Meet Her Parents

I’d been dating First Love for three weeks, now we were officially ‘going out’ because I was going to meet her parents, it would be an interesting evening. The MacGevey’s had a reputation in the town for hard drinking, hard fighting and generally being the centre of any trouble that happened. The joke was that the police were at their house so often people were beginning to suspect Mrs. MacGevey was having an affair with the local constabulary. It was a far cry from my normal, average, nothing ever happens to me, suburban life – well except when Mrs. Cuthey from no. 49 threw out her husband and decided to become a man.

I’d never been down Galston Road before; it was in the rough end of town, tucked away behind the factories and warehouses that sprawled along the main road out of town. Mum used to tell me it was once a really nice area, council houses mind, but the council did take care of them, then the slump happened – high unemployment – no hope for a future, so the residents took it out on their environment. The council couldn’t afford to keep repairing the damage so they left it and Galston Road is what it is today, untidy, rows of boarded up houses and shops, graffiti everywhere, one or two houses and gardens seemed to have been taken care of with pride, but they were overwhelmed by the greyness and deterioration that surrounded them, I shuddered, I wouldn’t want to be alone, after dark around here.

First Love led me past an abandoned, stripped out Ford Cortina and down a narrow passageway; it stank of piss and looked like it hadn’t been swept since it was built, a long way from my comfortable home on Sandside. It opened up into a small garden, mudflat more like, with the usual debris left by kids. It’s funny how all these gardens look the same, mudflats, tiny blades of grass rearing their defiant leaves, a rotary washing line contraption in the middle (where do those things come from, I’ve yet to ever see a brand new one, and despite years of looking, I’ve never found one for sale), the obligatory border of weeds framing the whole lot.

A large, extremely ugly, vicious looking dog, evidently the chief supplier of garden compost, which, by all appearances, hadn’t seen Rob on the menu for a very long time, snapped and snarled from it’s taut chain.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like dogs, but one supposes that if a dog is on a chain with links an inch thick, there’s a very good reason for it, and this dog made the Hound of the Baskervilles look like Lassie. Cujo? Go back to your basket ya big softie!

First Love called and the dog stopped mentally picturing me as its next meal and wagged its tail, “Hi Bubbles” (Bubbles? Bubbles? What kind of a name is that for this thing that only with the stretch of the imagination could be labelled dog, Killer, most definitely, Savage, yes that’s good, Tearyourthroatoutwithonebite even better, but Bubbles?). Sadly this was only for a moment before I made the grave mistake of moving back into the dog’s line of sight, (I’ve often wondered if I have a sign or a tattoo that only ugly, vicious looking dogs can see that says quite simply “Dinner”), whereupon MacDonaldesque visions of me chopped up and served in a dog bowl popped back into his head.

I edged past the dog, not entirely convinced by First Love’s assurances that the evil beast of Galston wouldn’t bite me and all I had to do was offer my hand up so he could sniff it and we’d be friends. Friends! The only time he would want to be friends are whilst he’s digesting half of my arm.

I told First Love I had a bad thing about dogs, hoping to get off the hook, forgetting of course the number one rule of lying; the simplest thing will give you away.

“But Rob, your Mum has a Poodle”

My thought’s raced for a suitable response, “That thing? You can hardly call that a dog”, I said, ”more like a rat with a hairdo”.

First Love laughed, “I guess you’re right” she petted once again the dog that takes no prisoners, fingers maybe, prisoners no, and ushered me inside.

