Yous can ca me Laz. In here aabody else does.
Twa days ago, three howkers chapped ma cell door.
‘Mr Sodger wants his sweeties. Haun it owre, eemock, afore we come in there an moger ye.’
Ye get used tae howkers. They ramstam roon the galleries, blaain throu the Disney complex like stoor. Deep doon tho Mr Sodger’s a chappit neep. His dumplins dinna ken hou tae skelp. I got a standard nieve tae the brig o the neb an a disappointin hantle steel taes across the heid.
‘Consider yirsel mogered,’ peched the least tongue-taigled o the three blooterboys an gied me tae en o the week.
The bad news for me is I still dinnae hae Mr Sodger’s ‘sweetie’ for him an the en o the week is the morra.
If I canna get it, fattygus fingirs will be snapped thegither an a haill boorach o men mair committit tae howkin will oxter me doon tae the ocean an dook me in it until mibbe ma lungs is stappit wi brine.
I work shifts for Diamond Broon, Setterdays an Tuesdays in the Bergen Room. I show up ootside Penthoose Cell A an his personal assistant, Mojo, semmit-searches me then I get let in. I hae seeven oors tae redd up afore Mojo returns tae sneck the vault door.
The Bergen Room is a midden o bonnieness. Ile-pentins, watter-colours, carved heids, gowd orloges, siller samurai chibs. Diamond Broon, the richest prisoner in the history o Inverdisney, is alloued this space for the muckle mixter-maxter o unco gear he’s gaithered owre the years.
The Room – a chaumer ten metre braid wi a lang bay windae in its west wa -needs tae be kept in a constant state o stoorlessness. If it isnae, electronic een read ony daud o dust in the chaumer atmosphere an the greetin o Broon’s sonic alarms is enough tae tummle every prisoner at Inverdisney fae their beds in the bahookie o the nicht. Mojo issues me a specialist haun-held stoorsooker at the stert o every shift an I plowter roon the objects d’ert tae the clartometer registers zero.
Seeven oors I’m in the Bergen Room on each shift an, if I chauve up a swite, I can hae every fykie microscopic tait o stoor sooked up intae sterile pokes in five oors deid. This leas me twa oors tae guddle throu the Diamond’s books.
He keeps them in a lang unbroken bookcase unner the bay windae that glowers oot at the Atlantic. Until I stertit workin for Diamond Broon, I hadna seen a book in twinty-five year. Wi the earth’s forests drooned lang ago, paper is as rare as gowd. Ainlie a glaikitly-rich sumph like Broon can afford tae own books. I’m here tae tell ye it wis sair usin ma een for readin again. The prent jinked aboot like fleggit speeders til it calmed doon an became characters syne words.
Broon’s gust in books isna normal. I’ve ploued throu a raik o the hunners o biographies he has: the dreich life o August Strindberg; Oscar Wilde’s lanely existence; a bowfin tome aboot Charles de Gaulle; a worse yin aboot Mikhail Gorbachev. I wisna taen by the subjects but the act o readin. Juist skimmerin ma een glegger an glegger alang the page wis whit gart ma hert chitter wi somethin new.
He does hae birkier stuff tho. There’s a bing o early 21st century SF novels which I’ve had ma neb in this wee while. Iain M. Banks is the wale o them. He wis some gadge that steyed in pre-drookit Scotland afore the watters cowped aa life doon there. I’m hauf-wey throu a stotter o his cried Forgetting Ivana published in 2010. An the Broon has a first edition Neuromancer wi William Gibson’s signature on it. Thon’s in a gless case sae I canna malkie it wi ma iley hauns but every bairn kens Neuromancer inside oot since it’s nou learned in aa Port primary schules.
He’s an aafie man, tae, for reference bookies. I dinna ken hou mony atlases he’s got on thae shelfs. There’s maps o the Roman Empire, the trade routes o Marco Polo, the war at Stalingrad. He keeps completely feckless city maps o Paris, Lima, Amsterdam an Glasgow an detailed ordnance surveys o the rigs an sheuchs unner the North Atlantic. There are a wheen o oot-o-date cyberspace maps which were ainlie ever valid for a month at a time. Syne he has airline schedules gaun back twinty year tae every muckle toun on New Earth, each ane athoot a slaister or merk on them.
Howkin throu Broon’s kist o books is aboot the ainlie thing I enjoy in this dour hoose. There’s a haill lot I hinna got roond tae lookin at yet. Clancy, Grisham, Chandler, King, Coburn an Ho – their names glamour me that much it’s sometimes sair waitin on ma next shift. Ane o these days, I’m gonnae git tae a box o skinnymalink books by a guy cried Grant Morrison. They look braa but are fou o picturs. I’ll micht gang throu them yince I’ve feenished wi the books stappit fou wi thae rich slaverie words. Because it’s the words that caas me back tae his book case. I dinna ken if he reads them. I dinna care. I git a len o thae words fowre oors a week. The stories doesna matter. They’re aa the semm, onywey. I enjoy joukin ma ee owre the sleekit bleck inventory o characters dichit sae trigly across each page. I’m no askin for much.
Aa this tho could easy cowp.
Mr Sodger wants me tae retrieve a peerie video-disc aboot the size o a bawbee. It’s in a camera posit in the ee o a bust o David Coulthard aside the F1 driver’s 2007 Championship winnin McLaren racin caur. I didna pit it there but I hae tae bring it back. If I dae, I’ll bear aff a gree o aroon three million merks, a folio o reid chip shares an a transfer tae a new penthoose cell. If I dinna, there’ll be hell tae thole.
Juist anither Inverdisney day. Yin violent chancer wants info on anither violent chancer’s vault codes sae he can git his hauns on his expensive gear. Afore lang, Broon will jalouse the pavie an Mr Sodger will hae his name pencilled in tae the Diamond’s diary for an aa-inclusive sair face an therapeutic heid massage. An some airt in the middle o these twa rauchle puddins, a slater o nae much significance – me – will be mogered oot o existence. In here, thon’s the daunce. Thon’s the gemm. Thon’s the gait the skitters slidder.
I’m no feared. I’ve had dunts aa ma life. Video-disc or nae video-disc, Mr Sodger canna show me onythin new. It’s juist I’ve been enjoyin the books. The roch feel o the paper, the kittlin again in ma heid as ma imagination steers itsel fae a thirty year sleep, the sense o bein lowsed, albeit sweirly, at the feenish o the book. I’ve been lappin up thae words.
Weel, I’ve got until the en o the week. Mr Sodger gied me til the en o the week. An the en o the week is the morra.
Matthew Fitt is the Itchy Coo project’s National Schools and Communities Scots Language Development Officer. Itchy Coo is a best-selling, award-winning new imprint which specialises in Scots Language books for children and young people. www.itchy-coo.com
But n Ben A Go-Go by Matthew Fitt is the first full-length science fiction novel in Scots and provides the setting for ‘Laz’. Fitt’s Scots is described by Edwin Morgan as ‘stretched and skelped to meet the demands of cybrjannies and virtual hoorhooses.’
But n Ben A Go-Go, Matthew Fitt, Luath Press Ltd (ISBN 1905222041 PBK £7.99)
© Matthew Fitt 2000