This week's edition to our Olympia Extracts is a contemporary fiction called, Last Year by Tony Broderick.
HOGMANAY, WHAT A gig! So perfect. They end up playing three encores but every song’s been a gift that gives and receives in equal measure. Hoarse and elated, Calvin has several drinks bought for him by adoring sycophants once the music’s over. They pack away their stuff which Dmitri drives away, Jenny, the lap dancer to pick up plus tard. The he asks Ruth, all the prettier with that bob she got from Paris for Christmas, to come back to his place and sleep with him. She’s not interested, is going on to a club with Sam and Miko instead. What the hell, the sea tonight is brim-full of fish and a visitor from Inverness invites him to her Royal Mile hotel room for cocaine and copulation until five, whereupon her jealous boyfriend’s at the door and he must flee.
Out the window into the snow, deep and crisp and even, sated. Jack Nicholson said in an interview that in order to be a film star one must always and everywhere conduct oneself as though being watched, watched, ‘Truman Show’ watched. Calvin read that and lives by what he took to be useful advice. Strolling and smoking through the morning snow across Edinburgh as the city lay its great weary head to slumber, he’s either a classic rock star or the vainglorious parody of one, depending on opinion, a rock star few beyond this parish knew of but keeping up appearances in preparation. At his mother’s council house a neighbour, up for what the little people commonly refer to as ‘the morning shift’, greets him. “A happy New Year to you, Calv,” says the labourer of middle-age. “You back living at home again then?”
“No, Reginald,” Calvin replies, gingerly treading the treacherous steps to his childhood front door. “But I do return in triumph.”
“Oh, aye.” In his high visibility jacket, Reginald laughs. A witty retort escapes him and deep down he doesn’t like Calvin and the feeling is mutual. “How’s that band of yours?”
“So, this could be the year for…”
He doesn’t remember the band’s name so Calvin, cold now and bored with Reg after all of thirty seconds in the man’s presence, finishes his question and provided an answer to it.
“The Stories. Aye. Glory will soon be upon us.” He presses his mother’s doorbell, shivering slightly. “Happy Hogmanay to you as well.”
“Do you cover any U2 songs?” Reg crosses the road with that furrowed brow of his about to confront the day ahead.
“We aspire to greater things.” Calvin is inclined to be charitable rather than acerbic this morning. Erratically nods the older chap, who either didn’t hear him distinctly or comprehend the slight. Behind him the door opens and Mrs McEames beams through her drowsy state, dark hair wild and dressing gown on.
“Calvin! Come in, darling, come in…”
“Happy New one, Ma,” he says hugging her, stepping out of the winter. “Were you out last night? I rang at around one fifteen but didn’t get a reply.”
“Christ, you’re freezing!” His mother recoils from him, but not unpleasantly. Closing the door with haste, she beckons for him to follow her down the narrow hall into the kitchen, talking while walking. “Aye, me and several of the girls from work went and had a few drinks at the pub over in Leith. Got a cab back.”
“What time did you get in?”
“Two-ish. I’d have called you, Cal, only I knew you were on stage at that time. Do you want some tea?”
Calvin is about to sit down at the kitchen table when he notices her stifling a yawn. “Ma, I’m sorry for getting you up. I’ll make the tea.”
“No, no, sweetheart.” His mother’s having none of this. A bright, modern individual of fifty-two, when it comes to her children she finds the instinct to spoil them powerful. “Tea, cereal and toast for the two of us. Please sit. You are my guest.”
However, this abode still feels fixed for him. Calvin squatted for a few years in his late teens (my ‘Trainspotting’ era, as he now bumptiously refers to those times), moved in with Sam until Miko took his place. Ruth let him sleep in her bed, then on her couch before evicting him when he brought not one but two girls back while she was on the night shift. Now he shares Dmitri’s space. Ten years on from going out into the world, or more precisely, Edinburgh, he can’t successfully liberate himself from his formative roots. Once or twice a month he returns to a kind of safety that at once delights and nettles this ambivalent free spirit.
“Did you reach the front door in an inebriated state, Mother?” Calvin soberly jokes tucking into his bowl of Alpen.
“Actually I was not,” she says, sipping her tea. “I had a few sherries by way of refreshment. Only struck the one police officer about the face with my pretty leather gloves…”
Calvin and his mother have the same sense of humour. The same fine, though contrary, minds. The same saturnine beauty. Neither has got on in life as they probably should have. Their propensity is to treat the absurdities of the world as ridiculous, whereas most of us try to make sense of the infinite, inscrutable gap between everything and nothing.
“The gig was brilliant, Ma.”
“Was it darling?” Mrs McEames is a notion of parental adoration made flesh. “I’ll watch it later on YouTube, if it’s there.”
“Here, I’ve got some of it on my phone.”
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