I haven’t much else to talk about at the moment. I’ll be back in work on Monday, pretending I want to be there, so for now I’m making the most of my writing time.
I’ve just broken the 35k mark
*bounces carefully in chair*
and here’s an excerpt. Our hero has been to the barber shop and gets more than just a haircut:
“I saw Rob today,” she said.
Mal’s heart sank. “Oh yes?” He tried to keep his voice indifferent. “He’s working on the new road system, isn’t he? I could see his digger making trenches. It’s astonishing the progress they have made already.”
“Rob Escley?” Terry’s steady snip snip snip didn’t falter. “Good lad Rob.”
“Yeah well not looking so good right now.” Betty glared at Mal. “As you probably know.”
Mal glared back. “How would I know? I haven’t seen him.”
“Well he did come up to see you while you were at the dig today but apparently you cut him dead.”
Terry’s scissors did stop then. “Bloody Nora, Bet,” he said. “What business is it of yours?”
“Well duh, Mal’s my boss and Rob’s one of my best mates, and they are both miserable as fuck at the moment. Of course it’s my business.”
“Excuse me,” Mal raised both hands causing the drape around his torso to billow and bits of hair to fly everywhere. “Firstly, my differences with Rob are our business and nobody else’s and secondly, Betty, I know you mean well and I know news travels fast in a small town but there are places where casually outing someone can earn them a thumping.”
“You’re safe enough with me, pal,” Terry growled. “Play for the same team don’t i? But yeah Bet. Best not to talk out of turn.”
Betty flushed her eyes glinting. “I’ll just keep my opinions to myself then, shall I?” she snapped and got up and walked out without waiting for a reply.
Mal and Terry exchanged mutual stares of resignation in the mirror.
“Sorry about that,” Mal said. “I know she means well.”
Terry nodded and picked up his comb. It was fascinating to watch those big hands manipulate the bright steel of the scissors and the cloudy black-brown of the comb. Fake tortoiseshell, very nineteen fifties. Very soothing. Mal felt the tension begin to leave his shoulders again and relaxed back into the firm embrace of the chair.
“Always been into everything, our Bet.” Terry’s voice was a bass rumble of calm. “She used to work here. Bloody good with a pair of scissors. Then she and Lil had a falling out over – what was it now? Highlights or something. Anyhow Bet walked out and got a job up at the museum instead. Reckoned she’d brighten the place up a bit.”
“She certainly does that.” Mal sighed. “And the museum needs it too. It’s so – oh my God – beige! That’s what Rob and I had our argument about. Not beige, obviously, but the museum. It conserves the town’s heritage and that really deserves to be celebrated. The museum is desperately in need of some TLC, just like my hair, and I can’t do that without something to enthuse the council. The dig and the burial could make a terrific exhibit if it was funded properly. A nationally important find to exhibit might get them to loosen the purse strings a bit.”
“Yeah, it would do that, all right.” Terry’s mouth drew down a bit. “But there are more important things, you know. Like family, and community. ‘Specially important to blokes like us who might not ever have a family of their own. I’ve got cousins and second cousins all around – Escley, Brynglas, King’s Norton. After a bit you’ll get your eye in and will be able to see. We all got a look, if you know what I mean.”
Mal raised his eyebrows. “I don’t see the resemblance between say Councillor Pugh and Rob or Glyn Havard and Phil Rother.”
Terry grimaced at the last name. “It’s there. It’s like we all looked the same once but as time went by one family kept the eyes and another has the jawline and someone else has the little whippet build. Lots of us have the hair,” he grinned and gestured to the dark curliness, “and some have the attitude. Or any combination. And there’s a few quiet out of the way places where most of the families have got all of it and they tend to be bloody weirdos, good folks though. If you don’t mind me saying you’ve got a bit of the look yourself. Just here.”
Terry’s big hand framed the set of Mal’s jaw and ear, and Mal laughed.
“Local ears? Well my mum’s family came from this area a couple of generations back. Bright is Herefordshire and I think my maternal great grandmother was a Powell, or was that my paternal great grandmother? Yes I think my mum’s grandma was a Derry but that’s probably Irish.”
“No it isn’t. Can’t get much more local than Derry. Derry comes from Welsh. Means oak tree. There’s a family by that name over by Brynglas and let’s just say that folk like the Derrys and the Beynons aren’t in Domesday cuz Duke Williams’ men didn’t chance coming here to ask their questions.”
“Good grief.” Mal smiled. “So this was a wild and lawless place, then?”
“Still is, sometimes, but we take care of our own,” Terry met his eyes again. “Like young Rob. He takes stuff seriously, does Rob, for all his talk. And he could do with someone to look after him a bit. Someone who understands that without much to hang onto you hang onto anything you can.”
Since the shears were nowhere near his ears, Mal nodded. “I’ll talk to him,” he promised. “Try to make him understand.”
“Try to compromise,” Terry said. “Now hold still while I do the back of your neck.”
The purr of clippers, cold against his nape, put paid to further conversation. Terry snipped a bit more, combed, gave him a vigorous scalp massage then took a plastic tube off the shelf, squeezed a little clear gel from it and combed it into Mal’s hair.
“It only takes five minutes to style,” Terry said. “Don’t even have to wait for your hair to dry. Squeeze out a bit about as long as the end of your finger, rub it through your hair, comb it into shape and bingo. But a word to the wise,” Terry grinned at Mal in the mirror. “Never ever mistake the tube for the lube. Bloody stuff stings.”