Read Katy's Men Online

Authors: Irene Carr

Katy's Men (32 page)

Katy
shut the door behind her but it creaked and rattled as it closed. Matt awoke and propped himself on one elbow. His bare shoulders gleamed as he growled, demanding, ‘Who’s there?’


It’s me, Katy.’ She answered low-voiced, though there was no one to wake. ‘How long have you been here?’

Matt
said, ‘They’ve given me leave — two weeks to see me over Christmas and into the New Year. It was late when I got here and I didn’t want to wake Annie, so I threw my coat over the broken glass on top of the wall, shinned over and bedded down in here. What about you?’ He watched her, listening to the rustling.

Katy
breathed, ‘The Women’s Legion released me. Matt, I’ve bought a lorry, a three-ton Dennis with a load of spares. It’s old but it runs well. I drove it up here.’

He
said, ‘It’ll do for us to get started. You can run it till I come home for good in a month or so.’

Katy
saw he was lying in a big sleeping bag. The rustling had stopped now and she stood before him silver-naked in the moonlight. She shivered in the night air then slid into the arms of her man.

 

If you enjoyed
Katy’s Men
by Irene Carr, you might be interested in
Better Days to Comes
by Jenny Telfer Chaplin, also published by Endeavour Press.

 

Extract from
Better Days to Come
by Jenny Telfer Chaplin

 

 

ONE

 

Greenock,
Friday
April
7,
1820

 

As
Etta
Gorton
made
her
way
down
the
outer
stairway,
the
rutted
communal
steps
which
served
the
myriad
of
closely-packed
single-end
homes,
each
filled
to
bursting
point
with
bairns,
she
was
aware
of
the
usual
sounds,
smells,
and
ongoing
human
dramas
of
her
Greenock
tenement
building.
Six
o’clock
in
the
morning
it
may
be,
but
with
the
everlasting
pressures
of
trying
to
scratch
a
living,
the
limitations
of
their
overcrowded
rat-ridden
hovels,
and
the
vocal
and
insistent
demands
of
hungry
weans,
nobody
ever
slept
late
in
Mince
Collop
Close.
Picking
her
booted
way
over
the
broken
cobbles,
Etta
headed
along
the
Vennel,
past
Herring
Street,
finally
onto
Ropework
Street
and
past
the
Highland
Mary
Tavern.

A
cursory
glance
at
the
portrait-bearing
lamp
which
hung
over
the
doorway
of
the
drinking
howff
gave
Etta
a
moment’s
pause
for
reflection.
With
this
romanticised
visual
portrayal
of
Mary
Campbell,
Rabbie
Burns’s
very
own
Hielan
Mary,
her
beauty
would
last
forever.

Even better
,
Etta
thought
with
a
bitter
smile,
Mary Campbell’s life with all its high drama is now safely over
.
She’s at rest
.
But for me
,
ma life’s struggles are still
...
uch tae hell wi it all
...

Shrugging
off
her
dark
thoughts
Etta
hitched
up
her
skirts
and
with
determined
strides
made
her
way
into
her
workplace.

 

The
Greenock
Ropework
Company
had
been
started
in
1796
in
East
Regent
Street
by
Alexander
Tough.
Fourteen-year-old
Etta
and
her
fellow
workers
didn’t
give
a
tuppenny
dam
for
who
had
established
the
accursed
place.
Their
sole
concern
was
that
for
their
daily
labour
the
Greenock
Ropework
Company
provided
the
wherewithal
to
keep
body
and
soul
together.
In
Etta’s
case
to
stave
off
hunger
for
herself,
her
work-shy,
drunken
father,
and
the
tribe
of
now
motherless
younger
brothers
and
sisters.
Even
so,
as
Etta
slaved
away
at
her
own
designated
tasks
she
often
had
the
bitter
thought:
The man who started up this damned Ropework was well named

it’s bloody tough work for weans like me
,
working our fingers tae the bone for a pittance o hauf
-
a
-
croon a week
.

Another
day’s
work
in
the
noise,
heat,
and
frenetic
activity
of
the
Ropework
over,
Etta
trudged
her
way
homeward.
Normally
it
was
a
case
of
head
down
and
make
for
home
as
fast
as
her
tired
aching
limbs
could
manage
in
eager
anticipation
of
the
welcome
mug
of
tea
which
she
had
trained
young
Tina
to
have
ready
for
her.
However,
her
workmate
Aggie
over
the
noon
break
had
whispered
vague
warnings
about
‘troubles’
in
the
streets
that
day
after
work
and
Etta
was
much
more
alert
than
usual
keeping
a
weather
eye
open
for
any
sign
that
might
be
the
signal
for
her
to
run
tired
though
she
was.

She
gave
a
sigh
of
relief
rounding
the
corner
of
Sugarhouse
Lane.

“So
much
for
Aggie’s
gloomy
rumours.
Now
for
that
mug
of
tea.”

 

Next
morning,
Etta
more
alert
than
usual,
still
mindful
of
Aggie’s
warnings,
thought
the
streets
were,
if
anything,
quieter
than
normal.

Funny
,
though
,
she
thought,
what people that are about at this hour all seem to be huddled into wee groups whispering
.
Ah wonder what about
?
Uch weel
,
nane o ma business

best get yersell tae the Ropeworks
,
ma girl
,
and damned quick aboot it
.

Angus
Duff,
the
gaffer,
gave
Etta
a
sour
look
as
she
panted
in,
just
in
time
to
avoid
having
her
already
meagre
wage
docked
as
punishment
for
late
arrival.

“If
it
was
up
tae
me,”
Duff
said,
as
Etta
hurried
to
join
the
other
girls
already
working
furiously,
“It’s
no
the
Radical
Leaders
Ah’d
be
flingin
intae
Greenock
Jail
this
day.
No,
mair
like
a
wheen
o
lazy
good
for
naethin,
daft
wee
lassies
that
cannae
even
get
oot
o
their
scratchers
in
time
for
an
honest
days
work.”

Who or what were the Radical leaders
?
Etta
wondered.
Why would anyone want to throw them in the Greenock Jail
?

The
morning
passed
surprisingly
quickly
and
Etta
sped
home
for
her
midday
scrap
of
bread-and-dripping
only
to
be
greeted
by:
“God
help
us!
Is
that
ye
looking
for
tae
be
fed
again?”

Since
Etta
was
the
family’s
sole
breadwinner
there
was
no
answer
to
this
surly
comment
from
her
bone-idle,
often
drunken
father.
At
least
not
one
which
would
not
instantly
reward
her
with
a
kick
from
his
booted
foot.

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