Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Everyone in town knew about Alice's drinking, but because they knew Joe's father Bill had walked out on her, they looked the other way. Bill had just got in one of his trucks one day, driven out of town on a long distance run and never come back. No explanation, no letter, no goodbye. No one knows where he went. All they saw was the damage he left behind - a lonely, heartbroken woman and a boy who had to grow up too quickly.

All Alice and Joe had was the big old house overlooking the shingle beach. Alice had been a showgirl - after a few cocktails she would put an old 78 on the record player in her room and disappear into the comfort of her memories. Joe would find her sometimes, still wearing her sequins and feathers, half asleep in front of the dressing table mirror, red lipstick smudged where she had lain her head on her arm. Alice knew nothing about business - Bill's haulage company went under, and they lost everything. From being one of the town's most respected families, Alice had to endure the pitying stares of her neighbours. If it wasn't for some money left to Alice by her godmother, the boy would have been on the streets. Alice clung to Joe like driftwood. 'You're the man of the house now,' she told him, face blotched with tears and booze.

There was talk, of course. A woman like Alice, alone in a small town. Everyone wondered how she got by, and there were plenty of gentlemen called by in the afternoons doing odd jobs for her. Still the house seemed to fall into decay. The paintwork peeled, leaves went unswept, snow settled deeply around it every winter. But Joe adored his mother, and he was a tough kid who wouldn't hear a word said about her. All the children knew not to tease him about his parents. When Frankie - a skinny ginger kid with sly eyes - had once dropped a remark about how he had seen Alice asleep on the lawn in her nightdress within earshot of Violet, she had laid into him, tiny fists pummelling him until he cried like a girl. Randy stood by, just watching. When Joe heard what Violet had done, he gave her his most treasured possession ....

No comments: