Max

by Jilly Allison

 

This room is 8 by 10, cold, no sun. They paint the walls cream, dirty cream. It’s a cell, my cell, my place.

I was always on the outside looking in, ‘skinny little thing, like skinned rabbit,’ Ma said, never fitted in.

Ma, round, fat little body, grey hair in a bun. I was a ‘mistake’ − bloke from the Co-op, delivery man, came in for cup of tea; when he found she was ‘expecting’ he legged it, fast. Ma was old then, never thought she’d have a bairn, then I came. She loved me, I knew that.

At school I was ‘left out’. I knew if I melted into the background the bullies left me alone. They did; got clobbered a couple of times. Mr Edleston broke it up. Kind man, Mr E.

Father Paul cared as well, he nattered on about forgiveness and acceptance, kids laughed at him. Talked about ‘life after death’ being happy there in heaven, yea right. These little ‘rat kids’ from the arse end of Biker, being happy, dream on!

I like black things, tight black jeans, tight black t-shirt. Ma reckoned I looked like a black beetle. They squash black beetles.

I got Max when I was 18. I’d got a flat and we could have dogs.

Round bundle of fluff, grey white fluff, black beady eyes peering out. Fella said he was an Alsation. He was mine, just mine. We bonded, him and me. Took him for walks across the common, trained him to be quiet, to come, to play, all at night. I like the night.

He never left my side, slept on my bed. I bathed him often, he smelt soft, felt warm and cosy. I like things clean. My flat is clean. Ma said she’s never seen a man so clean and tidy. Cleanliness is next to godliness I was told − it’s not about God, it’s about me.

Ma’s letter came yesterday, devastating, worse than getting sent down. I expected that, Judge had no sympathy: ‘You’ll be kept in isolation, people like you should be kept apart.’

No point in telling them it wasn’t me. No-one wants to listen to me, I’m nothing.
She’s had Max ‘put to sleep’, Ma that is. ’I couldn’t cope with him and he pined for you.’ I trusted you Ma, the only person I ever trusted, even Max trusted you, you brought him bones from Arthur at the butcher’s.

Ma, how could you.

You can get things in here with you. I won’t tell you how to smuggle things in but you can, I did, pills.

Blame Father Paul, heaven and stuff. I believe in it, being happy somewhere.
I waited for the night, I like the night. Long drink of water and down they went. I can see Max now, at the end of the bright tunnel, waiting for me, that old tennis ball in his mouth. Dogs smile you know, he’s smiling. I’m coming Max, now.

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