|The shakes. The stink. The flies.
Outside was snow. One of the horses skited on the way and near took a tumble. In
here there’s a fire but lacings of frost on the windows.Forty beds reeking and heaving. Devils dancing in between. Waiting for souls.
Now and again they catch one. Young lad two beds along just left feet first. Greetin
woman trailin behind.
They come in with a bowl of soup or a cup of water. My thrapple’s on fire, but I
Once one tried it on with me. Sucked me into the middle like a whirlpool. Up in the
Worst is the long night. Nothing to see but the shadows on the wall. Nothing to hear
Willie could leave the school and Fordyce would give him a start. But a boy’s pay
Still, behind the night is aye the dawn. One day I feel better. I rise and slink oot
Drawn by hearth and family I win home. But the devils are after me yet. They’ve
I overcome them by force of will. Up the stair and into the kitchen.
Here! What’s the game? Without asking, they’ve done away with the range. It’s
I’m ponderin on this when Agnes walks in. We smile at wan another. I say “I’m
Is it really Agnes? It’s her height and colouring, but somethin’s off the reel. Is it
I reach out, feart it turns and grins on me with its damned mouth.
Agnes lets out a scraich. She chitters and all the hairs on her arm stand up. Then
I stand by my hearth, trying to make sense of this. A young wife comes in. Behind
The woman looks vaguely in my direction. “There’s nothing there, Debbie.” She
I notice the bed’s away. In its place a table with chairs.
They pay me no more heed than if I was the wind up the lum. When they’ve
Fiends or folk, they strut aboot ma hame. As if I’m a bit o dirt in my own kitchen. I
“Was it an earthquake?” asks Agnes…or Debbie…
By night, I go ben the house. The lobby’s changed. Another room added, though
In the front room recess sleeps a stranger. A beardy. Hair red as carrots spread
He reaches and the place floods with light.
Here, do they no douse the light, turn their backs and start up their snorin again!
Night after night they stare at a square thing wi movin pictures. I find out how to
Debbie-Agnes has her own box. She does things with it. Batters away on a board
Ah kid her on a bit. Make the pictures narrow then wide. Shockin pink. Sickly
Don’t think it’s Agnes. More likely a demon. So ah gies it laldy. Put in whole rows o
Make it growl.
She disnae turn a hair. Goes toddlin ben. “My computer’s got a virus.”
But where’s ma weans? I’ve bawled till I’m black in the face.
One day they bring in a baldy geezer. Shilpit as a brush. He spots me right away.
“What do you want?” he asks. As if I’m the intruder.
“I’m Johnny MacPherson! I pay ma rent and nae bugger dares sell this roof fae
They’re gone. Back to the kingdom of Hell.
My home’s ma ain and no ma ain. Crammed with other gear. Big white boxes in the
Outside’s different too. The middle door in the landing’s away. Mrs McGregor’s
But they’ll no get me. I’m too quick. On the roof in one blink, the back court the next.
All grassed over. Midden tidy in a wee biggen. Wherr’s the ash and the mire?
Night follows day six times but no soul disturbs ma peace.
Then Baldy returns. With him an auld wife. Ninety if she’s a day.
“Efter ye died, Paw, Willie stertit at the foundry and Auntie Beattie took me to be a
“Is that the whole family?” asks Baldy.
This creature with the clapped-in jaws makin oot she’s Agnes. Agnes with the pinny
Right enough, though.
What have they done with the years?
“The presence is fading.” Baldy opens the kitchen door. In troop Brian and the wife.
“Whatever.” says the wife. “This house is going in the property pages next week.
Where to, now, for Johnny?
Follow the old dame home? She’s no my Agnes. No my wee Agnes. If I gie her the
The demons know when they’re on a loser, but. Johnnie MacPherson’s too much
I turn my face to the clouds. If the tales are true I’ll maybe meet up with poor Ina.
For Johnny MacPherson, never in life past Airdrie, the firmament waits.