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Routes ROUTES
Laura Hird

 

 

IT'S MY TWELFTH birthday today. The poster at the bus stop has a photo of a sick-looking wee laddie and the words 'Getting Hold of Drugs isn't Difficult - Ask a 12-year-old'. If anyone asks me though I'm saying nothing or Scott will batter the shite out of me. Mum keeps her gear in a film spool holder on top of the unit in the living room in the fruit bowl with the plasters in it so I could take that any time I wanted but I dinnae. Drugs are shite. Scott gave me some draw once when he was pissed and I had a right whitey. It was like The Evil Dead, man. The wallpaper was coming all out at me and I puked up and I thought someone was pouring petrol through the letter box. Fucking horrible like. It doesnae do anything like that to mum or Scott though, they just lie vegging in front of the telly like they're sleeping or something. They might as well be, like, 'cause they dinnae talk or nowt. The only time they ever go out is when there's a tarry shortage. Then they go to the pub. It's like living with two bean bags except bean bags would be more fun 'cause at least you could jump about on them and slash them open and that. About once a year mum will speak, usually to get on her high horse and accuse Scott of shagging other women, as if that hackit puss could get anyone except her. Apart from that though there isnae much talking roond oor hoose.
      Maybe Scott will do a runner when mum has the baby. They dinnae even have enough money for me so I dinnae ken why she's having another one. Maybe they'll see what this one's like then get rid of me, not that I'd care. Aren't folk supposed to stop smoking when they're going to have a baby anyway? All the fumes she sooks in'll probably choke the poor wee bastard. It'll probably be born dead, if it's lucky.
      When I left tonight the radiators were on full because the electric meter had turned back too much so mum was slobbing around in just her leggings with her gigantic belly and her disgusting sticky~out belly button like something out of Alien. Her tits are fucking disgusting with all blue bits sticking out of them like that posh foreign cheese you get with the germs in it. It'll probably put me off women for life, not that I was ever on them to begin with. You shouldnae walk about like that in front of your bairn though. Why can they no just pay the proper bill like everybody else?
      I asked them for a pair of Nike Air trainers for my birthday. Instead I got this bogging pair of fucking plimsolls with pink bits and a wee tongue, like fucking lassies' ones. Mum probably got them in Asda. I'll never wear them. I'd get my head kicked in if I wore them. Then she gives me these fucking horrible school clothes, like blue shirts and shite that she's supposed to get with my child benefit anyway, but she gives me them today and says they're like birthday presents? Aye right. I ken we're no exactly loaded but even wee ten-year-old schemies fae Broomhouse have got Reeboks these days, you know, they still manage no to dress like complete neds.
      If they didnae spend all their money on vodka and blow and fags they couldae got me something decent. Scott gave me a fiver in a card with a fucking bunny rabbit on the front. Fucking generous, eh? Some of my pals get a tenner pocket money every fucking week of the year. That cunt stays with us for nothing and gets all his food and blow and bevvy so he's got his whole giro to himself. Tight bastard.
      They could've even had a wee party for me or something, d'you no think? I'm sure they could have got someone to come. Folk'll go to parties even if they hate the cunt whose birthday it is. But what did they do instead? Mum bought a Mr Kipling's exceedingly shitey cake and didn't even put a candle on it, no expense spared, ken? When I went to have a second bit, Scott said, 'D'you want a nose-bag with that, you greedy wee bastard?'
      That's why I've come out, that and I can't stand the sub-fucking-tropical temperature and auld cheesy tits snoring on the settee. Fuck the pair of them, I hate both their guts. All they care about is themselves, they dinnae even like me. She's my mum and she doesnae even like me. It makes me feel barrie, you know?
      I'm gonnae stay out late so they think something bad's happened to me. If they think I'm dead they might realise they'd miss me. Maybe it'll make them nice to me for a wee while. So that's it, I'm staying out till they think someone's murdered me.
      The bus is taking ages to come. It doesnae matter what time you go for a bus it's always at least twenty minutes before it's due. I get whatever one comes first but it always seems to be a 2 or a 6. The 6 is perfect because it misses out Princes Street, goes down to the docks and the seaside and then it turns at the terminus and comes right back so you dinnae have to get off and stand about somewhere funny. Buses always finish up in these slightly scary places but that's Sort of why I like getting on them in the first place. Buses are the best! I dinnae ken why folk stand in shop doorways or waste money going to the pictures and that when they could just cruise about on buses. If you've got a bus pass like me it doesnae cost nowt.
