The only thing I ever got off my old man was a birthday card when I was ten. He'd gone off when I was three and left me and mam and my sister to fend for ourselves. Mam never talks about him but my sister remembers him.
‘What was dad like?' I ask.
She looks at me through dark, sleepy eyes, pushes her hair back from her eyes. Her arms are scabbed like she'sbeen shinning up a rusty drainpipe and accidentally slid back down and scraped herself. ‘Whu?'
‘I said, what was dad like?'
She smiles at me, and I suss that she's still trippin' and I should ask her later when she's straight.
Anyhow, the only thing I ever got from him was a birthday card when I was ten. It said Happy Birthday Mickey! And then there was a verse inside the cardthat went:
Now you're ten, and how you've grown
It really won't be long
‘Til you're a man, and fully grown
With arms both big and strong.
And on the front of the card was a picture, a cartoon, of a little boy wearing a hardhat and driving a tractor. But I mean, how would he know I'd grown? To be honest, I was surprised he knew where I was, we moved so often.
But the killer was, at the bottom of the card, below the rhyme, he'd added:
Remember, no one's got your back
I'd studied this card on more than one occasion, trying to work out some depth to what he was telling me. ‘Laura, what was dad like?'
Three hours later and she's washing up. The dutiful daughter. She looked up a little, thought about my question fora second or two. Then she said, ‘I love him. Still.'
‘Well I hate him. What was he like, though?'
And she said, ‘Stern.'
‘I don't mean strict; more like serious. Like you, a bit, but smarter, taller and better looking.' Then she laughed and slapped me across the arm, ‘Dry the dishes,' she said.
It's funny, I learn a lot from my sister, mainly don't dodrugs, which I should have written in capital letters instead of italics, but never mind, the thing is, when she's not high or shaking ‘cos she needs some stuff, she's really smart and, truth be told, she's the core of our family, the strength, believe it or not. Honest, she keeps us together. There's me, fifteen, bright, got a future, they tell me, though I haven't and I'll tell you about thatlater, and then there's my mam, as honest as, and working, and sensible (though not in her choice of boyfriends or anything) and all that stuff. And then there's Laura. Nineteen, and a junkie, but she holds the family together. Cos mam's a flake and useless, and I, basically, am at a loose end; financially, educationally, socially, morally… I won't go on.
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Laura has one thing going for her;she's honest. And because she is honest she sees more than most, so she knows more than most, and she holds me and mam together.
Hold on, I was told by my English teacher, Miss Wright, that I should show, not tell; ‘too much exposition,' she'll say to me (look it up). So maybe I should stop describing my life, start showing what happens instead, but I'll get to that bit in abit, so to speak.
Ok, so mam. My mother. She is thirty seven years old and she is a flake. A total dribble. Weak as. They should do a reality TV show on my mam – "How Not To …"
"How Not To bring up your children."
"How Not To save for the future."
"How Not To get a good job."
"How Not To attract a nice boyfriend."
She did once. Attract a nice boyfriend, that is.And I've read all the women's magazines she buys and I knew from the off it wasn't going to last. From the moment she said to me, ‘He's kind, thoughtful, good looking. He's got a good job, Pete, and a lovely car' (a bloody good car, since you ask. You didn't? But you would have. A Kompressor. Which means Supercharger. Which also means money. Cool. German. Cool. And much more). But anyway, as she's...