Tracey and Jacinta walked between
the aisles of underwear and stockings, in Mark’s & Spencer’s.
Jacinta fingered the silk drawers.
wearing these, and look at the price, just for a pair of bum warmers.
Hey, Tracey, would you like a pair of these lacy tights?”
“No, I wouldn’t,
“I wonder would
anyone notice me taking these two pair of tights?”
“What do you want
those for, Jacinta, they’re even a yucky colour?”
“Just for fun.
I bet I could walk out of here with them, without anyone noticing
“Ah! For heaven’s
sake, Jacinta, have you lost your marbles? Well, I’m not
going with you.”
“Come on, are
you scared? Anyway, it’s only for a bit of crack. I’ll
leave them back again.”
“What about that
that, it has the whole shop to cover.” Jacinta picked up
the two pairs of yucky tights and stuck them down the sleeve of
“You should have
picked a better colour.”
be putting them back? I bet I’ll get as far as Woolworth’s.
Tracey followed. She could feel the cold sweat running down her
arms. Going up the escalator, Tracey squeezed between her teeth,
“I think we’re being followed. Jacinta, just put the
bloody things back, before it’s too late.”
“Come off it,
Tracey, it’s only tights, not gold bars.” A woman
a couple of steps above them, turned round and gave them an awful
look. Tracey’s heart was hammering in her chest.
“So what, we’re
on an escalator, you nit-wit.”
Jumping off at the top, Tracey let Jacinta go in front of her.
It wasn’t for long, as Jacinta came back and dragged her
by the arm.
at the door. I told you we would make it.”
“What do you mean
‘we’? You’re in this on your own.”
Tracey looked over her shoulder and whispered, “Your man
from the escalator is still behind us.”
paranoid. Look, easy as punch.”
The pair walked onto
the busy street. Tracey was glad it was Saturday, as the town
was packed. They mingled with the crowd and Jacinta jumped up
in the air and yelled, “You right eejits!”
As her feet hit the pavement, a large hand gripped her shoulder,
and another grabbed Tracey’s.
“I think you have
something that doesn’t belong to you.”
He pulled them towards the shop, all the people just stared. Tracey
was roaring and kicking.
take anything, let me go.”
He shook her none too gently, as if he were shaking a louse from
a blanket. He marched them through the shop and into an office.
Tracey held onto the jam of the door and screamed, “I didn’t
steal anything, I’m going to get the cops on you.”
With that, the security guard grabbed Tracey’s wrists and
pushed her into the room. A man was sitting behind the desk, with
a pen stuck in his mouth.
said the man.
“You can take down those tights you have up your sleeve.”
He gave a little grin.
“Thought you’d get away with it.”
Jacinta didn’t say a word. She just stood
and stared at the fat man, whose hair had receded and whose fat
neck sat down on the collar of his shirt. He stood up and came
wobbling round the desk and looked the two girls up and down.
“I want your name and address, and no funny business.”
He poked Jacinta with the pen. After getting her name, he made
a phone call.
“Well, miss, you have no police record. That doesn’t
mean you’ll get away with it. We can’t have wee thugs
coming in here taking what they want, now can we? As for you,
Tracey stood with her legs crossed tight. She was dying for a
pee but afraid to ask.
“I’d pick a better friend. Now get out of here and
don’t let me see your faces again. Miss Myers, you’ll
be getting a summons within the month. You will have to attend
the petty courts.”
The security man opened the door and the pair made a tear for
Out on the pavement,
Tracey grabbed Jacinta by the arm, and rushed her round to the
C&A where she went to the loo.
“What will I do
now, my ma will kill me.”
“You should have
thought of that first.”
“Come off it,
Tracey, did you ever hear of anyone going to court over a pair
“No, but it looks
like you will.”
They bought 10 No. 6
with their bus fare and chain-smoked the lot before they got home,
sucking them in, as if to get some answers to their thoughts.
They parted at Pacific Avenue.
“See you tomorrow,
Tracey. That’s if I’m still alive.”
“I told you they
were a bad colour.”
it in,” and she humped her way home.
“Where have you
been to this time? If I didn’t want you, you’d be
glued to that auld box.”
Jacinta got stuck in
and helped her ma with the dinner. Afterwards she washed the dishes,
a chore she hated. She rose every morning before the postman came.
No sign of an official letter. Her mum and dad got their tea and
toast in bed for the next few weeks. Jacinta’s mum was over
the moon about this change although she said, to Des, her hubby.