      Mind you, standing about waiting on them really shites me off. There's always either none at all or big convoys of the fuckers. They probably have to go round in big groups cause the drivers are such arses some cunt would kill one of them if they were on their own.
      It's fucking bitter standing here. My jeans are so cold it feels like I've pissed myself. I dinnae have a jacket on because I've only got my blazer and it's bad enough wearing that cunting thing to school. When I grow up I'm going to design my own computer games, really brilliant, impossible ones. Much better than any of that shite on Gamesmaster. I'll be fucking raking it in and I won't give mum or Scott a penny, in fact I probably won't even have to talk to them any more so they can just piss off. I have to get really rich. It's the only way I'll get away from them, unless they just chuck me out anyway then I'll probably end up having to go with old perverts just to buy food. Aye, being twelve is fucking brilliant so far.
      Several days later a 44 comes. I've never got on a 44 before, it says it goes to Wallyford sounds like the sort of place Scott might come from. I ask the driver if he goes back to Longstone after Wallyford. He does so I get on then the cunt calls me back and says I can't get on cause it'll take about three hours. I tell him I dinnae mind, I just want to get on then he swears for no reason and all the passengers start nebbing like, trying to see what the hold-up is. Rotten bastard! What harm am I doing? It's no like I'm out choreying cars or spray-painting Paki shops. How is it no matter what I do it's always wrong? Folk dinnae like things they don't understand. Folk cannae understand me.
      Normally I sit next to the driver in case there's trouble but I go upstairs tonight because I've got a beamer about all the shite he gave me. You always get all the weirdos upstairs. Last time I sat up here this drunk guy did a piss up the back and it was like running up and down the bus every time it stopped, fucking bogging, man. It's best to sit up the back so you can see all that's going on, although it's just some old dear and a Chinkie guy so it's OK the now. Chinkies make me feel sort of like, safe. I dinnae really ken why though 'cause they're in these Triad gangs and that, but they just do it to each other, see, and then they get all their violence out that way so they dinnae need to do it to other folk. I wish I was a Chinkie. They're all Ninjas and no other cunt understands what they say or their writing and that, it's so fucking cool.
      I'm going to have my sweets now in case it gets busy. I got a Mars bar, crisps and a Twix with some of Scott's money. The Paki didnae have any Monster Munch so I had to get like normal shitey ones - fucking salt and vinegar as well, I dinnae even really like them. You crunch each crisp down though and store it in your cheek, then when you've got them all there you sook and sook all the flavour out then eat the soggy bit. It's brilliant. The only way to eat crisps, man. The vinegar makes my mouth go all in though. I should have got some Red Card.
      Next I have the Mars bar to try and get some spit back into my mouth. I bite the chocolate off the sides, then gnaw the nougat bit and scrape the toffee off the top bit with my bottom teeth. Then I sook all the rest of the toffee off the bit chocolate and let it lie on my tongue till it melts. It's hard to just keep it there without eating it, but. These fucking cooking programmes mum watches all day go on about how to make stuff and that but they dinnae have any about how to eat it. I'd go on that. I ken how to eat stuff best, how to eat each bit of a bar of chocolate separately. It's a gift like.      Last of all I have the Twix 'cause I always leave the best one till the end. With the Twix you bite the chocolate off the sides like with the Mars bar then once you get the rest of the chocolate off the biscuit bit (you cannae break it, mind) you can do two things. Either bite the toffee off and then sook the bit biscuit or eat the biscuit, roll the toffee bit in your hand and then eat it like a big toffee ball. That's the best way but I sometimes eat the biscuit last if I'm in the right mood.
      A guy comes upstairs with a wee girl as I wipe my chocolatey hands on my jeans. Just finished in time. The wee girl kneels up on the seat and looks back at the rest of us. I hate when that happens and some lippy wee sprog starts slagging you and you cannae say anything back. No this one though, she starts giggling, squirming around on the seat, saying, 'Nigger, daddy. Nigger, nigger.'
      Her dad smiles and looks all embarrassed. 'Stop that, that's not a nice thing to say.' That just makes her worse though.
      'Nigger, daddy, funny nigger, eh, what's that daddy, nigger nigger...'
      The dad just points out the window, trying to take her mind off it.
      'Look, see the big clock. What time is it? Tell daddy what time it is.'
      'Nigger, see it, daddy, nigger.'
