Posted on September 20, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair9.20.2014 Journal Prompt September 20, 2014: After their shift… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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After their Saturday shift, the men take the slow walk home and, if the sun is still up, they sing. Oh, and I swear ‘tis the sound of angels, and hearts soften or break to hear ‘em. Their faces are black and their eyes look staring and their arms hang pendulum heavy by their sides, muscles like pulled and twisted rope. Fallen angels, they could be, wingless and tipped into hell, but still with angel voices.
The women at home have filled the tin baths with water boiled all afternoon in pots and buckets stood on the stove. It’s a Saturday, see. And the children have been chased from the front room, shoo-ed like chickens, and they press their faces ‘gainst the windows, and that’s me there standing on tip toe, my breath misting the glass and my two hands cupped ‘bout my eyes so there’s no glare to blind me, and we are all looking for the wonder of our das sitting up in the bath.
‘Not too hot, my lovely, and not too cold neither.’
And in every house there’s hard scrubbing then, with soap and rough cloths, and our mam (and maybe all mams) has her sleeves rolled to ‘bove her elbows, like she means business, and her face is shiny and pink from the steam or the effort, and blowing air she is.
‘Put your back into it now, woman.’
And surely women all over the town are doing the same, till the men are pink and the water is grey, and the men step out of their baths at last like creatures new-made. And I don’t recognize my da at first, not till he’s singing again, and from all the houses in the street then there’s the sound of singing and it’s the same song, like something they have rehearsed, maybe in church.
Then our mam dries our da, like he’s a baby and he can’t do it for hisself. And she dresses him, too, in colours bright as rainbows, and everything smelling of flowers and everything clean, and his trousers pressed with creases sharp as knives and his shoes wearing a shine you can see your face in.
‘There now, and don’t you look like something,’ mam says.
And the men all look the same, all peacock bright and pretty, and it’s down to the club they go then, and our da takes with him a caught blown-kiss from our mam and a promise that she’ll be down later, once us kids are fed and watered and tucked up in our Saturday night beds.
There’s fish in batter for tea with chips and peas and the whole house smells of frying. We sit at the kitchen table and there’s a space where our da is not and we keep looking to see if there’s the shape of him there. And mam says we’re not to worry, she says he’ll be in later to make sure we’re sleeping and he’ll kiss us, every one, and he’ll whisper ‘sweet dreams there’ into our sleeping ears, and it’ll be like a spell he’s casting.
And later, when the dark has come down thick as a blanket over the town, we lie in our warm beds, not quite sleeping but nearly, and the sound of the men singing carries through the street. Beautiful it is even when it’s flavoured with drink; and the women tell ‘em to ‘hush now’ on account of it being so late, but they none of ‘em really mean hush, and it’s like listening to lullabies.