Pulp.net - A Divine Comedy

The Online Home of New Fiction

November 2008

Lorna McCubbin
Mum says I have eyes like a mutilated pig. ‘The eyes of the beast who fathered you,’ she tells me, staring into the distance and squinting, as if she is trying to remember something.

I never met my father, but I had always hoped he might surprise me one day and show up at parents’ evening or something. Mind you, the way Mum describes him he would probably meet with some prejudice. I don’t think the devil in porcine form has been to any thing at my school before.

Mum gives me my lunchbox, which has a picture of some turtles with masks on. Another find in the Guides and Brownies jumble she sorts through. Last year she said I would have to make do with the clothes and school stuff she has already found me. Apparently the Guides and Brownies have gone heathen. They’re all Scouts and Cubs now, and wear trousers. They’ve also stopped praying to Our Lord because some of them might be Muslims. Mum was really angry that day.

‘The instruments of the devil can sort their own jumble,’ she shouted while stomping down the stairs. ‘It will end in an orgy of sin, conducted by Beelzebub himself. All those little sluts with badges for painting their faces and opening their legs to their uncles — the “scouts” won’t even have to ask to spread their demon seed when they mix them all up like that. No, I told the minister enough was enough. If our petition was not good enough to stop the sin then I can’t involve myself in it any more.’

I think a petition has a better effect if it has more than three signatures, but Gran and Mum said that their standing in the community was enough and that the Lord would cast scales from many eyes to help us in our crusade. I don’t know which scales were cast, but I don’t think the minister was involved in the miracle.

As I leave the kitchen I follow the normal procedure. ‘Thank you Miss Brodie. May the Lord guide me away from sin and temptation this day.’ I have to call Mum Miss Brodie.

‘It is entirely inappropriate to refer to me as Mum,’ she reminds me when I forget. ‘You are a filthy beast, forced into my sacred womb by a pig devil. I was not a slavering whore like Liza Macphee when you were fathered. I was held down by devils and forced to accept the forked instrument, fetid with the seed that his hairy form pushed into me.’

As usual, Christopher Warmsley is waiting for me at the end of the street. ‘Alright you fucking weirdo, hand it over,’ he spits at me, while lifting me off the ground by my collar.

‘I’ve only got 50p, I couldn’t find any more,’ I tell him, hoping that this will be enough to save me.

‘50p? You little cunt-faced fucker! What’s in the baby’s box then?’ He grabs at my lunchbox and empties the contents all over the street, stamping potato and burger into the gutter. ‘You’d better come up with the goods tomorrow, a fiver or you’re a dead little Creeping Jesus.’

He emphasises the last two words by punching me in the stomach and I drop to the pavement, gasping to get some air into my lungs. As he disappears round the corner, I pray to Our Lord for Warmsley’s body to be pierced and torn by the Devil’s pitchfork for all eternity. Mum says that praying for bad things to happen is justified when the subject of the prayer is a heathen or a sinner. As Warmsley is English, he counts as both. The English worship false gods in their glorified temples.

For someone who’s got a hefty portion of pig genes in them, I didn’t seem to do too well in the olfactory department. We saw a film about pigs at school once — it was about these French people who made tons of money from taking out these massive pigs on harnesses and having them sniff out these black things called truffles. Angus Forbes said his Mum made truffles at Christmas, and she didn’t need to go to any arsey French woods with a turd-coloured slavering pig to get them. I remember the man talking about the pig’s snout.

‘E ’as five meelion scent glands in each of ze nose.’ I felt quite proud then. Maybe I could hone my pig-powers and sniff out buried treasure, or find water for people in Africa. It seemed that the pig gene wasn’t quite dominant enough in me, and my nose remained stubbornly blocked. I never even smelt it when Warmsley smeared dog shite on my gym shorts once.

I can’t risk Mum reading all this heathen language, so when I get to school I hide my book in my locker. She doesn’t like me going to school to learn about filth like the reproductive organs of the whore, but when she started to try and teach me at home from the bible, the social worker came, and it turned out she didn’t have the right qualifications to do it, cos you need papers and certificates and stuff now. So I went back to school, but when she saw my biology book she got a strange look on her face and left the room to make a phone call. In the summer holidays I found out I was to attend a “cleansing retreat” to drive the devil’s influence from my body. Mum and Gran drove me out to a remote cottage and left me there with this huge, scary looking bald guy with a black cloak on who said he would “sort me out.” I was there for four weeks, almost the entire holidays. It felt more like a year.

When Mum and Gran picked me up, my skin was so red raw from being scrubbed with bleach and a wire brush that the tears in my eyes stung even more as they rolled down my cheeks. Gran smiled at me.

‘Now then boy, you look well cleansed of evil. Get those baby’s tears out of your eyes and get in the car. Thank you, Reverend, you have done a fine job. A donation to help you spread the word.’