“Do you think
she might have banged her head off something? Come to think of
it, Des, she has hardly said a word in weeks. When I asked her
to tidy her room the other day, she did. She usually tells me
to get lost. Maybe we should bring her to the doctor.”
sake, woman, why don’t you leave well enough alone. Don’t
be going banging her head with a brush. I quite like this treatment.”
Jacinta came home one
evening from school shivering. Her mum told her to go to bed,
she would bring her up a hot drink. She heard the postman the
next morning, but she felt like a lump of lead, so she closed
her eyes again. Her mum arrived later, with tea and toast along
with a couple of aspirins.
“Did any post
“Only one for
your da, he has to go to court.” Jacinta spilled her tea
all over her toast. It went soggy. “Will you look what you’re
doing. You’re going to get that tea all over the quilt cover.
Give me it. Can you not hold a blooming cup in your hand?”
took the cup and plate from Jacinta.
“You may get up. I’m not traipsing
up all those stairs again.”
stay in bed for a while.”
Jacinta lay and looked
at the cracks running along the ceiling. What will I do now? She
jumped up and pulled on her clothes and looked out the window.
The street was deserted. Pushing up the window, she managed to
get herself onto the ledge, without being guillotined. Getting
onto the roof of the bay window wasn’t so easy. Jacinta
hadn’t grown much in the past year. Stretching herself she
was able to get her toes onto the roof. She pushed with her hands
along the front wall, and finally she stood up on the roof. She
looked down at the path below. It’s not that far. One, two,
three, go, but her legs stayed where they were. One, two, three,
this time she landed on the path, feet first. It felt like her
legs went up through her body and were now on her head. Jacinta
moaned and groaned, then howled,
“Ma, ma,” before she keeled over. Her mum and dad
came rushing out of the house, along with Dusty. He jumped on
her and started to lick her face.
“Ma, get the dog
off me. I think I’m going to die.”
“Holy mother of
God! How did you get out here, you were in your bed a minute ago.
I told you, Des, she must have banged her head. What’s your
“Ma, will you
stop asking me silly questions. My legs are broke.”
Des ran out the gate
and shouted, “I’ll get the doctor.”
your name, how did you fall?” her mother mouthed.
Just bring me in, everyone is staring at me.”
A crowd had gathered at the gate.
her, Mrs. Myers, till the doctor comes,” said nosy Miss
Peg, from down the street. Jacinta tried not to cry, but the tears
rolled down her cheeks. Dusty kept mopping them up.
“Just tell me,
how did you fall out here so quick?”
“I fell off the
“The window! What
Her dad had arrived
with Dr. Armstrong. He examined both her legs.
“Well, miss! You
have a clean break in this one, the other one I’m not too
sure. I’ll bring you down to the hospital.”
The doctor lifted Jacinta and put her in the backseat of his car.
Des jumped in the front along with the doctor. Mrs. Myers hung
onto the open window.
“Des, get her
head examined as well. I swear there is something wrong with it.
She said she fell out the window.”
The car took off, Mrs. Myers stood and said
a wee prayer to St. Rita. She pushed her way back into the house,
making some excuse about the porridge sticking to the pot, to
Jacinta and her dad
had to wait a while in casualty, before she was whisked away for
an x-ray. She came back with a plaster-cast on one leg, the other
had a bandage on the ankle. On their way home in the ambulance,
Des asked Jacinta how she fell on the path.
“I was looking
out the window, and there was this wee cat stuck on the ledge
of the bay window roof. Well, I climbed out to help it, but the
stupid thing jumped off and left me there. I couldn’t get
back in the window, so I jumped, too.”
She hated telling her dad lies. Jacinta coughed, and thought this
was a good time to ask about the letter.
They wouldn’t kill her now.
“Did you get a
letter this morning, Da?”
“I nearly forgot
about that. I have to go to court next Thursday, to do my stint
on the jury. So you thought you had problems.”
to say who’s guilty or not. God, I would hate that.”
“Hope to God I
don’t get someone like Jack the Ripper, or some young lads
I know. They would knock my head in, if I put the hammer on them.”
“What if you got
some woman who stole a tin of salmon, and it was her first offence?”
“Not guilty, but
I don’t think they would bring anyone to court for a tin
what I thought.”
She pushed her back into the long strip of cushion, and looked
at her plastered leg. Jacinta saw the bald man on the floor, with
perspiration running down his face. His fat neck was bulging,
where she had left her cast leg on his throat.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“I said, we must
be home, the ambulance has stopped.”
Taken from ‘This is Where We Came In’
(1992), pages 22-25.