This is a confession, although it’s an anonymous one, so you may be inclined to consider it a boast.
We, uhh, the 68Comeback Special that is, played a song on the radio last week – but it wasn’t a song, it was more of a spoken-word bit – and we didn’t really play it, I played it. Though I have to admit, I sort of played it for Tom. And it wasn’t a spoken word bit, really, it was a story, a story that was written and read aloud and recorded while it was read, so that you could listen to it being read, or play it so other people could listen. You might say that it was intended to be listened to, in that it took the form of a confession recorded onto a tape that was meant to be sent to the proper authorities, if you know what I mean – by Aidan Moffat, former singer of Arab Strap and a Scot to be proud of.
The narrator of the story is an older woman who is unhappy with what has become of West Kilbride, the town where she lives (Tom tells me it’s in the general vicinity of Glasgow). Her husband is dead and she’s all alone and, being an old person, she’s kind of scared and intimidated by Kids These Days and their strange ways. ‘Neds’ and ‘Nedettes,’ they’re called in the local parlance. That’s something I certainly do enjoy about the piece – the light it shines on life in a part of the world with which I am unfamiliar. But I digress…
Ever since North Ayreshire Council decided to close the local police station on Alton Street and swiftly reduce our community officers in number until we were left with only two, it seems the village has become overrun with vandalism, hooliganism, littering, foul language and the deadly menace of so-called ‘boyracing.’
This isn’t to say that she doesn’t have reason to be scared of them because kids these days ARE strange and frightening, not to mention loud, obnoxious and lacking in respect for the persons and property of others (especially to old people), but it should be noted that she does not provide any example of one of these kids doing anything to specifically target her.
There is one young man of whom she is particularly afraid, and the story is named for him: The Donaldson Boy. His friends call him ‘Donny,’ but although she refers to him as such, she is no friend of his. In fact, being a person of a certain age, she is familiar with, and is no friend of, his entire family all the way back to his grandparents. They’re all fat and stupid, but he’s the fattest and stupidest of them all. They’ve all had their run-ins with the law, but he’s the worst of the lot. Again, no mention is made of anything he’s ever specifically done against her, or even anything in general that he might have done to earn his reputation with her, but suffice to say, he is the major source of her fear and loathing and we’re to take it on her authority that he’s a menace.
Mine was a petty crime, and thanks to your recent cost-cutting exercises in the area and a reduction in the number of local officers, I expect you would have neither the time nor the resources to concern yourself with the mere theft of a mobile phone.
Here it is. In what we would describe as a ‘crime of opportunity,’ our protagonist steals a cellphone from a ‘Nedette’ who has apparently passed out in a seat across from her on the train back from Glasgow and begins anonymously harassing Donny, the object of her derision, via text message, over the illegal parking of his car. Profanity ensues.
This is the aspect of the story that I find most interesting and enjoyable – the ease with which our narrator turns to the dark side. By her own account, she goes to church most every Sunday and is an upstanding, well-liked and respected member of the community. And yet, her fear and resentment of this person and that which he represents is such that she allows herself all the forgiveness she requires in order to engage in the same behaviour as she believes is destroying her beloved hometown: petty crime, declining standards of civility, even littering (I would have liked to return the stolen phone along with this cassette tape, but the following day was filled with a tremendous panic which found me throwing it into the sea…)
She really quite takes to the badness, in fact, confessing to enjoying the thrill of transgression as she stole the phone, feeling no small amount of enjoyment as she gives Donny a taste of his own medicine via texted threats and general vulgarities and even regretting the phone’s being shut off just as she was really getting into the swing of things.
But I think the character sells herself short to think that she was only just getting into it when the phone was shut down. For in the on-air booth, where Tom and I were both quite enjoying the tale, long before its end, The Man (we call him Chad) put in an appearance at the doorway and offered a two-word critique: “Really, guys?”
Ahem. Yes, well, we did warn about the profanity in advance, tried to explain that Scots can’t seem to help themselves, and even went so far as to try and coach our audience into finding the same exotic pleasure as we do in listening to a lilting Scottish accent offering an entertaining yarn – with profanity. But I can’t really deny that there was a lot of profanity there, more in fact than I was aware of after previewing the thing. How do these things happen? I have no idea. But they do. If the swear words really aren’t your thing, sorry about that. We hope you survived the intervening week, because we want you to tune in to the 68Comeback Special this week to hear me read from Irvine Welsh’s new collection of short stories, Reheated Cabbage.
That was a joke, Chad.