My first thought was, could anyone really live like this………and be happy? Now my Mum is an untidy woman, but lets face it, she’s a busy working Mum too, so I’ll forgive her her little mistakes. Except when she forgets to put My Jeans in the wash – The Jeans I must have for the Saturday night disco – The Jeans that will pump every young girls heart – The Jeans that will guarantee me kisses from Andrea Baker – yes Those Jeans (okay, so it was dramatic, but what do you want from me? I am an aspiring writer). Damn and blast you woman, as I see another night of having to snog Heidi Tomlinson (before I met First Love of course) and watch ‘my’ Andrea Baker snog Chris Dickinson. Although I wonder if that’s less to do with jeans and more to do with the fact that Chris Dickinson has the biggest willy in our sports class, making my idea of my ‘rather large’ manhood akin to Action Man’s (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean). But the fact is, my Mum is untidy, we are too of course, but we’re allowed to be, we’re offspring, it’s our job, however, compared to what First Love’s house was like, my Mum could clean for the Queen.

Perhaps it’s what Richard felt the first time he came to my house (Richard’s Mum, if cleanliness was next to Godliness, would be sitting on his knee, and I don’t mean in the paternal sense either). Going inside Richard’s house was akin to sterilisation; I wondered if I could sue in later life if it turned out I was infertile. I was expecting to see nuclear\biological\chemical showers in the front hall, with a full field hospital in the back garden, administering shots for every conceivable disease know to man, plus a few more known only to Richard’s Mum. Would I have to strip off all my clothes and have them taken away and burnt? Damn I wish I’d put clean underwear on today. Imagine the embarrassment if they gave you paper overalls to wear and on the way home it started to rain.

Anyway, after taking off our shoes and socks, wading through one of those pools commonly found at swimming pools (why can’t they heat the water in that pool like they do the main pool, does it make the antiseptic stuff less potent? Surely the laws of physics and biology would state that in warm water the pores open and so this antiseptic stuff can really do its job. Perhaps, as usual, like most adults in authority they are just damned cruel, you can see them watching, smiling, laughing as the kids tread in it and then do the freaky dance when they realise the water is twenty below zero, their toes have just fallen off and they’ve stood on the wreck of the Titanic sunk by the vast amounts of ice floating around. You think us kids are stupid, but we’re not. Well, Stan Tollingwell is, and what about Elaine Smythson’s brother, now he was a real idiot, he once spent eleven hours outside laboratory stores asking for a long stand, it was only until his Mum came and convinced him that it was a joke that he would go home. So, not all of us are stupid. You’ll get yours, tied to a wheelie chair and spun round and round, forced to eat sherbet until you puke. (What would puked up sherbet look like? Would it come out all powdered the way it went in? Would we still see diced carrots?), whilst a bank of TV screens show the latest thrilling education programme about geology, and oh no, the punishment isn’t over yet, we get to pour buckets of water over you from that damned freezing foot pool!!!)

Donning surgical gloves and face guards we can proceed to Richard’s bedroom, where, he has an outline on every surface of where things are meant to go, talk about pathological cleanliness, I felt like I was entering the crime scene of a mass murder of Richard’s belongings. Being a kid this was a hard concept to get used to, drop things on floor, move from one side of floor to other with foot, move under bed with foot in vain impression that room was tidy, drag things from under the bed and………drop on floor, now that’s a concept, but putting things back where they belong, are you serious? You mean it’s possible? And then I could see how it was possible, even for me (well, okay, that might be stretching it a little), just draw outlines on every surface where things are meant to go.

So now, looking at the inside of First Love’s house, I could feel a kind of empathy, if not sympathy, with Richard when he first looked inside my house, “but, but, you’ve got no outline for the newspapers, and what about the remote control, and all the mugs on the side, oh God I can’t stand it, I think I’m going to be sick” with that he threw up violently in the kitchen. Mum was not best pleased I can tell you “Gawd, wot wud the neighbours think if they came raaand, one o yer skool mates puking up on the lino, it’ll be up and daaan the street before you know it” (actually that isn’t what happened, thank God, the thought of my Mum talking in a Pythonesque voice makes me want to violently puke too, but I’m pretty sure Richard did feel odd).

