Munro, Mary

An extract fae a tale bi Mary Munro

It wis a big nicht, Hogmanay, fin I wis a quine. The mannies aa bocht their bottle o whisky an some beer that day, an the wifies war up tae their elbows in shortbreid, clootie dumplin, an black bun, aa aifterneen.

Aathing deen, they bankit up the fire an settled doon tae the wireless tae wait for their first fitters. As the bells struck the New Year in, the twa quines in the big saft bed could hear the heavy clump o beets in the lobby, an Jock frae up abeen wis at the door, a lump o coal in ae haun an his bottle in the ither.

'Lang may yer lum reek wi ither fowks' coal,' he lauched as he shoved the coal across the door at Louie an Jimmy. Nae seener wis he in an seated fin there wis the soon o mair fowk rappin at the door. Jeannie an Beldie hid bin daured tae come ben the hoose as Hogmanay wisna thocht o as a time for twa nine year auld quines, bit they managed a keek through the crack o the door.

The big room wis fu o neighbours newsin an lauchin. The mannie across the stairs hid his moothie wi him an wis tryin tae play some maudlin Scots tune, bit wi the din, he lookit like he wis jist playin tae himsel in a corner by the fireside.

Jeannie an Beldie snichered an lauched at them, for they lookit real glekit grinnin like Cheshire cats wi the drink taen, an singin auld Scots songs in voices that were like a body sharpenin a saw, scraichin an skirlin. They fair gaured ye stick yer neives in yer lugs.

Aa this made the quines feel like eatin some o the fine things on the kitchie table, bit then Beldie minded there wis a biled hen covered wi a cloot, on the ben -the- hoose room table. Her mam hid made broth wi it, so there wid be some maet the neist day an she could hae a lang lie.

Ben they crept tae hae a pick at the hen.... The fine smell o the cauld hen wafted up at them as they liftit the muslin cloot.
'Jist takk some o the thin bits aff the erse,' Beldie said. 'She'll niver notice that the morn.'

In the half dark o the room, they stood on the cauld lino wi their bare feet stounin, an pickit bits aff the hen. Aifter a whyle, Beldie grabbed haud o Jeannie's haun.
'Look at the bloody hen,' she groaned.
In their hunger they'd gey near etten aa the fite flesh, an it wis jist a rickle o beens..a bonnie hen skeleton lyin on the ashet.
'Gweed God,' Beldie whispered. 'She'll scone my dock for this! I didna ken we'd etten aa that!'

They dichted their greasy hauns on the chenille tablecloth an crept back tae bed, their 'piggie' bottle steen cauld noo, so they hid tae huddle up thegither tae get some heat up.

Mornin cam, a New Year, an the twa bairns winnered fan the blow wid come aboot the hen. Fan they lookit intae the room, there wis jist bodies aawye, lyin on the airm cheers, unner the table an even propped up against the waa. There wis some chiel sittin wi his dock in the sink in the windae, his feet hingin ower the en. Fit a sotter!

They needna hae worried their heids ower the hen. Fan the aulder fowk got roadit wi soughs an sighs , their heids were that sair they couldna look at maet. A plate o hett broth wis eneuch..it stuck tae yer ribs on a cauld day an lined their stamaches efter aa the drink.

Aunty maybe did find the beeny hen later on, bit naethin wis iver said. It wis Hogmanay efter aa, an a lot o ferlies ging on that nicht!