Existence is movement, and even the smallest, seemingly insignificant events can change the direction of a life for ever. The User’s Guide to Perpetual Motion is a series of relatively small incidents – entirely fictional – designed for me to explore character motivations and reactions and for you, hopefully, to enjoy.
It felt like the longest climb in history, but it was only the usual clamber up the close. The same light was out, the same workboots lay behind the same half-open storm doors (“Ye’r no’ bringin’ them in here!”), the same hospital-coloured line, just above eye level, pointed the way to the stairhead. But it all seemed so different; because tonight, it was his turn, and he’d never felt such turmoil.
He remembered the moment Eddie’s turn had come. Eddie had finally stood up after his father hit his mammy one times too many, and booted fuck out his father, and nothing had ever been the same again. He remembered when Dougie’s turn had come. Dougie had jumped into the street fight to protect his da from Vicious Roabie, and they’d both had their heads kicked in. (And in the meantime, Dougie’s wee brother had got a kicking from his pals for crying because his da was hurt. “Ya wee poof.”)
Well, it was his turn to demonstrate to his dad that he was a man now. And there was no way of telling how it would go, and it would have to be done, and it didn’t matter how much he didn’t want to do it.
He’d considered hiding the evidence – banknotes rolled up in a sock at the back of the drawer. He’d thought about asking Hutch to keep hold of it for him, but that would have been asking too much for a lad with his family’s money problems. Although he’d probably have done it. No, it had to be faced. After all, Dad had done everything he could over the years to keep the family warm and fed. He surely wouldn’t refuse the help. Would he?
What made it worse was how the money had been earned. Playing in a fucking band. Standing on a stage, having fun, best mates lined up alongside, a fantasy field of lassies all falling in love down the front. (Literally, in some cases.) The papers all claimed “guitar bands were on the way out,” but the ballrooms across Glasgow told another story.
What made it worse still was that Dad had got the guitar for him on the never-never, and done extra shifts to pay it off. Horrible, awful shifts in the shipyards, the angry industry making a mockery of the mellow music the instrument made from his fingers.
Which only went to demonstrate that it was important to give back. No matter how much it might hurt Dad. Who was sitting in the kitchen, feet near the fire, reading out the most interesting bits from the paper to Mum as she went about her business. “Aw, the rock star’s back!” Dad grinned. “And here’s me thinkin’ you’d be too famous for the likes o’ us. How’d it go?”
He didn’t want to speak. He didn’t want to move. All he could do was look away from Dad’s eyes as he took his hand out of his pocket, the notes welded into his fist. It took the amount of energy needed to launch the HMS Fife from Fairfield’s the previous month to send that fist forward into the river of whatever was about to happen. “Ah got paid,” he rasped, his mouth dry. “Ah’v got digs money fur ye.”
The cash sat in his open hand as all three of them looked at it. There was no need to count it. They all knew that, for less than two hours of singin’ and dancin’, he’d made more than his dad made in a week.
“Aw, son,” Dad said, his eyes filling up. “Aw, son.” Seconds passed like aeons as Mum prepared to deal with any of a dozen next moments. “Aw, son,” Dad said, one more time, shrinking into his chair; and then, suddenly, standing up proudly. “So, ye gonny take me fur a pint?”