it. Wonder what she’d think o Doug an me.
Next story: Basement
"Sometimes you sit, watch the trains, the sunset, the rain. Sometimes you talk. Tell your story if you've a mind to. Trouble is, memory changes things. Things you want to forget. Things you want to remember that never happened. Happens to everybody. Gets so, nobody's story's true. Not yours, not mine. But it's all we've got."
First and Fiftieth
I'm not sure what the inspiration is. It certainly isn't autobiographical, even if I did grow up in Edinburgh. Nor was it the Tom Robinson song. The picture just came to me of this young guy in a motorway cafe late at night.
I'm not entirely happy about the accent. It will put off some people and those in the know are going to complain that Edinburghers pronounce some of the words differently. But that's not the point. The accent - here and in Basement - is intended to be impressionist rather than realistic. What's meant to come through is the narrator's character rather than his vowels.
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by Martin Foreman