      You can tell the other people on the bus are listening but they're pretending not to. Some are having a sly wee smile to themselves. The Chinkie guy's looking out the window but you can tell he's all tensed up and that. The wee girl seems to know she's got an audience so she's away again.
      'Daddy, daddy, I spy nigger. Can we do I spy nigger?'
      Her dad's fucking beaming now. He doesnae ken what to do, really cringing like. The wee lassie just keeps going on and on until the bus gets to the next stop, he freaks, picks her up round the waist and carries her off screaming. From the window I watch him pointing at her, really angry like, then up at the bus but she's just laughing, thinking it's a big joke. When the bus eventually pulls away the Chinkie guy clears his throat and looks down at his legs, embarrassed like. Poor cunt, she probably didnae even mean him, she didnae ken. It wasnae like she meant any harm. She probably heard it in one ay they Ice Cube films or a Public Enemy record. You dinnae even hear white folk saying it these days, it's no allowed.
      These black rapper films are fucking magic, though. The kids all carry AK47s and call everyone muthafucka and talk in that fucking brilliant sort of jive rap that white cunts cannae understand. I wish I was a fucking young blood in the Bronx or something, they have the coolest fucking clothes of anyone no fucking blazers and Asda trainers but they're fucking poorer than any cunt. White people are just so fucking boring like, they don't do nothing muthafucka!
      Even Pakis are better than whites. Like this Paki in our street got married the other week and they had like balloons and fucking fairy lights and streamers and stuff all over the front of the house and in the garden and that, and on the day the guy got married he came doon the street on a white horse. No kidding, with his fucking turban on and everything. I was pissing myself, it was like Channel 4 on a Sunday afternoon. Much cooler than standing in a boring fucking church then getting forced to do the dashing shite sergeant with your narky wee cousin. I dinnae like that Paki dancing they make us do at PE though. It's supposed to be just for lassies but we all have to do it 'cause they think it'll make us get on better with the Paki kids. I get on with them fine apart from that maya maya maya maya shite the Mr Woman we get for gym makes us do. It's all right for the lassies. They just say they've got their periods so it ends up with just the laddies doing fucking girly Paki dancing. I wish I had periods. I'd have them every fucking Wednesday.
      A guy gets on and sits at the back with a bag of chips. They smell fucking beautiful, it's making me dribble. Folk shouldnae be allowed to eat stuff that smells like that in public unless they're willing to share them aboot a bit, don't you think? He's eating them really noisy though and you can hear the slavers all clicking about his mouth. It's fucking revolting, man.
      This place we're at now is in the papers aw the time. It's where all the old poofy guys come to get off with young laddies like me, manky bastards. The laddies get loads of money for it though, it said. Some eleven-year-olds make 100 a night. I bet they've got Nike Air trainers. I always have a good look when the bus goes past but you never see nowt. I dinnae ken if it happens in they posh flats or they hang about the bushes next to that hill bit or what. Nothing's going on tonight though, just some awfie tall woman walking her dug. It's sort of exciting though, knowing bad stuff like that's going on but I'm up here safe on the bus. That young guy at the bus stop looks a bit poofy. Maybe he's just been doing it. If he gets on I can check the seat if he farts. Naw, he's not getting on, he's just hanging around waiting to pick up an old guy - dirty cunt.
      It's dark now but the sky's still red round the buildings and the floodlights at Easter Road look like alien paratroopers just watching what's going on. There's no a match on the night though, it must just be training. Roy used to take me to Easter Road. Why did mum no just stick with him? It was good as well because he only ever came round during the day so mum would like play cards and Scrabble and that with me at night, or do my homework. Imagine her doing that now? She wouldnae be able to see the fucking book. Roy was like a real dad too. He didnae mind me being there like now, I think he even maybe liked me a wee bit. I used to get sweets from him when he came round and he'd even take us to the pictures and stuff. Mum doesn't even speak to him now though. When they first split up I thought he might still come round and see me 'cause we got on quite well and that but I huvnae see him since.
      It wasn't like he was my proper dad though. I'm only allowed to mention him if I call him that bastard. I've never met him because mum really hates him and says I'm better not knowing about him. I'd really like to meet him, though, to see what he's like, you know, if he's like me at all. You'd think he'd be like me a bit like 'cause supposedly everything about people comes from their mums and dads and I'm fuck-all like mum, thank fuck, so most of my bits must come from dad. When I'm sixteen I'll find him and go and live with him. Mum probably makes all that stuff up about him just so I don't, just so she keeps getting the child benefit to buy her tarry with. One day I'm going to just get on a bus and never go back. They probably wouldn't even notice until they needed me to go to the chippie for munchies.
