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PART OF THE Beyond Borders ISSUE

‘I heard Lily going to the bathroom late at night, her feet making tiny squeaks that yanked me out of my dreams, fun little holidays in my own head, no passport or payment necessary.’

1970s Denny. A heatwave is wracking Scotland, and Sadie arrives at her new council flat with her big sister and mum. Readers follow her from childhood through adulthood in hilarious, crushing detail, from first dates, to running away from home, jobs, grief, Covid, and all the darkness and drama that is growing up. Read some snapshots below. 

Sadie, Call the Polis
By Kirkland Ciccone
Published by Fledgling Press 

 

Useful Advice 

I used to believe everything my mither told me, including her age which stayed at twenty-five for nearly ten years. She seemed to know everything, and if she didn’t, she faked it better than anyone else in the world. She once told me the meaning of life, back when I trusted her every word.  

−Life, she said, −is good with friends and better with money. 

−But what about love? I asked. 

−Love’s fine if you can leave the next morning. 

This was probably the wisest thing she ever told me. 

That and −Always stash your cash under the floorboards. 

 

Past lives 

According to my mither, we all brought something of our past lives into this one. Reincarnation, I suppose. She used to tell me the story of her other life, the one she lived before she became my mither. Back then, she was a happy dolphin – a daft idea really, because I saw her feeble attempts at swimming. From the steps of the pool, I’d watch while she thrashed in the foamy water, with all the grace of a sack of cats. My love of rain didn’t extend to the swimming pool spray, but because I was wee enough to get into The Mariner Centre for free (and my sister still at an age where she qualified for a cheap ticket), that’s just how we spent our weekends. Mither insisted we go every Sunday because it was Divorced Dads’ Day. Sometimes she’d talk to someone, but it never went anywhere further than the car park. While the other kids  

dive-bombed into the pool, bolstered by the fearlessness of being young and dumb, I found myself at the shallow end of the water near Mither, pretending to be a mermaid, trying to turn something miserable into a good memory. Even now, I can’t swim. My sister, however, took to the water like she did everything else in life – with supreme confidence. Sometimes, I reckoned Mither was right, and Lily was a beautiful dolphin in a former life. She was every bit as graceful in the water. Dressed in her one-piece green bathing suit, she turned smoothly underneath the white-speckled water, her legs kicking flecks of foam in a neat spray, knowing full well everyone nearby was watching, each one of them completely mesmerised by her unearthly elegance. Try being her wee sister, I’d think, looking on enviously, dreaming that I’d come back in my next life as her.  

If anything, Mither must have been a cat in a past life – because most people crossed the road to avoid her. Another feline characteristic she had was her fur coat, a shiny smooth brown pelt. She wore it with everything, no matter the weather or temperature and she never sweated either. When the coat went threadbare, she seemed to find another somewhere else. Mither enjoyed the kind of glamour people rarely saw in real life, only on the front pages of expensive magazines, the type that sold clothes to rich people, stuff I’d never wear. Not only because they were too expensive, but because I couldn’t get them to fit. My clothes were the sort that came with a big red Clearance sticker and an XXL tag. Lily took how I dressed personally. 

−You look like a fucking tramp, she’d hiss whenever I got ready to go out and play. Sometimes I felt Lily didn’t like me much. In her eyes, I was a walking, talking, drinking, eating example of our mither’s bad decisions. Lily never recovered from the fact she wasn’t an only child.  

−I want all the love, she explained calmly while I lay in bed listening to the rain drop. Magpie or not, it didn’t matter what I was in a past life. In this life, I was an intruder who stole time, effort, love, air and money. I’d never be allowed to forget it. 

 

Denny, in Falkirk 

For years, life was 87 Little Denny Road, a flat on the second top floor of a block in-between blocks. I spent most of the day and all night in my bedroom, sitting on my bed or walking on the floor, also someone else’s roof. Sometimes I’d lean onto the windowsill and watch rain slide down the glass, one drop splitting into different directions. Yet, as much as I loved the rain, it also brought a lot of unwelcome problems. There was a crack in the window, a small tear that let water trickle into the house, a persistent leak that dribbled down the wall, causing long wet stains that never seemed to dry. Worse, the rainwater fed the thick fluffy black filaments of mould hidden behind my cupboard, making my clothes smell and my chest hurt.  

Mither didn’t have a leaky window in her bedroom. What she had was a very large, mirrored wardrobe on the far wall. Every night before she went to work, I’d hear her tell herself how amazing she looked. Lily, meanwhile, took the smallest room because it was easier to keep neat and tidy. Also, she’d spotted damp in the other room, so it was immediately passed over to me. Thank you, damp! Being at the other side of the hall also gave Lily easy access to the bathroom, a small space with just enough width for a bath and a toilet. The hall floor was uncarpeted. I heard Lily going to the bathroom late at night, her feet making tiny squeaks that yanked me out of my dreams, fun little holidays in my own head, no passport or payment necessary. 

 

Sadie, Call the Polis by Kirkland Ciccone is published by Fledgling Press, priced £10.99.

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