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Filtered sunlight and traces of a
rainbow visible out the two big front
fifth-floor windows looking out over
Murdieson Street, a steep street
going all the way up to the Whin
Hill. Morag’s Granny is bending
over the black sink washing her face
with a square of wool blanket, worn
thin, and green Fairy soap. Her
steel-gray hair is plaited to her waist.
Morag’s Granda is sitting with his

back to her making “spills” to light his pipe from the edges of The Daily Telegraph. The middle parts are torn into squares for toilet paper, which he’ll hang on a nail in the lavatory, shared with the two other tenants on the landing.

Morag sits opposite her Granda waiting for her Granny to undo her plait, to bend over from the waist, throwing her hair down in front to comb it. All the while carrying on a discussion, the content of which Morag has no idea.

“ a saaz, saaz I aye... she saaz ach yer haverin...”

Her Granny twists her hair into a bun at the nape of her slim, sinewy neck, holds it in place with various bone hairpins, and heads toward the lobby cupboard to pull on her long gray pinstripe wool coat with a separate fox fur collar. She comes back in to see herself in the foggy dresser mirror as she carefully places her black wide-brimmed hat held at just the right angle with a pearl hat pin on her smoothed hair.

“Johnny, hand me that accumulator; may as well get it recharged while I’m in that vicinity. I win’t be many meenits tae am back.”

“Ach ya auld Hun you know damn well ye’re gonna be at The Snug ’ti’ we have tae come and get ye.”

“Johnny Murphy hold yer tongue... talking like that in front o’ that wean.”

As her Granda takes a deep breath and gets ready to say more — “hold yer tongue will ye.”

“Granda can I have a bit o’ cheese?” Morag knows how to get his attention. He sets the spills and squares of newspaper aside, takes the big black kettle from the hob, and puts it on the gas stove to speed the water to a boil for his tea. He holds thick slices of day-old bread to the glowing coals with a long-handled fork until the Willow-pattern bread plate is piled high with golden toasted bread, burned around the edges. Morag waits patiently for him to cut the hard sweaty cheddar into bite-sized cubes because he knows that’s the way she likes it and her mother did, too, at her age. He pours his tea into a blue and white bowl with lots of sugar and milk then slurps it, wetting his handlebar moustache. Morag waits for him to pour some into a china saucer — it cools faster — for her to slurp in-between fingers of toast and cheese.

Copyright 2002
Timshel Literature