      This bit now's where all the rich cunts stay. Big flash hooses with gardens the size of three back-greens and ponds and swings and tree-hooses and stuff. There's probably enough toys and computer games in each of them to do a whole school but they'll be too snobby to let any other cunt play with them. What a fucking waste. Who decides who gets rich mums and dads and who gets stuck with sorry poor fucks like mine? What did I do in an earlier life to deserve that pair? How could she no have had me adopted by some rich family with a tree-house and a CD-ROM who bought me Nike Air trainers and a Timberland jacket and a decent bike instead of that choreyed old wreck I have to go about on.
      The unbelievable thing is mum actually thinks she's bringing me up well like. A plate of some horse's baws oot of Kwik-Save once a day and that fanny pretending to be my dad and I'm supposed to be fucking grateful or something? Like she made me watch this documentary about one of these social services homes for bad boys, you know, and said if I didnae behave she'd send me away to one. Fucking mental like, these places are brilliant. They've got snooker tables and swimming pools and everyone gets their own Sega and you live in a big room with all your pals and just muck about all the time. I started shoplifting after I saw that programme. Why won't that fucking Paki catch me? One time after I nicked a Snickers he put a sign on the door that said only two school children at a time so he must have seen. He must know.
      I suppose if Scott left mum he'd take his Sega. Like the next guy she picks up might be nicer to me but there's no guarantee he'd have one too. Fuck, why is life so complicated? He's only got four games though - Prince of Persia which I cannae even work 'cause cunty-baws lost the wee book, some shitey Mickey Moose thing I dinnae play because the silly wee tune gets on my tits and Sonic 1 and 2 which were barrie for the first few months but once you get to the end it's shite. You can still go through it and try and get all the chaos emeralds and millions of rings and extra men but if you've already killed the evil doctor at the end there's no much point. Having to play it on the black and white telly in mum's bedroom makes it doubly shite but I only get near the colour one when they're in the pub. It's their fucking life source, see. I suppose I could chorey a few games and take them with me to the social services home when I got caught.
      I'll maybe suffer them a wee bit longer though 'cause Scott's supposed to be getting a computer, like with a Pentium processor and that. These ones have got the Internet. That's a fucking amazing thing that. There's like porno films and every game ever invented and you can speak to folk anywhere in the world but they dinnae need to ken what you look like. You could get a photo of like one of Boyzone and pretend to some Paki burd in Jamaica that it's you.
      This weird woman's sitting across from me now. I thought she was singing along to her Walkman but she's no, it's like gibberish oot the bible she's coming out with, real fucking strange stuff. Then I have a wee look and if the cunt's no sitting wi a fucking bible on her lap. What a radge. She's maybe in one ae they cults or a satanist or something. Completely mental like, coming out with really funny shit. And yeah he said he would smite them down, oh yes, he'll smite you down all right, sort yourselves out or he will smite you down! Fucking hell. Then she does a bit of the old What-a-Friend-We-Have-in-Jesus shite. It sort of looks like she's talking to the guy in front of her but she isnae. She's just sitting babbling away to herself, really twitchy like. This is giving me the serious shits. I really dinnae like fucking scary mental folk like this. I'm going downstairs in case she has an eppy and pulls out a kitchen knife and also so's I can have a wee neb on the way downstairs. Aaaaagh, fuck. The crazy bitch saw me looking at her and gave me a really scary look and says You look after your salvation, I'll look after mine. My legs go all shaky and I manage to crash into a seat downstairs before I fall over. Coorying against the window I have to huddle up to stop myself shaking. Talk aboot fucking psychos? I think the world's being taken over by mental cunts, they're everywhere nowadays. How's no one else noticed?
      I try to concentrate on the tower blocks across in Kirkcaldy where my cousin Mark lives to take my mind off the spooky woman. You have to look really hard when it's dark but you can just make out some of the high-up windaes if you screw your eyes up. I'm squinting oot at this when the bus stops and standing in the queue is this fucking deformed guy. His mooth looks like someone's put a bit thread round his lips and pulled and one of his eyes is all sunken into his head like a fucking monster. His heid's fucking huge, man. Fucking hell, what's goin on here. I've never been past Eastfield before, I dinnae like this place. I have to go and sit beside the horrible driver because I'm really starting to shite it. Why did I no just go for the 6?
