Scotland Road

11 Feb

scotland road

The Workhouse committee had allowed Billy to leave the premises during the day on the basis that Captain Featherstone would pay for his keep until he returned from Amsterdam, whereupon he would enlist the boy as an apprentice on The Coral. Soon The Coral would be his home. Billy had no intention of staying on land for long, once his life at sea began. However, he was under obligation to return before six in the evening, after which time he would lose his right to stay and would be forced to spend the night sleeping on the streets.
‘I can’t go to the Crown to find my dad Colleen. I have to be back at the hell hole by six, else they’ll lock me out and the Captain has paid my keep.’
They were making their way to Scotland Road where Paddy and the girls lived.
‘Sure, how will he know who your da is? He’s never seen the man. But I’m worried what he might do when he finds him, so I am. Your da’s not his favourite person, after what he did to youz three.’
‘He’s not exactly mine either.’
They had reached the house and were pushing past a gang of bedraggled, bony boys lurking round the doorstep. The place was teeming with people. Women with pasty babies on their arms, stood aimlessly around the hallway exchanging banalities to pass the time. Small barefoot children charged up and down the stairs, and on the landing men in suits solemnly smoked pipes, dignified in adversity.
‘This is our place. Come on in,’
Colleen had opened a door on the ground floor at the front of the house and they entered a large, neat room. The furniture was shabby but sufficient. At one end of the room a curtain separated the living space from the beds, and in a dark alcove stood a stove and sink. Billy marveled at it.
‘Is it all yours?’ He gasped.
‘Mine and me Da and Bernie’s. But Bernie must have gone off somewhere. Sure I thought she’d be here to say hello. Da’s workin’. But he’ll be home soon Billy, will I get you a drink of water?’
‘I have to be going Colleen.’
He felt suddenly shy, finding himself in a room alone with the girl to whom he had just given his heart. He felt his cheeks begin to burn.
‘I’ll tell me da you can’t come tonight. Now I know where y’are I’ll come and see you again.’
‘I hope you do Colleen.’
The two parted but not without an exchange of significant glances, which left them in no doubt that their souls were now as one.
He made his way through the chaos of life in the docklands, where it seemed the nationalities of all the world had come together for a great gathering, Russians, Poles, Irish, Scotish, Italian, Chinese … playing together and communicating as best they could. A chilly wind blew smoke from street fires, which welcomed any passerby to stop and catch some heat.
The memory of his father’s face in the crowd returned to him. His unexpected passion for Colleen had temporarily erased the incident from his mind, but Billy knew it was only a matter of time before he would be reunited with the man for whom he felt only loathing.

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