First Love’s house, well, to describe it as a house would be doing the more upmarket hovel a favour, I’ve seen nicer looking crofters cottages in Scotland, albeit roofless, but a much more des res by any-one’s standards. The kitchen hadn’t seen a bottle of washing up liquid probably longer than I’ve been alive, anyway it wouldn’t know what to do with one even if one burst through the door announcing “Greetings viewers, I’m a bottle of washing up liquid” (don’t give up your day job luvvie). Strung from wall to wall was one of those horrible internal four line clothes lines, the ones that reel themselves in, if you let go suddenly it decapitates everything in it’s path (that’s when I first realised that you can’t put a cat’s head back on the way you can with dolls) and hung on them must have been a million nappies (okay, I exaggerate, for obvious reasons there couldn’t have been a million, but I was loathe to ask to count them, what could I say “Mrs. MacGevey, can I count the number of nappies on your line because I want to write a book later on in life and I’m really going to slag you and your house down”; so just accept it with poetic licence), and I wondered how many kids were there, did I just step into the film set of Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life? Is everyone going to burst into a song about sperm? I started to imagine a scene from The Waltons, First Love would introduce me to them all, several thousand judging by the noise next door, by that time it would be time to go home, so then we’d alllllllll say goodbye, heck, next time I’ll come for two weeks, at least I might get half an hour to spend with First Love.

“I think they’re all in there” First Love said, stating the obvious, pointing to the next room, well either that or you’ve got the British Army in there practicing house to house combat.

First Love swung open the door and, I swear to God, it was Monty Python, there were kids everywhere, even what I thought were mantelpiece ornaments turned out to be more kids, I was sure if I went through the cupboards I would find more, they were like a plague of locusts, every conceivable lodging place had two or three kids on it, bloody Hell, even Jesus would be pushed coming up with a miracle to feed this lot, five thousand? Just a Sunday school picnic compared to this bunch.

“Mum, Dad, this is Rob, from school” Now I like First Love, in fact I really like her, so I don’t want to be cruel to her family and hurt her feelings (tough luck First Love, it’s a dog eat dog world out there and I want to get published) but, as these two, for want of a better word, beings, (who, incidentally, automatically fell into the category of compulsively grotesque people, you know the ones, so hideous you are compelled to keep staring), turned toward me. I started to wonder if First Love was really an android, sent to glean the secrets of physics from an unsuspecting human race (one would have thought St. Hugh’s Comprehensive would be the last place to start, surely MIT, but then I thought I guess they have to start somewhere). The reason I say this is, I couldn’t see any conceivable way how these two (here I make a kind of noise which I can’t possibly write down as there is no words to describe, hence the noise), had conceived First Love. I mean she wasn’t really pretty or anything, she was just, well just normal, but her supposed parents – no, it just couldn’t be.

Her dad was bald, had a big scar down the side of his face (slipped with the carving knife whilst doing the Sunday roast?), with a big red nose which had been broken more times than the record for jumping the dike without falling in (twenty-two to be precise, held somewhat proudly by yours truly) and a glass eye, which of course, and quite naturally so, considering you don’t see many glass eyed people in every day life, made me extremely curious, do you take it out at night? Can you see out of it? Has it ever fallen out into your soup? Can I play marbles with it?

Half of his teeth were missing (you should have listened to your Mum and brushed your teeth) and his head was perched on his shoulders by a ham slice thickness of neck. He wore a string vest which when disposed of must surely be treated as contaminable waste; either that or he was being an amateur scientist and attempting to grow cultures on it. He had tattoos over every conceivable part of his fat hairy chest, and oh yes, he stank. He was obviously not the kind of man Gillette would ask to promote their products.

As for her Mum, well, she pretty much looked like her Dad, except with rollers, She had a child on her knee and as I came into the room I could see she was breast-feeding him.

“Are you hungry son?” She croaked, I blinked, my eyes drawn to the sight presented to me, after all, this was the first woman’s breast I’d ever seen in real life, well actually I’d seen my sister’s, but she was still developing and anyway, it’s my sister, doesn’t count.