      Wait a minute, there's Luca's ice-cream shop. I ken that place. Auntie Carol used to drive us doon there so grandma and pappa could get a poke when they were still alive. It's different going places in a car though. You dinnae notice how you get there as much. Then we turn the corner and I'm fucking lost. I dinnae ken if we're nearly there yet or no, not that it really matters as long as the bus goes back to Longstone. I just wish that fucking weirdie woman upstairs would get off.
      There's this really heid-nipping high-pitched sound and I realise the driver's trying to whistle. What a fucking awful racket. Jesus, why do all these cunts try to whistle? Sitting in traffic jams all day must make them go a bit mental. It's no the cunt that made a twat of me when I got on though, he must have changed buses to go and terrorise a new bunch of passengers.
      Why are bus drivers always such cunts? Either they deliberately drive past when there's about twenty people standing in the pishing rain with their arms out, or they sit and play cards at the depot and don't turn up at all, or they let you on and give you grief or drive you mental with their awful fucking whistling or that eeeeeeh noise they make when they huvnae shut the doors properly. Why have fucking pond life like that in charge of barrie things like buses? See when I make a fortune with my computer games I'm going to buy my own bus and tank along Princes Street crashing into every cunt like I'm at the dodgems. These bus driver bastards are gonnae be dead.
      We get to the end of the High Street and the holy willie finally gets off, still muttering her scary wee hymns and gies me another fucking evil glare. I check to watch she doesnae jump back in the out door and grab me from behind but she just walks off with her fucking bible open, mouthing away to herself. She should be in the fucking jail. I winnae get a 44 again in a hurry. They used to put folk like her in loony bins but now they just let them wander about the streets scaring folk shitless. I hope she's not still raving about when we're on the way back.
      I'm still worrying about her, and thinking about the deformed guy and wondering if I havenae imagined it all 'cause it seems too frightening to have actually happened when the bus stops in the middle of fucking nowhere and the engine cuts out. Fuck, is this it? What a fucking shite-hole, he better no make me get off here. Surely he winnae?
      The cunt does though. It's starting to pish doon now as well but he's chucking us all off regardless. Fucking Nazi. I beg the guy to let me stay on, tell him I'm going back towards Longstone, that I dinnae have a jacket and I point oot at the rain which is now fucking chucking it doon. He just blanks me till I stop pleading then looks really pleased with himself and tells me he cannae let passengers on for the return journey till he's had his break. Loadae shite. If mum wusnae so stupid I'd get her to write to the papers aboot it. Expose the bastards. The papers love aw that stuff aboot folk being cruel to wee kids or bairns getting shot or knocked-doon or dyin in fires. They'd probably pay her for a story like that and I could get ma picture took and a pair of Nike Air trainers. Scott and her would rip the piss oot of me if they kent I went roond on buses at night though. They wouldnae understand. I usually tell them I'm going roond to my pal Charlie's. They've never bothered asking where this Charlie guy stays or nowt, just as long as I'm no under their feet they dinnae care. Months ago I heard one of the inspectors calling this number 6 driver Charlie. That's who fucking Charlie is. I only remember it 'cause the guy felt sorry for me and gave me a bit of his piece when we got to the terminus. He probably got sacked for being too nice to passengers. Not like this cunt.
      This place is the pits. There's just a big field and a car showroom and a wee half-deserted railway station. Why put a bus stop or a railway station in a place like this? What cunt would want to come here? I pace up and doon the shelter trying to keep warm and also 'cause there isnae anything else to do. There's just the car place but I hate cars - rich cunts drive them and they hold aw the buses up.
      Mr smart-arse keeps giving me smug wee smiles as he drinks his lovely warm coffee out the lid of his flask and rams his puss with Kit-Kats. As he opens up his paper I take out my key and scrape National Kill a Bus Driver Day into the metal inside the shelter. Hopefully one of the sheep-shaggers that stay round here'll take it seriously and actually waste one of the bastards. You'd think it would happen all the time. Aw the poor cunts that have to use public transport, even old grannies, must have plenty reason to kill a few of the shitehooses every single day.
      The cold's making me need a piss. Mum says my bladder's fucked. That's why I dinnae usually bring juice on ma trips with me. Sometimes I'm on a bus for three oors at a time. I couldnae hold it in that long. I pish like a leaky bucket at the best of times and I wouldnae like to have to do it on the bus. No like that guy did that time, clarty bastard. I wouldnae dae it in the shelter either 'cause it's bogging when you're waiting on the bus and there's an awfie smell of pish.
