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Ye mist read th' guid book
Grandmother said
it wull hulp ye thro' lee
especially they times
o' trauchle 'n' strife
she opened th' muckle
black Bible 'n' began tae read
ah sat neist tae her
as she read
'twas aboot th' flood
'n' Noah 'n' th' ark
'n' th' animals
'n' ah imagined th' muckle ship
floating oan th' waters
'n' it *** higher 'n' higher
as th' waters rose
'n' Noah 'n' his fowk
'n' tae be safe
ah imagined masell
yin o' they.
Milka watches her mother
unpack the shopping
in the kitchen
watches her
with a sense of wonder
wondering what
her mother would have done
had she returned
from shopping
fifteen minutes earlier
and had entered the bedroom
and seen her and Benny
in bed together naked

her mother looks at her
What's the matter with you?
she says

Nothing
Milka lies
just wondering
if you bought
me anything  
the first thing
that enters her mind  

Where's Benny?
her mother asks

He went to the toilet
Milka says
hoping Benny
will be down soon

No I didn't buy
you anything
except food and drink
her mother replies
as she puts stuff away
in the larder

Milka looks at her
trying to push
from her mind
her mother
at the bedroom door
gazing at her and Benny
making love
the mere thought of it
makes her go
weak in the legs

then she hears Benny
coming down the stairs
and into the kitchen

her mother smiles
Hello Benny
she says
how are you?

I am fine
he says
he smiles at her mother
in that way he has
and she looks at him
and Milka sees her mother
almost glow on seeing him

Been here long?
her mother asks

No not long
he lies
gazing at Milka

I don't  suppose
she has given you
anything yet  
her mother says
would you like some
toast and tea?

Yes that would be nice
he says softly
almost flirting
with her mother

Milka you must give Benny
something when he comes
her mother says
eyeing her daughter

I will
Milka replies
feeling dampness
running down her thigh
damp and sticky

her mother puts
on the kettle
and puts bread
under the grill

at least Milka muses
she can't see
what I feel.
Thare wis smirr
'n' then we hud tae pick up
th' dustbins 'n' hee haw thaim
at th' back o' th' stoor wagon
as cooncil juice
*** intae th' tap th' ash
*** drookit 'n' became heavier
'n' ye hud tae be canny
ye didnae slip oan
th' drookit footsteps
o' th' wagon
or foosty stoor wid
*** doon yer back
or intae yer hair-
altgough ah wore a cap
bit it aye *** drookit
'n' ash laden
Uncle paused
we wur cleaning oot
th' besom shed
'n' 'twas solid howfin wirk
bit it beat this fur a jab
he said
'n' we carried oan
shoveling up
th' besom jobby
'n' straw 'n' th' stench
clung oan tae oor
noses 'n' claes.
Her father
is at the breakfast table
reading the newspaper
a cigarette is burning away
in the ashtray

she pulls out a chair
and sits down opposite him

she says nothing
but reads
the newspaper headlines
facing her

Oi wus speakin' ter
Mr Macquire last night-
yer man said 'is daugter Martha
wants ter be a nun
her father said

Aye a Cistercian nun
she replies

he lowers the paper
and looks at her
Yer man says dat buggers up
'is chance av gettin'
a grandchild from 'er

she looks at his eyes on her
Oi ope you're not 'avin' thoughts
av becomin' a nun
he says

she shakes her head
More chance me
becomin' a saint
she says

he smiles-
an unusual event-
No chance den
he says

she smiles
and shakes her head

he resumes reading
the newspaper

she looks at the hands
holding the paper
the nicotine stained fingers
of his right hand
the thin band of gold
on the left finger

she would never
have even thought
about being a nun
not even when Martha
said about it

her mother brings in
the breakfasts
and lays them on the table
then goes out again

Sunday dry as dry
boring as death
have breakfast
then off to Mass.
Me first mot
Uncle said
wus a wee beauty
but she lef
ter becum a nun
in France sum place
he paused
me second mot
wus a bit on de plump side
but she 'ad a gran' smile
but she went aff
wi' a protestant
an' got 'erself wi' sprog
before she cud count ter foive
he paused again
an' sipped 'is Guiness
Me **** mot
oi married
an' been wi' 'er
since 1945
he looked at me
an' said nathin' more
as Auntie came back
via de gaff
av wax dure
She has just returned
from walking him back
to the bus stop

she sits on the settee
next to her mother
her sister sits on the armchair
her brothers sit on the floor

What did he come for?
her mother asks

she tries to focus
on the TV

Just to see me
she says

her mother says no more
which is a change

but looking at the TV screen
she thinks back to the walk
back along the moonlit lane

You know I love you
he said
maybe we can get
engaged or such

she gazed at him
I can't
she said
I'm already engaged

he said Ok
but she could see
by his face that he wasn't

if only he had asked her
a year ago or so
but he hadn't
and she'd not seen him
in a while to say

It's cold out
her mother says
breaking into her thoughts

It is
she replies
and inside
she cries.
Yeh, ah think schuils
mak' it oot that they’re trying
tae protect us, whin pure
thay couldn’t gie twa.
Th' schuil even admitted
that thay ainlie care
fur thair reputation,
th' deputy heid literally said:
Bade distance 'til ye ***
aroond th' neuk
sae at least
oor reputation
doesn’t keek tae ill,
'n' then you’re braw
tae be as claise
as yi'll waant.
Based on a comment by my granddaughter Libby
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