This is James Kelman’s first collection of short stories – as fresh and sharp as when they first appeared from American publisher, Puckerbrush Press, in 1973. Set among the tenements and bedsits of Glasgow, they shine a light on the exploits of both the young and the old. The US edition has never been out of print.
Out of print
Year of Publication
This book can be purchased or ordered from your local independent bookshop or from Waterstones
This excerpt is taken from: pp42-3 Polygon paperback edition (2007)
An extract from the story entitled ‘Wednesday’
‘Jimmy! Jimmy! Come on it’s half past!’
‘What? What is it?’
Billy was leaning over me shaking my shoulder. ‘Half past five man come on.’
‘I’m not going.’ I closed my eyes as I realised today was Wednesday. Day before pay day. We had no money. No food. No cigarettes. Nothing at all. ‘I’m not going man.’
‘You’re daft you bastard.’ Billy looked disgusted. ‘What’s the point in staying here? There’s no grub. Nothing. Might get a tap in work.’
I opened my eyes. ‘It’s raining.’
‘So you’re not going?’ He put on his jacket.
‘No sir. No sirree. Tell old Dick. Oh tell him anything at all.’
Billy opened the door and looked around. ‘You tell him tomorrow.’
‘OK.’ I pulled the blankets up to my chin. ‘Christ it’s really terrible in here. So cosy and warm. Oh it’s really bad. I wish I could go to work. You’re lucky.’
‘Aye I know,’ he looked angry, ‘I’m getting a new place Jimmy, this is hopeless.’
‘Oh no,’ I mumbled sleepily.
The door slammed as I turned over.
About 10.30 a.m. I awoke with a clear conscience and began searching for food. Billy and I had looked everywhere last night but unknown to him I had found an egg which I had secreted among the old ash in the fireplace. I looked elsewhere for something more but found nothing.
I washed the egg before breaking the shell and emptying it into the frying pan. Then I realized I should have boiled it. Too late now. One fried egg for breakfast. Still there were three or four tea leaves left and enough dust to make at least one cup of tea. No milk though. I noticed the old empty tin of Carnation lying on top of the rubbish box. Yes! I could only pour some boiling water into it and swirl it about. Enough for a cup. Things were looking better.
I switched on the kettle and turned on the electric ring before returning to the room to make the bed and tidy up a bit. There was a chance of finding a dowt somewhere. Perhaps in the fireplace? Billy had looked there last night though. Not much hope. I searched around for a while before discovering the large butt of a Capstan under the carpet. That sneaky bastard! He must have tapped it from a lodger. Well, well, well. What a dirty bastard. I thought I smelled smoke this morning. What! Something up! The kettle had not whistled.
I put the dowt behind my ear and walked through to the kitchen. The switch! Electricity! The slot! Jesus no shilling. No breakfast. Overcome with despair I sat down, close to tears. My mind was completely blank for some time. Then. Raw eggs! Very healthy. Yes and there was some Yorkshire relish to mix in.
‘Hullo there!’ I cried for joy and jumping to my feet ran through to the kitchen where I spooned the egg from the frying pan up into a cup. I took the sauce bottle down from the shelf and laid it on the sink, then drank some ice-cold water, straight from the tap. Ah, even Manchester water is so refreshing.
I grabbed the bottle and shook the liquid into a cup. Closing my eyes I raised the cup to my lips and drank half. Immediately I spluttered and coughed and spewed into the sink. Groaning I bent my head down between my knees realising what I had done. I could still taste it. My God I had picked up the Fairy Liquid instead of the Yorkshire Relish. I straightened and turned on the tap to wash away the breakfast. Something attracted my attention. The ultimate piece of all the bad luck which had ever befallen me. The cigarette butt had fallen from my ear and was now soggily floating with the tide of green-coloured yolk towards the drain.
I staggered into the room and collapsed onto the bed a raving maniac. Somehow I must have undressed and crawled under the blankets, as the next thing I knew, the door had opened and the landlady’s cleaner was staring down at me. She held a broom and shovel in one hand.
© James Kelman