      Instead I go into the field, behind a hedge. It feels really barrie as the pish steams onto the grass. Aaaaaah, yeah. I'm just savouring this feeling when there's a funny rustling sound that makes me jump and the last bit of wee wee splashes down my jeans as I hurry to zip up and get back to the bus stop. Shite.
      I pull my jumper down to cover the wet bits. The bus is still no going. Come on you fucking arse-wipe! Some fucking tea-breaks they cunts get, eh? Laughing boy looks up from his paper to his watch to me, grinning away like he thinks he's God in his wee armour-plated box. I feel like decking the cunt.
      My feet are so cold they're sore. Finally after what seems like about an hour the smart cunt starts up the engine and starts driving off, pretending he's forgotten me. I batter at the door till he lets me on. Fucking comedian, getting his kicks out of frightening wee laddies. Then the cunt asks to see my bus pass, gen, and checks my face against the picture. Fucking unbelievable.
      No wanting to risk it upstairs in case that woman gets on again I go and sit at the back so I dinnae have to look at the cunt and 'cause I dinnae want him looking at me with his stupid grinning heid. Hot wind blows up through a vent in the floor and cosies me up a bit and the wheel vibrating under me feels barrie. The trip back's never as good though cause it's the one that always takes me back to mum and Scott. Do you think I'd get to stay in the hoose if they died? That wouldnae be so bad. Maybe I should gie them one ay they bad pies each.
      Going back's like watching a video you've just seen in rewind. The bits at the end of the route you didnae ken on the way there seem like you've always kent them on the way back. Probably no one that lives in Edinburgh has been to all the bits I have. They dinnae ken all the funny shitey wee places I do. The roads are quieter now because it's getting late so the bus nashes through. I try to work out how far all these new bits are from Meadowbank where the real town starts.
      From Eastfield onwards I sort of know where I am. Things look awfie different at night though and places seem to appear when you dinnae expect them to. Like I'm convinced Portobello power station moves about after it gets dark, it seems to get everywhere. Aw the lights across in Fife look barrie at night. It's like a whole other place just across that wee bit water. They should have a ferry going across from Portobello, loads of folk would use it. You could get on free with a bus pass.
      We're at the posh hooses again now. They've aw got floodlights and shit in the gardens so they can still show off how loaded they are when they're sleeping. I bet these places have games rooms and saunas and wee cinemas and stuff in them. They winnae have to play Sega on a shitey black and white telly. The folk that stay in them should let poor laddies like me go round for a wee shot, d'you no think? There's so many rooms they probably wouldnae even notice. I'd let poor folk come roond and play with ma stuff if I stayed in a big hoose like that. Greedy cunts.
      Now we're back up at the poofy street again but I still cannae see any perverts. The papers probably just made it up 'cause everyone's getting bored reading aboot deid folk's greetin relatives and auld cunts dying fae bridie poisoning. It's too dark now to see if there's any shagging going on though. Maybe that's when they do it. Am gonnae get off here one night and see if any old poofs try and shag me. Aye right I will.
      There's fucking coaches parked along half the street the night so they've probably aw been scared off. Hibs definitely werenae playing though so I dinnae ken what all the hoo-hah's aboot.
      When we get up to Elm Row there's thousands of bingo- addict auntie beanie-types pouring oot the Playhoose. Some are going down to the coaches, or up towards the toon and loads of them are getting carted into ambulances and stuff and there's millions of mongols and cunts in wheelchairs as well, getting put away for the night.
      Then I see this big poster of that creepy Cliff Richard cunt on the billboards ootside. I start laughing because I'm imagining that auld cunt shaking his knob aboot on the stage and all these spastics and auld grannies chucking their pishy knickers at him. It's fucking sad. I huvnae ever been to a real concert myself but I dinnae really fancy it. They concert videos are always shite. The bands aw play stuff no one's ever heard of that's on their CDs and when they do their chart ones they always ponce them up so you dinnae even recognise them. Crowds do ma heid in too, you always get daft cunts shouting out stuff they wouldnae usually shout out just so lots of people can hear them. Radges.
      I'm fucking willing the bus to get through they auld cunts. Just knock them over you bastard! If we dinnae get up to York Place before them they'll start cramming themselves on, looking at people funny who dinnae get up to give them seats. Fucking cheek. They only have to pay twenty-five pence as well. They get on cheaper than any cunt but they still expect you to give them your seat, and they always seem to have that disgusting digestive-biscuits-in-their-knickers sort of smell aboot them. Some of these auld dears are minging. They should make the smelly bastards hing on the sides like they do in they Paki countries.