She handed him an envelope bulging with notes. I was so relieved to be leaving that I said nothing. The Reverend had cleansed the sin and evil of the devil’s teachings from me so thoroughly that my bum hadn’t stopped bleeding yet. He told me that his holy seed would fight the demons in my body, but if I said anything about this special treatment, I would need to be cleansed all over again. I knew I would be there again the following summer — Mum explained that the devil’s teachings would need to be expurgated again after a year of build-up, but at least that was a year away, and if I prayed really hard I might not need to be cleansed at all. So I said nothing about the special treatment. I sat down painfully in the back seat of the car with my head lowered.

The school day is the usual crap. Warmsley batters my shins with a baseball bat and Ian Macpherson trips me up at the top of the stairs so I roll down them and end up knocking a tooth out, well half of it anyway. I remember to keep the tooth chipping. Mum doesn’t approve of doctors or dentists, so she’ll probably stick it back on with Araldite, like the last time it happened. Every time anyone with a Doctor before their name is dead in the paper, she shouts out ‘Physician, heal thyself’ and laughs manically. She only ever reads the births, deaths and marriages column. She likes to keep up on what whoring sluts have decided to drag their filthy foms in to church and dirty the Lord’s House with their sinning unions, as well as the ones who have spat out devil’s spawn from their fetid wombs. She can tell who the sinners are just by the names.

When I get home, Mum is getting ready to go to the supermarket. We drive there in Mum’s ancient Fiesta, which always looks like it is about to collapse into a heap of rust. It runs on the fuel of the Lord’s music, so she and Gran have to sing a selection of powerful hymns on the way. It must work, because when they stop singing, the car slows down and stops, normally at traffic lights, or a junction.

When we arrive at the supermarket we have to pass the music section before we get to the food. Mum tugs on Gran’s arm and points at a dark-haired man with a dazzling great mouth on one of the covers.

‘This Irish fool claims to be spreading the word of the Lord — just look at him, with his fine suiting and expensive teeth. Nothing but an idolatrous butterfly, steeped in the sin of vanity.’ Gran nods and starts to recite the Ten Commandments. When she gets to ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’, the smiling face is far behind us.

As I push the trolley down the soup aisle, Mum has her normal rant about the “evil” side of her family.

‘Ena Brodie is a slut and a liar,’ she says, pointing at the picture on the tin. ‘That end of my family was corrupted by the devil’s money-spreading whores. They didn’t want to give me a contribution for the Church either.’

I think to myself that a donation to the church funds might have been a good move for them, especially when it comes to the Day of Judgement. At least their souls would not now be set to roast over the eternal spit; they might have just been endlessly whipped with chains. Mum turns the picture of Ena to face away from the aisle, and gets me to turn all the other tins round as well.

‘Don’t forget the Lobster Bisque,’ she says. ‘It is the foodstuff of prostitutes and those of loose morals. May their guts ever spout foul liquids in the afterlife.’

When we get home I unpack the frozen value burgers and lug the 20-pound bag of tatties in from the car. Mum doesn’t believe in spending money on food.

‘We just need enough to keep conscious to do the Lord’s work,’ she always says. My sandwiches normally have last night’s burgers on them as well. They’re even worse when they’re cold, as all the bits of lips and eyeballs get even harder and greasier.

We don’t have a television or books or games. Normally Gran sits in her hard-backed chair and reads the bible aloud until it is my bedtime at nine o’clock. My bed is a camp bed Mum got out the jumble when I got too big for the drawer. The springs dig into my back and legs.

‘Only the devil’s servants desire to sleep in comfort,’ Mum told me. ‘As the issue of a beast from hell you must be constantly aware of your sin.’

I wondered if Mum and Gran were secretly the devil’s servants. When they were out one day I went into their room and sat on each of their beds. The mattresses were smooth. Gran even had an extra layer of soft padding on top of hers.

My chipped tooth is starting to ache now. Mum hasn’t noticed the damage, but as I haven’t been given permission to speak until now, it’ll be tomorrow morning before she can have her rant and go looking for her customised First Aid box. I get on my knees at my bedside and pray for the Lord to look after Miss Brodie and Mrs Brodie as Mum and Gran nod and listen behind me.

‘Don’t forget the Reverend Green,’ prompts Gran. ‘He and his church have saved many young demons like you — you must be eternally grateful.’

‘Yes,’ says Mum. ‘You are so lucky that I just have to tell you. I was going to save it as a surprise, but Reverend Green got in touch with us just today, and he has some very special visitors from the Church in America — three elders who have special experience in cleansing the devil’s influence from the young who have strayed from the path. They’ll be here next week, just when your holidays start, and I thought an extra two-week session of cleansing for you with all four of them was just too good an opportunity to miss.’

© Lorna McCubbin