Patrick Doyle is a twenty-nine-year-old teacher in an ordinary comprehensive school. Isolated, frustrated and increasingly bitter at the system he is employed to maintain, he begins his rebellion, fuelled by drink and his passionate, unrequited love for a fellow teacher.
Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1989
Year of Publication
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This excerpt is taken from: pp71-3 Picador paperback edition (1990)
Which is what Patrick would wish for himself just now, right at this moment, he would wish himself into a small friendly hotel whose bar stayed open till the last customer left, and Patrick wouldni leave, he would remain forever. But it would be something very special being in such a place with a woman you really fancied. The thick peats burning in the fireplace, having to avert the face slightly from the fire because it is so hot. And a nice pint of draught beer on tap and maybe a nice sort of late meal to come, with a bottle of cool wine, then upstairs to bed, but even lingering say, if it was with Alison for instance, being relaxed and cheery the way sometimes he could be with her, maybe looking out and seeing the bluishblack of the sea, the solitary lighthouse beam flaring away to the southwesternmost point, a couple of seconds interval, making its own pause, allowing the two folk to settle into it, that kind of tranquillity, that rhythm. She did have the knack of getting him calm, making him calm himself, getting him to calm himself, and become towards his best. And his best could be fairly amusing in not too loud a fashion – quiet asides. They could be sitting up in bed doing it. Doing what? Pat chuckled. He shook his head. He had been sitting in the normal driving position but he sat forwards now, the rain having begun again, and quickly came streams of it down the windscreen and he had to shove the wipers onto motorway-action, awaiting the next turn-off. There was only one thing worth bothering about and that was the truth of the matter what was the truth of the matter was the truth of the matter ‘love’; love, was that it? Love? Love. That was it out in the open now. He was in love with Alison Houston. And he wanted to grab a hold of her. If he didnt grab a hold of her bad things would happen.
So, what was to do? What was he to do? He laughed – a sniggering sort of guffaw. But no wonder! So, what to do? One of those romantic carry ons? stealing her away from under the nose of everybody – her and her husband sitting there watching the telly and the door goes and when it gets answered, in bursts Patrick and he shouts, Okay Alison. Coats on! That’s us, we’re leaving.
Aye, right now.
What about my husband.
And she gives Pat a huge smile, but very somehow underplayed at the same time because she is saving the main bulk of it for when they are alone. She rushes out the room to pack her stuff.
Don’t waste time, says Patrick, we can hit the department stores first thing in the morning. The department stores. It sounds like something out of a Hollywood picture. Patrick shook his head but he was grinning. He had to remember and concentrate though because the road conditions were abysmal, really abysmal. And sitting hunched forwards like this aye made you stiff and cramped, stiffened shoulders and cramped back muscles, down at the small of it, the back, at the foot of the spine. He felt exhausted. An actual physical sensation of acute tiredness, as if even just shutting the eyelids for ten seconds would genuinely help matters christ just ten seconds. Being able to stretch right out! The legs and the arms and wrists, the fingers – instead of this having to drive nearly pressed right into the windscreen with your face in the glare and getting that cold blast from the demisters somehow hitting the crown of your head, never a good sensation although it can keep you awake and alert when you are driving and you shouldnt be driving because you are too tired to be good at it, too exhausted to actually
Alison’s husband always said nothing. He stood in the background. It was possible he had a deeply rooted inferiority complex. In the company of teachers a great many folk suffer the same problem. Teachers intimidate people. He was a funny sort of bloke in some ways and didnt remind you of a high powered salesman at all; he was more like something else, an undercover detective perhaps, working for the Economic League or Special Branch, or MI5 or the CIA. It was possible. Everybody knew they had all infiltrated the educational establishments of the entire country, and that includes primary schools and nurseries. If Alison
He dropped the gear from top to third to second, slowing at the roundabout up from the Motherwell sliproad, returning back onto the M74, heading home to Glasgow.
© James Kelman