      Ya hoor sir, there's no one at the stop and the bus just sails right past. It's fucking beautiful. I kneel on the back seat and give the vicky sign to them all until we turn the corner. It's a fucking hoot.
      I'm still having a wee laugh aboot it to myself when we get up to St Andrew's Square and this strange-looking lassie gets on, all dressed-up like in really expensive model-type clothes, loadsae make-up but she's only aboot the same age as me. Dinnae get me wrong like, she's awfie nice-looking, sort of like Scully out of The XFiles but just a wee lassie. The lipstick and adult clothes look barrie but kindae strange. She's got on one of they bubble jackets, the ones that are about a hundred poond, really fucking bright orange and these skintight black troosers and black high-heeled boots. The dead coolest wee lassie I've seen in ma puff. Every cunt's staring at her 'cause she looks so fucking cool, so fucking different. I start thinking that maybe she is just a toaty wee woman cause she's done-up so fucking nice, then I hear her talking to the driver and her voice is like a wee lassie's. I'm no able to take my eyes off her, I cannae help just looking.
      I dinnae believe it, the cunting driver's giein her a hard time 'cause she wants to go to Balerno but she doesnae have the money. He tells her if she cannae pay the fare she'll have to get off. Poor wee thing cannae believe it and I think she's gonnae start greetin but she's wandering up the bus, trying to borrow her bus fare off folk. If I hadnae wasted all my money on that shite to feed my fat face I couldae gied her it but I got as much scran as I could. There's four-fucking-pound in my room as well.
      This is terrible, aw they bastards are either ignoring her or pretending they've nae money or going through their pockets then telling her, sorry. Now she's talking to me. This coolest-looking lassie is actually talking to me but I cannae fucking help her oot. She gives me a look like she doesn't believe me, nae wonder after aw they cunts. There's always stuff in the paper aboot this sortae thing, aboot kids getting kicked off buses 'cause bullies have choreyed their fares and getting murdered and that when they're walking home. They cunts must aw ken what can happen. Surely one of them'll gie her the money? She cannae get off. The driver's refusing to go any further until she pays up or gets off. What is it? Aboot thirty pence or something?
      I cannae believe this, I want to go and shake the bastards until they give her the money but they're aw like fucking grown-ups so I just fucking sit there, useless, until she finally gives up and gets off. The driver shouts something after her I dinnae make oot and pulls away. As the bus moves down towards Princes Street I see her stopping this mawkit-looking old guy and I get this horrible creepy feeling that something terrible's gonnae happen to her the night.
      A really panicky, scared sort of sensation is speeding roond ma insides. Why did I not get off and make sure she got home OK? I wouldnae ae minded walking aw the way to Balerno with her. It wouldae been fucking barrie. But she'll probably think I'm just the same as all these other greedy cunts now. I dinnae want her to think that, I really dinnae. Then my thumb's on the bell and I'm fucking ringing and ringing it but we're stuck at the lights beside the Waverley Market. I keep ringing, fuck. The driver looks oot from his wee secure box.
      'I fucking hear you. The stop's along there, right?'
      'Please mister, can you no just let me off here? Please? The traffic in that lane's stopped anyway.'
      The cunt refuses though and when the lights change we're away past the Scott Monument before he opens the doors. I boot the side of the bus and gob on the windae as all the greedy selfish fuckers gawp oot at me. Then I just start running. Running like absolute fuck. The traffic's aw moving now but I just nash through it, squeezing between cars, almost getting squashed into the road by a huge fucking juggernaut, kicking aw the buses as I go past them but I just keep running and running and running till I get aw that sare-heided-cannae-breathe sortae way.
      Aw I can think of is that lassie. It's like it was aw meant to happen and she was meant to get on that bus. It has tae be important if it's making me go radge like this. She cannae think I've let her down, she just cannae, whoever she is.
      When I get up to the job centre I stop for a second and wheeze for breath and squint up St Andrew's Street for that bright orange jacket. I look in the doorways of aw the banks and aw up roond the square, over to the grassy bit then I go in the bus station and look along aw the aisles and the cafe and the alley that cuts up through St James Centre, even in the ladies' bogs but I cannae see her anywhere. Fuck, I keep going and looking at the same bits over and over 'cause she couldnae just disappear like that. No other buses have come doon this bit yet so she's here somewhere. Aw I can see though is folk with cases and studenty-type posers oot on the piss and boring posh cunts. I honestly feel like greetin.
