Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Colonel Light's Footprint

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Colonel Light's Footprint

Article excerpt

Gary's mother thought she was cheap then, did she? He wouldn't admit she'd said it, but Debbie had distinctly heard the woman say it. Just the other night.

It was the very first time Debbie had actually gone inside Gary's house, although she'd walked past or ridden past it on her bike plenty enough times, pretending to be heading somewhere else. And occasionally, if he was feeling too knackered to come all the way to her place, he'd ask her to come and wait for him outside his front fence on one of their date nights. She knew well enough, then, what that house looked like from the outside and once or twice she'd glimpsed one of his parents watering the front lawn.

But last Friday, the two of them were on their way to the drive-in when Gary remembered he'd forgotten the you-know-whats and they'd had to circle back to his place. She just assumed she was expected to wait in the car while he ran in to get them and was already fishing in her bag for her nail file when Gary had said 'Come in and meet Mum'. So she did. And she heard it.

All smiles to her face of course. All 'dears and 'loves'. For a few ecstatic minutes Debbie thought she'd actually passed the test. Then, 'a bit cheap,' she heard the woman whisper behind her back as Gary followed her out the door. Debbie's first reflex was to hitch up and cover her bra strap, but it was a pretty one and straps were allowed to show nowadays weren't they? Even her own mother admitted that things had changed as far as what could be revealed or not. Was it her gapped-tooth smile? Hardly her fault. Or the one tiny tattoo on her left shoulder?

They walked back out to the car, Gary's mother waving pleasantly from the front door. Two-faced bitch, Debbie thought. Who did she think she was, anyway, in her pre-fab trust home in a street where not one single house was detached? In Debbie's parents' street there were four houses that weren't even trust homes.

After those three words and despite all the satisfied grunts and groans emitted at the drive-in that night, she'd taken for granted it was all over. If his mother didn't like her, Gary was going to drop her, for sure. Debbie's mascara had been more smudged than usual most of the week.

Even at work the customers had picked up on it. 'Out of sorts, Deb?' one regular had said as she topped up the woman's drink. 'A case of the doldrums, sweetheart? Maybe you should have a shot of this yourself.' 'Come on love, plenty of fish in the sea.' 'Do you want me to go and punch him in the nose for you?' Male or female, young or old, every drinker in the front bar seemed to have guessed what she was sniffling about, which only made the mascara run thicker.

That was the thing with Gary. Everybody in the pub scene knew him. Or knew about him. He was Mister Never-a-dull-moment. Wherever he sat down at the bar, a circle would form around him and then hoots of laughter would start coming from that direction. Gary was always on to something. Or up to something.

Just last week, things had got close to a riot with Gary and his lot and the manager had threatened to kick them out if they didn't rein it in a bit. Debbie had been too busy running to and from the beer garden to suss out all that was going on. She'd just caught something about a dare. Then someone had said: 'Put your money where your mouth is!' And later she'd heard: 'Three witnesses or it doesn't count.'

There seemed to be a lot of money flying around and as far as she could tell Gary's mate Dave had been filling out some kind of data sheet, but when she asked about it later, Gary said it was just a joke and he'd been too wasted to remember much about it himself. That was him all over.

Debbie's makeup was still running Friday morning, as she was mopping up the beer slops from the night before. Suddenly her phone screeched. And her stomach dropped. Bastard, she thought, not even going to have the guts to tell me to my face. Slowly she rung out the cloth she'd been wiping the counter with, folded it into the sink and went over to her bag. …

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