“Ummm, no, I had some milk earlier”, as the words came out I realised that wasn’t a terribly bright thing to say under the circumstances, but miraculously she burst into laughter, laughter being the nearest equivalent to what I think she was doing.

“Oof oof oof sheeeeeeeeee oof oof oof oof sheeeeeeeeeeee” you kind of get the picture.

“Ere gal, your mate aint harf funny”

“Yeah thanks Mum”

“No worries gal, does your wee friend here want a drink, a beer? I know how much you young kids like a tipple eh?”

I thought about it, my first drink of real alcohol, well my second actually, my first was sipping out of Granny’s sherry glass one Christmas Day when she put it on the floor beside her chair, how we laughed when she told us she was thinking she was senile because her sherry kept vanishing, that was until I collapsed in the toilet puking my guts up and the game was up, I’ll come quietly, yeah right, like I could do anything else; balanced with the horrors of punishment that lay at home if I was caught.

“You will not be having ice cream for the next two weeks, Jen will pick the cereal for the next two weeks and you young man, will be on hutch cleaning duty for a month”. Hutch cleaning duty? For a month? What did I do? Kill some one? For those of you out there that have been caught drinking by your parents, I know you’re thinking, that’s not too bad, my Mum would have beaten me black and blue and all you get is hutch cleaning duty, and it’s only for a month, and you’re moaning?!!! Some people don’t know when they’ve been born. Well, if you think hutch-cleaning duty is so easy, come over to my house and do it?

The problem is Trixie. Trixie is the myxomatosis crazed inhabitant of said hutch, who suffering from supposed agoraphobia refuses to come out, biting and scratching savagely if necessary, and when she’s out suddenly develops claustrophobia and refuses to go back in again, needless to say she was as nasty to get back in as she was to get out.

I passed on the beer, I didn’t need anymore Trixie scars to add to the multitude of scars she’d already inflicted on my forearms, enough to make any social worker’s heart jump with thoughts of heroin usage, or to make her day and give her evidence, proven or otherwise of course, just slight suspicion is enough for them, of child abuse and neglect, so she can meet her quota of separating another family. One wonders if she sprays stencils of families on the sides of her desk, and after another ‘successful’ case she draws a line through one of them with a big fat red marker pen? If only social workers were parents and not zitty graduates who knew less about families than I did, and being 13 it wasn’t a great deal. Perhaps people wanting to be social workers come from dysfunctional families, hence the need to protect the child no matter what.

“What do you mean you take aspirin, that’s disgusting, you should be ashamed of yourself subjecting your children to your drug abuse, we have no choice but to remove your children from your obviously safe, caring and loving hands and deposit them in a foster home where they will be molested, beaten and raped on a very regular basis. If you’re lucky you might get to see them at 16, if they haven’t already embarked on a life of crime and drug addiction which will see you outlive them, but it is in the child’s best interests”

The funny thing about alcohol is, kids drink it, get sick, puke up, fall asleep, adults drink it, get sick, knock over a pint of beer owned by big hod carrier named John who’s just had really shitty day, get into fight, get shit kicked out, go have Indian, drink more, heap slurred racial abuse on waiter, get sick, puke up in toilets of said Indian, return to drink more, generally abuse other clientele, get into fight, get shit kicked out, stagger home singing at top of voice, lose keys, ring doorbell, even when sign of life in house ring doorbell again, and again, and again, tell every-one in really stinky smelly voice that all are loved, collapse in arm chair snoring so loudly council come around with noise abatement order………and it’s illegal for us?

We waded through the living room towards the stairs, I hoped that the squashy thing I was standing on wasn’t a kid, looking down I thanked God it wasn’t, unfortunately for God his thanks were cut short as I realised I’d actually stood on a used nappy.