      After I've checked aw the places I'd already looked I walk along to the phone bit and throw myself onto one of the seats. I'm finding it awfie difficult no to cry now. It feels like the worst thing that's ever happened to me has just happened. I curl my toes up in my shoes to stop the tears coming but I really dinnae care any more if they do. Aw I care aboot is the sad look on that lassie's face. Why didn't I get off when she did? We could be walking back to Balerno right now, her safe, dead fucking pally. She'd have liked me if I'd helped her for definite. I really cannae believe she's gone, it feels like some cunt's died. Everything that's ever happened to me before this seems just silly all of a sudden, crappy in comparison. Nothing fucking matters any more.
      As I sit watching aw the folk going past I hate them, aw of them 'cause I ken if they'd been on that bus they'd've ignored her too. I hate them 'cause they dinnae ken what I'm doing here, what I've just tried to do. Their lives are stupid, fucking selfish.
      Ages and ages pass but I just keep sitting there in case she comes back. It's fucking freezing but I dinnae care. I was meant to help her like, I feel like the guy in Terminator, like I was just born to save her. Where the fuck has she gone?
      Thinking of all the possibilities of what's happened to her, or if I'd got off the bus when she did or no spent all my money on sweeties and shitey salt and vinegar I dinnae even like, or if that bastard driver had just let me off when I asked him is making me feel sick. I just want to lie down and sleep here until she comes back. I'm scared to leave in case she turns up again when I'm gone. I dinnae even ken what time it is.
      It gets later and later and I'm still fucking sitting there, no knowing what to do, just waiting as the place fills up with scary old jaikies and junkies and aggressive cunts pished oot their faces and I keep getting they bursts ae loud, angry-sounding voices seeming like they're getting nearer and nearer. There's hundreds ae reasons I should get the fuck oot ae there but an even bigger one to stay. Where the fuck is she? She shouldnae be alone in a place like this. I wait as long as I possibly can, till I really cannae stand it any longer.
      As I slowly start to walk towards the bus stop I still keep looking behind for her. I'm still looking when the 44 turns the corner. For a moment I just want to let it go past but I'm freezing and still soaking from the rain earlier and I feel fucking useless. Like a fucking useless cunt. I just want to go to my bed and no wake up.
      Getting on, I go upstairs hoping it's full of fucking psychos, hoping something awfie will happen. The bus speeds away like it's hurrying to get me away from it all. It feels like time is passing really quickly 'cause we're going so fast. Like it's getting as far away in time as it is in distance, like in science.
      It's ten to twelve when we get to Haymarket. It must have been aboot ten o'clock when I first saw her. What was a lassie like her hanging aboot there at that time of night for? Sometimes it seems like nae cunt cares aboot anybody any more. The world's just full of sad folk wandering aboot on their own.
      It's no until I'm walking up my street, looking at the neighbours' hooses, the shops and gardens and aw the poxy fucking things that huvnae changed since I was wee that I start to remember who I am. That anything had ever happened before tonight. I fucking hate this place.
      Tomorrow I'll get a 44 again and look for her. I'll look every fucking night until I see her again and tell her I'm sorry. Fuck it, I'll wear a big jumper and my blazer so I dinnae even have to leave this time. So's I can just stay there and wait till she comes back.
      There's no lights on in the house. I remember for the first time in hours that it's my birthday and for a minute I think they might aw jump out and say surprise when I get in. I couldnae really handle anything like that though. They're more likely to kick me aboot the living room anyway. There's nobody in. Mum's left a note pinned to the unit that says In Ryries. Finish the cake. Thanks a lot, I think. Thanks a fucking lot.
      I check the paper to see if anything decent's on. Shite, I missed The X Files, but I cannae really be bothered watching telly anyway. I couldnae even concentrate to play Sega, even in colour. I go into the kitchen and eat a few cheese slices, then get a couple of Penguins and go to bed with that wee lassie's face like a Polaroid photo in my heid.
 

  1997 Laura Hird                      | Author Bio | Spanish Translation

"Routes" was first published in Nail and Other Stories. See the BR review. Book ordering: Canongate
This electronic version of "Routes" is published by The Barcelona Review by arrangement with Rebel Inc (Canongate) and the author.

This excerpt may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

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