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666 Great Junction Street

Part 6

A string of battleship grey sausages slapped lazily against the shop window as the cowboy burst into Anderson's the Butchers, fingers a-blazing.

'Pcheeew! Hit the floor, varmints.'

The queue of regulars sighed in unison and continued their babble. Only Jessie Kelso turned to greet the intruder.

'Hello, Clint. How ye getting oan son?'

Despite his ten years seniority, Jessie couldn't help feeling Clint was still a wee laddie. He'd trailed round Leith for as long as she could remember, but his prairie lifestyle had received a huge boost when those nice theatre types decided to cast him in their radical drama featuring real homeless people for the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago.

Clint eyed her suspiciously, his finger still cocked. 'Got any vodka?' he drawled.

A young man stepped out from the queue and drew a freshly packed pork sausage from the packet in his hand.

'OK, Clint, draw, ya lily liver!'

Clint spun quickly to face the challenger, but before he could unleash his best gunshot sound effect, Jessie Kelso stepped between the two, momentarily abandoning her Farmfoods bags by the counter.

'Cut it oot, the pair o ye!' She turned to rebuke the younger man, still clutching the sausage firmly between his thumb and forefinger. 'Honestly, Davie, ye should ken better than ti rile Clint like that. And Clint, behave yersel''

The cowboy attempted to spit viciously on the floor but found his mouth dry and so made do with exaggeratedly wiping his lips with the back of his ripped sleeve.

'But did ya here what the varmint called me?' he snarled.

'Whit dis it maitter hoo they caw ye, as lang as they dinna caw ye too late fur yer denner,' counseled Jessie.

The two men looked at her blankly as the other customers adapted similarly puzzled expressions. No tumbleweed rolled but there was a distinct whistling of wind and a faint distant peeling of a solitary church bell, followed by a chorus of 'What?'

Jessie picked up her bags and shuffled out the shop. 'Naebody kens whit ah'm on aboot these days. I gie up,' she mumbled to herself as she trudged down the road.

It was always 12 o'clock on Great Junction Street. The old co-op store clock had stalled at noon many many moons ago. No-one knew why.

When Jessie reached Taylor Gardens, she sank into a bench facing the clock tower atop her favourite brick wall lovingly carved with co-operative mottos. The interlocking hands beneath the Union is Strength legend stirred memories of her old Polish lover, Lech Lutha, the "bleach man" with his mangled fingers dangling from his one good arm who clunked his bottles round Leith in a customised wheelbarrow.

He had jumped ship with a monkey after the war, never to return to Gdansk. Shortly after gaining employment filling up the bottles of bleach in a store on Bangor Road, he had to let his monkey loose after it wrecked his room in the Sailors' Home outside the dock gates. It was later fished from the Water of Leith after its desperate attempt to swim upstream to Bonnington.

She recalled their first meeting when Lech chapped on her door to tempt her with his wares. Jessie had asked him if the bleach was any good and Lech wiggled his stump and fingers, saying, 'Vot do you sink?'

'Aye, gid times,' she thought. 'Gid times.'

Next week: A'body needs gid neighbours




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