Cutting and editing is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer. Some years ago, I started a novel based on a situation (a hugely dysfunctional neighbourhood) then realised there wasn’t a strong enough story. So I’ve backtracked and provided a plot. Now I have to lose a lot of what I enjoyed writing – particularly the bits that made me laugh. So I thought I’d post some outtakes. Hope they make you laugh, too…
From WIP: Working title: THE LIFE OF LALLA
Number Eight, Chatt Abbas Close, Ruby’s home, New neighbour: Day One
Ruby was at school. Her father, Steve, abandoned American Football on Sky in favour of hovering by the window with his lager and squinting through the net curtains. His Vauxhall Astra gleamed on the drive and the council white van that he drove was parked outside next door. He always parked the van in front of number seven A) to give him a clear view of his rival Tolly’s, at number one, and B) to show who was king of the road.
In the front garden, his sons, Cashus and Tisan, dismantled another motorbike. Their mother, Yvonne, was playing a computer game, Djinn Ja Tan’gul of Minnjh: The Tongue of Thighbold (V2) on the laptop with her headset on. In her pocket was a note from Ann Cann passed to her by Ruby before school that morning. Unable to read, herself, she would pretend to read it with her youngest daughter, later.
Steve clenched his teeth as the new next door neighbour pulled up outside number six, Minnie Chickerell’s house, in her Series 1 BMW.
‘’Oo she think she is? Lady Muck…People like ’er – think they own the bleedin’ road.’
He glanced round at Yvonne, but she hadn’t heard his remark, lost in her game world, mouth slightly open, fingers working rapidly. He turned back to the window and pulled himself to his full five foot five, tension jacking up his shoulders to his hairy ears. Steve had a problem with women or, rather, women he couldn’t bully. He would probably have been more comfortable living in Saudi Arabia, except for not being a prince and therefore unable to circumvent the ban on alcohol.
‘Whoever moves in number nine’d better be more normal.’
Truth to tell, no-one who moved into number nine, the end-terrace on the other side of his mid-terrace house, stood much chance of Steve liking them, what with the council turning down his application to do a swap.
Number Eight, Ruby’s house. New neighbour: Day Two
Ruby’s father Steve believed the rest of the world existed to make his life difficult. Had to be up early because of a hospital appointment for Yvonne. Women’s stuff. Went in the van. Couldn’t get the Astra out because half a motorbike was in the way.
‘Bleedin’ kids, blockin’ me in. Where’s Cashus? Where’s Tisan?
Yvonne was listening to Showaddywaddy on her MP3, her stare fixed on the ground. She zipped up her hoody and got in the passenger seat of the van, anticipating the stirrups and the cold metal spectrum. Leaving the safety of the house filled her with anxiety.
Steve arrived back from the hospital with Yvonne to find that the stuck up cow next door had parked her posh car outside number seven. Number seven was her house, true, and he hadn’t met his next door neighbour yet. But she was obviously a stuck up cow for having a newer car than his and parking in his favourite spot. His fury was boundless.
With the phone at her ear, Alison prepared the bedroom for their first night in their new home. She didn’t allow Granny into her head, being able to imagine the conversation word for word. Granny would call Clark an untrustworthy, two-timing shyster, Alison would defend him, Granny would say they could have written the Ten Commandments about him and Alison would fall back on being forty two and Clark being her best hope of fathering her baby. At this point, Granny refused to be shut out.
Granny Lalla: Ask me you’re better off having a bundle with that clapped out old carpet man. (Currently steaming the carpets)
Despite Alison’s realistic approach to their relationship, Clark’s many unscheduled absences often stirred her imagination to alarming scenarios, such as his being horribly mangled in a train crash or knifed on a secret mission in a trans-gender brothel, deep in Soho or, given the current climate, his arrest for seducing an underage beauty many years ago. These fictions were sometimes darkly amusing but more often unsettling. As she pulled the bedcover straight there was another hammering at the front door, this time so urgent that she dropped her mobile and fled downstairs, propelled by dread. Walter Arrowsmith poked his head out of the living room as she passed.
‘Spotted what it is, missus. Dog urine. Unmistakable.’
At the front door was an angry, short, middle-aged man dressed in jeans, a singlet and a baseball cap.
‘You parked in my parking place! Mine! Come ’ere, think yer own the road!’
‘Who are you?’
‘Next door. Twenty-three years. Always parked there.’
Alison glanced past her fuming neighbour. ‘Erm – I’ve parked outside my house, not yours.’
This passed as though she hadn’t spoken.
The argument became circular. A warning bell rang in Alison’s head and she was about to apply her superior power of persuasion when a taxi drew up. Clark! Carrying a profusion of gerberas, sunflowers and asters – all her favourites – he strode up the garden path past the fuming pint-sized neighbour and lifted her off her feet.
‘Mah wee darlin’! Good to be home!’
The neighbour retrieved the fallen bouquet and held it uncomfortably.‘’Ere – yer dropped yer flowers.’
Clark turned on his best bloke-bonding act. ‘Sorry, pal. Thanksalot. Ma first day in ma new home. Clark MacArne – and you’re…?’
‘Steve. Live next door.’
‘Real privilege to meet you, Steve. New neighbour, new friend!’ Clark held out his hand.
Steve, initially hesitant, launched into a strange ritual of punching knuckles and clasping palms at forty-five degrees. All dead serious. Steve, the pudgy, fifty-something adolescent. After which he restarted his harangue about the BMW being parked in his space.
Clark mentioned the motorcycle parts blocking their drive and Steve smirked with pride at the opportunity to prove that there had, at one time, been lead in his pencil –
‘O them. My twin boys, Cashus and Tisan, they’ll get it sorted for you, Mark.’
– then swaggered down the path, ignoring Alison.
(All characters are the work of the author’s imagination and any coincidence to persons living or dead is coincidental.)
This is how I see Steve (apologies to whoever posted this on FB)