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666 Great Junction Street

Part 11

As Jessie Kelso continued to drift in and out of a nostalgia reverie on her favourite seat in Taylor Gardens, she noticed a familiar figure ambling towards her. The stooped body of Jakey Rolling, groaning under the strain of humping around two huge plastic bags stuffed with bric-a-brac and clothing, wobbled awhile before eventually slumping onto the wooden bench.

'Alright, hen? How you getting on?' asked Jessie. 'That's a nice hat you've got,' she said, indicating the slightly battered purple fabric dangling perilously over Jakey's forehead like a crumpled witch's headgear.

Jakey ran her spindly fingers through the long grey locks hurtling out of control from her head and plummeting lifelessly over her humped back. After regaining her breath, she stared intently at Jessie and mumbled something about warlocks and giants.

'Don't you worry, dear, there's no wizards or monsters around here,' said Jessie, patting her reassuringly on the knee.

'Pffft!' spluttered Jakey. 'What is the matter with you woman? Have you not eyes? Do you not see? The walls are crawling with fear and uncertainty. Nowhere is safe. Get thee to a bakery!'

Jessie smiled and racked her brain for a comforting homily. Finding the cerebellum bare, she just smiled again, hoping to placate the crazy bag lady.

Jakey frowned as if reading Jessie's mind. 'Sanity is not statistical,' she growled.

'That's right, dear. That's right.'

'It is right. George Orwell said it.'

'Is that old Geordie fae Cables Wynd you mean?'

Jakey glared accusingly at the old woman. 'You mock me. I have books. And they are read.'

Jessie glanced into one of Jakey's bags which ,sure enough, besides 1984, contained several works of literature, including The Brothers Karamazov, The Bumper Book of Colouring In and Breeding Guinea Pigs.

'Why do you come here?' asked Jakey.

Jessie sighed. 'I come here to remember. I remember so much sometimes it's as if it's more real than today. I remember going to Jeannie Mcleish`s sweetie shop at the bottom of Albany Street. She didnae have many sweeties in those days, just raw carrots and turnips. But when the sun came out she had to protect what was on show in the window. So she'd pull down the blind that had written on it, "This is only a blind, all is good that lies behind."

'Then there was Bobby Barr's the butcher towards the Shore. He would sell anything when he was sober enough to open. Cheese, Easter eggs at Christmas, and aye, even shirts.'

Jakey stared at Jessie and held up her hand while tilting her head as if listening to the wind. 'Listen,' she said. 'I can hear ghosts in the air…'

'Och, I know,' said Jessie. 'I hear them all the time. But it's a good thing, lass. A good thing. They're the soul of the place you know. But there's no wizards or monsters, I can tell ye that. So dinny you fret.'

'No,' said Jakey, her head still cocked. 'You don't understand. There's been a murder in Memory Lane!'

Next week: More Ramblings and Manglings



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