Now there are many embarrassing things that happen in a boys life, being beaten up by a girl for instance (not that I ever have you understand), being snogged by your own sister, come on, we’ve all done it………you haven’t? Oh, I see, just me then, or being caught by a girl with your pants down and have her tell everyone how small your willy is. But how does she know? Are there special classes in home economics? This man’s willy is smaller than average, avoid if you can, by being involved with small willy guy you will condemn yourself to a lifetime of non-orgasmic sex, that’s if you even have sex as he will spend half the night looking for it. On the other hand, this man has a rather large willy, this is the man you should be involved with, unfortunately you will have competition from every other living breathing female, human or otherwise and eventually he’ll run away with a model look-alike (she couldn’t lose the hundredth of an ounce needed to be an acceptable stick, I meant model), or he’ll become a porn king and die of Aids, or he’ll shag Rob’s Andrea Baker. And how do girls know what orgasmic sex is? Sex education lessons don’t start for another year!

But where on embarrassment scale do you place the knowledge that you’ve just plonked a size ten into a used nappy, not only is your shoe covered in crap but you’ve managed to smear said crap onto the carpet. Thinking that discretion would be the better part of valour I dragged my feet along the carpet, along the side of the sofa, along anything that would clean it off. Later it would be fun to watch as First Love’s Mum checked the nappies of the multitude, convinced by the smell that one of them had crapped.

I stood in First Love’s room, actually it wasn’t just her room, but the whole of the book would be taken up just by the inhabitants if I had to write them out, listening to First Love’s Dad cough, cough being the formal polite term, chucking up a lung more like, boy did he cough.

“Are you sure your Dad’s okay?”

“Oh yeah, he’ll be fine, just give him a minute”

“But he’s coughing really badly”

“He’ll be fine, really”

“If my Dad started coughing like that I’d be the first to phone an ambulance”

“Yeah, well, your Dad doesn’t smoke fifty Woodbines a day”

And still he coughed.

“It’s been great fun hanging out together”

“Yeah it has”

Still coughing.

“Come over to my house on Saturday, my parent’s are away, we’ll be able to fool around, play computer games, that kind of stuff”

“Fool around? You know about that do you?”

I gave First Love a knowing look “maybe”

“Have you done it with anyone?”

“Yes” Trying to sound all macho, I once read in one of my Mum’s magazines that women love a man who knows what he is doing.

“Okay”, a pause for thought, “Have you really?”

“Yes, you know I shagged Angela Farnby last term”, a fact we both knew to be blatantly untrue because both our Mum’s were told by Eric Chasing’s Mum, who was told by Elaine Hodgekins Mum, who was told by Sophie Daley’s Mum who was told by Angela Farnby’s Mum who was told by Angela that she had never had sex. Coming through that many Mums’ it must be true.

Only First Love’s Dad taking a deep breath and then making a sound like a missile leaving a peashooter broke the awkward silence.

“Ahhh that’s better, Maggie, get some bog paper and wipe that wall down, there’s a good lass”

Time to leave and after spending several hours saying goodbye to the seemingly unending mass of kids, we made it to the door, and I suddenly realised it was dark outside. This was not a good situation to be in outside First Love’s house, I needed to be macho to pull First Love into my arms and give her the Mother of all snogs, but there was one small problem – I was afraid of the dark.

Now being in the dark and being in daylight are two different worlds when you’re a kid. Nothing will happen to you in daylight, but everything will happen to you in the dark. The amount of times I swear I’ve broken the Olympic long jump record for my leaps from the doorway to my bed – once misjudging and ending up sliding under the bed into the supposed jaws of Hell that lurk under every young kid’s bed, I think I broke the Olympic record for the ‘scrambling from under the bed and diving under the covers event’, well, I would have had there been one.

Luckily for me First Love had to go and post a letter and the nearest letter box was not too far from my house, actually there was one closer, but the delivery times were ridiculous, unless you lived at no. 46 where miraculously every-one’s posted letters arrived, usually about two minutes after they’d posted them.

