“LUCY AT HER DADS” and “THE ARTIST” by JIM GIBSON

LUCY AT HER DADS 

 

And here I am. ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ on her t-shirt as I tell her to fuck off with all that shouting and that I’m here to see me dad, not you ya dirty sket. And she huffs and seethes as I push her to one side and walk in. I shout and shout before she chirps in with how he don’t wanna see me, how he’s got enough on without me coming round causing problems. I tell her that he shoulda thought of these problems before he had two kids, before he left us alone with a piss-head mam but I know how he really feels. We’ve spent some time together without ‘Dirty Deeds’, sat across the table at Maccy’s, when he said how he wanted me to live with him, how he’d get rid of this ‘bit-on-the-side’ and sort me n Jack out. I think he means it; it’s just not that easy so he’s working it out and not letting on to Her. I shout – DAD, GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW and ‘Dirty Deeds’ laughs so I give her the look and – WHAT THE FUCK YOU LAUGHIN AT YA… and that gets him to the top of the stairs with a – hold on, hold on, I’m coming. She tells him to kick me the fuck out but I stand there and smile as he ushers her into the living room and we both go into the kitchen: without her.

He sits me down at the table and I ask him when he’s gonna kick that bitch out and get me n Jack in and he just shakes his head so I tell him how mum’s been acting up again, about the men that’re always round; how last week we had to eat dog food and brush our teeth before we went out so we didn’t stink of it, then all he ses: I don’t want you comin round here anymore. His words are slow and me head can’t quite grasp them.

_______I

_______________don’t

want

_______________________you…

I tell him how Jack’s got this part in the school play, I mean, only a small one cos he’s not that good at stuff in front of people but he’s got a couple of lines and everything and I tell him the dates and how he should come with me and watch and cheer him on cos Jack’s never done anything like this before and he’s dead nervous and everything so it’d be good if he could come and he ses: I can’t, Lucy. So I say, well you can send him a card at least, I can pick one and bring it round, you just have to put your name on it and I’ll take it, he’ll be well chuffed: No.

I stand and walk over to the window and see the plastic slide sitting out back for ‘Dirty Deeds’’ kids even though no-one told me that she’d got em back from the social and when I turn back around me dad’s stood up with his hand in his pocket and pulls out his wallet. He takes a wad of money out and holds it in front of him with – Here, take this. Do what you want with it. I grab it and say cheers and tell him about how me and Jack will save it so if we ever need it, you know, for emergencies we’ll have it and that it’s good of him to think of us and he just looks at me, no words; just those eyes, sort of defeated, like he’s trying to tell me that this woman in the next room has ground him down so much that his hands are tied. Then he ses:           Don’t                       come                        back.

And I leave.

 

 

 

THE ARTIST

 

In so many words, he told me about the man that he saw around the bins at the back of his flat; the one above the shop in town. He said it was when he saw the man between the his car and his neighbours that he went downstairs to check it out. Ya know, the man looked dirty. Untrustworthy. At least that’s what I made of what he told me. He thought he was gonna put his fist through the window, I think that was what he said, or summet like that, I dunno; he just thought he was up to no good, but when he got down to the bottom, he stopped. He saw the man picking up cans, ya see, he had white plastic bags full of em. I knew the back of that flat from long before my mate moved in there; people had been using that place to fly tip for years. Just drop off any old crap there, old one seater settees, mattresses, beside tables, all sortsa shit scattered across the tarmac. I was a bit surprised when he told me that he had his car parked there to be honest. My mate told me how they’d even all agreed to having this feral cat that they take it in turns to feed, to keep the rats away but even that fucked off after a bit. So, he said that he thought he’d leave him for a bit, just to see, ya know, and went back upstairs to watch out of the top window. Said he watched him for quite a while. Watched him gathering up all these bits and bobs. When my friend told me this I nodded to him, ‘Scrap’ I said, ‘Needs to feed the vein or whatever they say.’ ‘Well… That’s what I thought too.’ He went on, my mate, telling me this story about when he was on the streets that I’d heard a few times before and it ended with his usual: ‘I’d rather shoot someone and go to jail than be back out there. Prison is like a holiday compared to that.’ I don’t know too much about prison but I’d say you’ve gotta have it bad for that to be like a holiday, ya know what I mean?

He said he left the window, then. Left him to it. Poor sod. But when he came back later on, later that day, after he’d been out meeting some friends, he was still there. He made him jump when he caught a glimpse of him in the bushes. All the ground was clear, he said. I mean, I assume the mattress and settee were still there, he never mentioned them, but all the crap on the floor had ended up in the bins and the place was all neatened out. He told me how the floor sorta looked sweat, like it’d got all clammy underneath the boxes, the fast food wrappers, the nappies and everything. He said he nodded to the man as he walked past and noticed that he was using a penknife to hack away the branches on the bush. At this point it was half formed into a rugged dome. The man said hello and my friend walked back to the flat.

Once he’d told me all of this, I couldn’t get it off of my mind. Everywhere I looked, I saw jobs that I thought this man could do. I don’t know why I was hiring him in my head all of the time to neaten up laces that weren’t even mine to neaten, but that’s what he did. Over the weeks I’d phone my mate up with new questions: from, why was he doing it and did he live in the flats to how do you know someone isn’t paying him? My friend made it clear that he didn’t know any answers, that he was bored of the subject and he wished he’d never even mentioned it. He laughed one of them sorta pissed off laughs and told me to forget about it.

It wasn’t till today that he rang me. He told me that the fella had come back and that if I want answers, well now’s the time to come and find out for myself. So, that’s what I did. I was still in my scruffs from painting the landing when I jumped on the 92 into town. I jumped a few stops before the town bus station and panted as I darted through the genals and jittys and up round the back of the flat.I saw him: yellow t-shirt, wild hair, a sort of Romanian tan and jeans with brown muck on the knees. He was a bit up from my friends, pulling weeds out of the potholes and curb stones that supported them. I watched him. Then I watched him move onto one of those summer flower beds that gets taken away in winter and brought out in spring. He stuck his fingers deep into the muck and pulled the plants out, one by one, with the whole roots dangling like innards that shouldn’t be exposed. Like my mate before, I was a bit taken aback and thought that foul play must be on the cards here. I sat down, resting against red bricks and rolled a fag to not draw attention to myself but I kept watching. When all of the plants were out and scattered around him, the plant bed looked naked. I felt a frown as I watched him, one by one, place the plants back into the bed; taking a few step backs to see it as a whole, then moving forward again. It was miraculous when he finished. The bed weeped with colour and brought to my stomach the feeling of seeing a coy child smile. It was uncanny.

He perched on the box and grabbed hi pouch of tobacco from his back pocket and I thought that this was my time to approach him. I walked over and looked up when my feet were near him. ‘Alright.’ That what I said. ‘Alright.’ His reply.

Then I walked home. Like I’d seen a miracle. Then I thought: what would you say to God, anyway?