“Sculpture” was inspired by this one at
Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow.
refused to accept the scan’s pessimistic verdict. “Of course it’s not a girl”
he’d say. “They’ve got it wrong. It’s a boy and he’ll come down the Crown and
Anchor with me soon enough, mark my words.”
That’s all he could think of to get used to the idea. Him and Morag had not
wanted children. Well at least that was the plan when they moved in together.
They had the perfect life then – Morag was a hairdresser, he was a bricklayer.
They’d managed to buy a house, nothing much but it was theirs. Indian on Monday
evenings, Chinese on Wednesdays and the chippie Friday nights. Then pub on
Saturday nights, Pendragon for him and vermouth for Morag. It was the life.
Then the bombshell.
Morag was pregnant. “I thought you were on the Pill” Joe had prostested. “I am”
wimpered Morag. “must be the small percentage of failures...”
was born, Joe had picked up the tiny bundle and cradled her against his chest. And
It’s normal, he’d decided. After all, he was a bloke. He wasn’t supposed to
bond with a baby, surely?
As Alice grew bigger every week, Joe just kept on looking at her, waiting to
feel something. Anything. Anything but annoyance with a baby, a toddler who was
ruining his days when he thought how much the weird implements from Mothercare
had cost him, and his nights when she would cry and put Morag off sex
by. Him and Morag hardly exchanged two words every day. She didn’t tell him
when she had this constant pain in her side. She didn’t tell him about seeing
She did tell him though about the hospital appointment. He nodded vaguely.
in the front room to see Dad cradling Mum. Mum was crying and Dad was repeating
“Mo, Mo”. But Mum was still crying. And saying things. Something about not
seeing Alice growing up.
“Where are you going to, Mummy?” she asked.
need, Joe mate.” “I’m at the end of the phone, any time.” “Do come and visit.”
Someone – some cousin or other – had given him a leaflet for some self-help
Joe had taken it and shoved it in his pocket, wondering how anyone could
imagine him in a “self-help group for young widows and widowers.” “Anything,
any time Joe mate.” “You now where I am.” The funeral was over – at last – and
Joe had thanked and shaken hands with scores of people, many of whom he
His mum had come to stay with him for a few days. At first Joe was grateful –
she showed him how to make a lunchbox and iron Alice’s school uniform.
But talking to Alice was another matter. Whenever he would address her, she
would turn her back on him. If he tried to turn her face to him, she’d flick
her long, blonde hair – Morag’s hair.
said finally. “Ignore me. Your shout. But then I’ll ignore you too. Like that’s
going to bring your mum back.”
together in the house was unbearable. Joe wondered how such a little lass could
generate an atmosphere could cut with a knife throughout a kitchen, a front
room and two bedrooms.
No Saturday was spent at home. No way. Joe would take Alice – silent and
sulking – to the cinema, or the zoo, the swimming pool, the tenpin bowling...
anywhere where their sparse exchanges could pass for conversation.
Joe was pleased to receive that letter from the hospital. Their wanting to have
Alice checked, to make sure she wasn’t a carrier of Morag’s gene, actually gave
him something to tell her.
not going to the hospital where Mum died” she scowled.
you” Joe thundered “they’re doing this, I’m doing this, for your sake. To check
that you will not die young, not like Mum. I’m having my blood tested so that
they have some blood to compare yours to, and you too are going to have a blood
test and that’s that!”
He stormed off and went to the attic. Alice was not going to see him cry.
Alice scowled throughout the visit and
abruptly declined the offer of an ice-cream on their way home.
Joe was an optimist. When the results landed on the doormat, he calmly opened
there you are, he thought. No problem. Alice doesn’t carry the gene. So why on
earth did they want to see him alone? Honestly, those paper pushers, did they
have nothing better to do?
had to take a whole afternoon off – now heaven knew how much that was going to
cost him! He became suspicious when he was shown to a private room where he’d
never been before.
consultant cleared his throat.
don’t know how to say this, Mr McAllister...”
“You said Alice is fine!” Joe butted in.
Joe had no time for that sort. “Out with it, man” he thought.
double-checked, treble-checked. There is no way Alice... Our records show that
your late wife was O+, like you. Alice is A-. She cannot be your daughter.”
didn’t mind Dad sitting on the sofa and staring in the distance. It was just
that she was getting bored. “Where are we going today?” she asked. “I don’t
feel like going anywhere” was the reply. The child threw a tantrum and Joe
Do you want to go to The Lighthouse, Alice? No way, Dad. Scotland Theme Park?
That’s boring. The Tenement house? Been there last week. Ok, what about...er...
After a few minutes on Google, Joe suggested Kelvingrove Museum. That would show
her. A few hours boredom in a dusty museum would teach her to be do demanding,
walked by the Victorian toys disdainfully and looked at the dog made of wellington
boots with disgust. “That is so
Not even a striped outfit worn by a victim of Nazism stopped Alice, while Joe,
massive Joe, was transfixed by the humble garment.
Joe didn’t see Alice disappear in the crowd.
Big Joe ran the length of the first floor a few times before he found Alice
contemplating something. “What do you think you’re...” he started.
He followed the child’s gaze. What was so interesting that Alice was
A sculpture. Trust Alice to do a runner just to admire a bloody sculpture. A
sculpture of a man with a child, a girl, on his lap.
The man and the child looked so sad and hugged each other, their marble eyes
filled with the same despair.
“Look Dad, that’s us” Alice said.
“Aye lass” he panted eventually. “That’s us”.