How I learned to tie my shoe laces

We, you my father, me and my sister Lynn, are in Dugald Macinnes’s flat. I only wonder now on what premise you had the keys.

My sister and I haven’t realised yet that you have in fact kidnapped us.

It gets to the evening and you disappear off the pub and leave me and Lynn alone. It’s dark, cold and utterly unbearably boring, because you haven’t brought any of my toys. We are alone and hungry.

You come back after the pub with some chips. You are drunk. I am scared.

You take us to the telephone box by the garage on Old Dumbarton Road and Argyle Street. Mum is crying on the phone.. you are telling her that she will never see us again. My mum’s crying makes me cry. You threaten to hit me if I don’t shut up. You take us back to Dugald’s flat.

The next day you bring some earthenware clay back from the art school for me to play with. I make a replica of the garage next to the phone box on the bare floor boards of the tenement kitchen. I ask you if you would get it fired so I could keep it. You didn’t but it stayed with me anyway. Every time I see that street corner I remember all of this.

This pattern of you leaving us on our own for hours without food, then returning drunk with chips repeats itself night after night but I’m no longer sure how many nights we were dragged down to the phone box to be used to torture our mother, to be made to hear her beside herself in tears; how many of those calls we were forced to participate in, where you broke down her will to resist, to tell her she can’t escape you, until she finally tried to kill herself with an overdose. It’s only now that I realise you must have been in contact Davy Brown to keep tabs on what effect your mental torture was having on my mum.

It was the morning we were heading back home that I learned to tie my shoe laces. You come into the kitchen and tell us to get ready. I say I’m hungry. You get angry and slap me and tell me to tie my laces. I tell you I can’t, that Mum usually tie them. You tell me if I’m not able to tie my shoes by the time you got back from the shop you’re going to take your belt to me.

My cheeks are still red and and sticky from the slap and the subsequent tears. I am terrified, as usual. Lynn started showing me how to do it, and I was too nervous and fumbling to get it right. I tried over and over and over. And the dread increases as I can’t get the hang of it all. Then finally I get the knack!

You come back and make me undo my shoes and show you me tying them myself. I’m shit scared I’ll forget how to do it and get the buckle end of your belt. But I manage to get it right again.

You give us a pint of milk and a box of Magic Roundabout chocolate cupcakes for our breakfast. You tell us to hurry up about it. You are impatient, as always. I start eating a cupcake too fast and end up breathing in some crumbs of the loose sponge. I go into an uncontrollable spastic coughing fit. You do nothing. You tell my sister to hit me on my back.

How I learned to tie my shoe laces


Hobotown, United Kingdom

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