Galston Road looked pretty scary in the daylight, in the dark it was a hundred times worse, not helped by the fact First Love was filling my head full of murders, which apparently seemed to take place in every building, (bet life insurance was hard to get around here) before startling me with a big “BOO!!!” at which I promptly fell of my bike. Not good, the sad reality dawned that this lack of street cred, composure and downright machismo was unlikely to help me in the snogging stakes.

But night isn’t always negative, it gives you energy, you feel no pain, and I didn’t feel the pain of my recent fall as I raced along the Galston Road, this was my bid for the Tour De France, speeding along as if all of Hell’s monstrosities were snapping at my heels, failing that all of Galston Road’s murderers, paedophiles, rapists, wino’s and those door to door salesmen who show you fake ID stating that they’re working for a charity which is helping to make luxury accommodation for elderly, I’m not quite sure if it says hippo’s or hippies, who then attempt to sell you a quids worth of goods for twenty quid “but it is for a good cause missis” What, the hippo\ies or the King’s Head on the High Street?

I was in fight or flight mode, except I couldn’t fight to save my life, so flight it was. Nothing was going to get past me, well, apart from First Love who breezed past me and disappeared up the road. Now I wouldn’t say I was fit, far from it. I hate sport. Sport was for people like First Love (especially if she wore that short gymslip), sport was not for thinkers like me, I didn’t need sport to help me carve a brave new world. Unfortunately, I came to the unhappy realisation that sport was just the thing I did need at that moment, the exertion was beginning to tell on my unfit excuse for a body and to make matters worse, the slower I pedalled, the dimmer the bike lights. I cursed Dad and his ideas on reusable sources of energy for making me buy a dynamo. I made a note that if I should be horribly murdered, I would leave a message written in my own blood stating that my Dad is solely responsible because he made me buy a dynamo, his life would collapse, his friends would shun him, the police would investigate him for paedophile activities, that’ll teach him, let me buy proper lights next time, like those pretty flashing ones.

This is bad I thought to myself, but I had to walk if only to catch my breath back. So I walked, past empty houses, jumping at everything. Why is it that, to kids, empty houses are automatically haunted? The more derelict the house, the more evil demons lurked within. I once spent an entire winter refusing to walk past a particular house because I swore I saw a ghost inside, it later turned out to be a net curtain, but I remain convinced to this day that that house was a den of ghouls and demons, a high cathedral for devil worshippers and in general haunted.

I wondered what had happened to First Love, I had obviously done a good job of convincing her that I was a street-wise macho dude, if only I could convince myself of the same fact, now all I had to rely on was my trusty bike with dim lights that even a glow-worm wouldn’t find attractive. Coming up to a section of the road with no streetlights, I decided (wisely) that this might be a good time to get on my bike and pedal (like Hell). The next few moments are a blur, with only a long thin black line from Galston Road to the garage behind my house to serve as a reminder. I’d just gotten up to speed when First Love burst out of an alleyway, screaming, shouting, laughing, generally making a fool of herself and scaring the living daylights out of me in the process (although one assumes scaring me was her intended plan), well, if you’ve ever seen the stars move on the main observation window of the Enterprise when they go into warp speed, you’ll have some idea about the rate of acceleration I engaged, I may have even stumbled across time travel because I’m pretty sure I was in my bedroom, with my back holding the door closed, a full five minutes before First Love leapt out and caused me to need the serious change of underwear that I haven’t needed since nappies. And the textbooks, teachers and parents would have us believe that girls mature long before boys? Are they sure? As if the prospect of my First Snog wasn’t enough to generate sudden involuntary bowel movements, did I really need the dark, Galston Road, chez McGevey, and First Love jumping out at me to scare me more? Why couldn’t she just stand still long enough so I could stick my tongue down her throat? Was it always going to be this way with women?

Meet Her Parents


Haslemere, United Kingdom

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