A short story from Glasgow and Eternity.
Halfway through the fourteenth bar of Tarrega's 'Recuerdos da la Alhambra', Michael's 'A'-string breaks at the bridge. The sudden crack and the sharp squeak of spiral-wound silver against skin stirs not a few of the audience into rapt attention. Novelty, after all, and perhaps another's discomfiture, can more than make up for a temporary glitch in performance.
Peter, realising a short break is inevitable and conscious of his pre-concert beer, excuses himself politely and negotiates the eight knees and thirty-nine toes (Ms. Jessica Armstrong had a childhood accident involving a bacon slicer) separating him from the aisle.
Joe, on the scaffolding, applies himself to the rotting soffit board. Too far gone for patching and filling, this is a full replacement job. He hooks the claw-hammer under the board's lower edge and jerks the shaft sharply downwards. The decayed timber cracks and splinters. Seventy three out of seventy four tiny fragments miss his eye. In a way, that's lucky. He drops the hammer and swears.
Standing at the porcelain, half finished and already quite comfortable, Peter, on a whim, grabs the Victorian brass handle (with his free hand) and throws open the frosted glass casement. Joe's liberated hammer, now approaching thirty miles an hour, strikes the top corner of the cast-iron frame with a loud report. Understandably, Peter drops his penis and swears. Shaken but unhurt, he recovers from his fright, inspects his trousers, and swears again, this time with feeling.
Joe, with the corner of his handkerchief and much grimacing, succeeds in de-splintering his eye. Thus relieved, he looks around for his hammer, remembers dropping it, spots it five storeys below on the pavement, says 'bollox', then (wrongly) 'but no harm done' and sets off down the ladder and out of the story, another innocent emissary of Providence.
The rest of the concert no longer an option, Peter slinks out of the hall by a side exit and proceeds homewards by the back lanes, oddly bent, and with inturned toes. Such attempts to avoid human gaze are always futile and he soon collects three small boys, excellent mimics all, and paramount among them, one Josie, shock-headed, bold and gallus.
'Haw Mister whit's up wi yer legs - canny walk right?'
Silence - the wrong response. Emboldened, Josie picks a lump of moss from a crack in the wall. Moss that's only growing there because fourteen years ago Sammy Gow had a minor stroke and afterwards never quite got around to clearing the gutters. These last two years before he died, well, the wall got a bit wet and, anyway... So Josie chucks the moss and catches Peter behind the ear. He ignores it and keeps shambling on. Again, the wrong response, because the next missile is a small stone. Then a bigger one that hurts. Peter spins round and Josie's in his element:
'Ye canny walk - ye canny run - ye canny catch me!'
Josie's pals take up the cry. It's a good one, after all:
'Canny walk, canny run, canny catch me! Canny walk, canny run, canny catch me!'
Now under a hail of moss and stones, Peter loses the place and charges at Josie...
Seagull 'A' still has the herring but seagulls 'B' and 'C' are gradually wearing him down. With his beak clenched on the fish, his oxygen intake, essential for power flying, is impaired and, though bigger and stronger, he can't shake them off. He drops his quarry and, beak agape, wheels right, breaks free and swoops back towards the harbour...
Josie skites on the new-fallen herring. Peter trips over Josie. Both set up a roaring and a door flies open.
'Maw - this auld man's chasin me' Josie starts up, but she skelps him on the ear and says 'Aye, cause ye're throwin stones again. How many times huv I telt ye...'
But now she sees Peter's wet trousers and her face changes:
'Ye dirty wee pervert wi yer filthy breeks, chasin wee boys. See if ma Joe wis here, ye're deid meat. He's a scaffolder!'
Peter doesn't bother to argue the non-sequitur but beats a hasty retreat and runs the last mile home.
Safe at last, washed, changed and comfortable, he sees it's only 9 p.m. He's home a full hour earlier than if he'd stayed for the whole concert. Never one to waste the gift of time, he opens up the laptop to do an hour's work on his latest article:
There is no such thing as chance - he types - all that happens, everything that moves, breathes, waxes, wanes, is merely enacting God's perfect plan, set forth at the dawn of time, when there was neither heat nor cold, light nor darkness. Praise be to God. Even the humble seagull...