Creative Work: ‘Quiver’ by Jim Gibson

Creative Works

This week we have a story from Jim Gibson, writer and editor of Handjob zine, that explores the often precarious dynamics of a working class family in the comfort of its real dialect and language.


Gemma sighed as she heard her Dad walking down the gravel driveway. Why’s he always so fucking happy. Whistling away. I bet he’ll come in here and make a stupid joke that isn’t in the slightest bit funny. I wish I had a Dad that you could just hold a normal conversation with. No-one else’s Dad is like this. No-one else’s at college talks with a thick accent like he was brought up down a fucking mine. They wear proper shirts… and ties! Not flannel shirts and jeans.

Sure enough, her Dad walked in the door and went straight for the jugular. ‘Why you wearin’ yer Sunday jeans Rache?’

‘What?’ She asked with a face like he was talking another language. Mouth agape.

‘Your holey ones.’ He laughed with a huge grin as he closed the door behind himself.

‘They’re meant to have holes in them Dad. They come like this. Unlike yours!’ She snapped this remark back before taking a drink of her coffee as she sat at the solid oak breakfast bar, scrolling through her phone.

‘It were only a joke ducky.’ He put the bottle of oil back under the sink and wiped the black off of his hands onto his jeans. A long black streak remained.

Rachael caught this out of her peripheral vision and spoke before she could think. Her loathing for her Dad was brimming so that everytime something happened, that annoyed her in the slightest, it spewed out of her mouth.

‘You really are disgusting.’

Her Dad ignored her and shook his head, opening a cabinet door and getting on his knees to look for something.

Rachael went on. ‘Look at the state of you Dad! You’re an embarrassment! Why don’t you have a wash or a shave sometimes. Why do you insist on being a tramp?’

‘Oh stop harping your good living bible to me duck. It’s yer trampy father who’s gave you all o’ this. I din’t think that I bought you up to be a spoilt little bitch who’s ashamed of her Dad because he’s not boring enough to sit in a fuckin’ office all day, losing his mind over made up numbers and spreading rumours about who shagged who like a group of fucking school kids!’

Rachael stands up and stomps over to the stairs. ‘I don’t know how Mum can stick you, yer a scumbag! I bet you were born on Jeremy Kyle Dad.’ She turned to go up stairs. ‘Oh, ‘n’ Mum needs wining and dining sometimes Dad, she’s not a fucking robot.’ With that she sped up the stairs. A succession of bangs meant that she was firmly in her room.

Pete’s wife came in. She sat down on the chair next to him and rubbed his back.

‘I don’t know what’s got into that girl.’ Kelly said. ‘She’ll come round eventually.’

Pete carried on rummaging around in the cupboard, not saying a word. He began taking out baskets, manuals and drill bits to get to the back of the cupboard.

‘You used to not be able to get her from your side. Can you remember? She’d be your little helper on the cars and out on the allotment. Proper little worker she was…’ Kelly halted to see if Pete was going to say something, but continued when he didn’t. ‘She’ll grow out of it; it’s just the terrible teens.’

Pete pulled the torch out that he had been searching for and began to stand up.

‘She’s eighteen Kell, she shoulda packed this up ages ago. I think its them posh mates of hers.’

Kelly made a low ‘mmh’, a reluctant noise of agreement.

‘And I do treat you right, don’t I?’

‘The only thing I want in the world is you baby.’ Kelly threw her arms around him, as he leant on the sink, and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Leaning back she said, ‘I’ll go and have a word.’

Pete nodded and went back out the door and up to the huge metal box at the back of his garden that he called his garage. Tools lay everywhere. There was a punch bag to one side and two lifts with cars resting on them.

He bent himself back under the car he’d been working on, shining his little torch into all of the crevices, and looking for something as his mind wandered. Something was up with this car but he, even with all of his experience, was baffled to what it could be. It had been laid on the yard for about 15 years now, but, after all of the work that Pete had done to it in the past few weeks, it should be working.

He couldn’t help his mind from lingering on what Rachael had been saying. He was going to take Kelly out this weekend to the swankest place in town. Maybe even to a play or something, he knew that she’d always liked going to them for some reason. Give her a reason to get tarted up to the nines and be treated like a princess. Pete knew that Kelly was happy with things the way they were, but everyone deserves a treat every now and then. Especially his wife who had been there for so long and who he hoped would never go away.

But what Pete had said that could have infuriated Rachael so much was beyond him. He only walked in and made a joke, it couldn’t have offended her. As a child she used to sit on his knee asking for jokes one after another. When he’d ran out she’d make him make some up. They were always poor jokes but she’d be in hysterics all the same. Now it seems that poor’s not good enough.

* * *

‘What do you see in him Mum? He’s like a fucking caveman.’ Rachael ranted, fuming.

‘Less of the language Rache.’ Kelly snapped first off. ‘I know you’re in a huff but you’ve not even got a reason to be huffing, so don’t for one second think I’m on your side. Your Dad’s brilliant and I adore him, he’s the most caring and naturally good spirited person I’ve met. To be honest, I think that you’re just being a spoilt little bitch and need to start to act your age. You’re not a child anymore.’

‘You swear and I’m…’

‘Shut the fuck up Rache. You’re acting the twat.’ Kelly lit a cigarette, opened the window and stood beside it, waiting for Rachael’s infuriated response. She didn’t expect to turn around and see her in tears but that’s what happened. As Kelly turned around, breathing out smoke and looking really chuffed about how authoritative she could be, she noticed Rachael bleary eyed, with tears down her cheeks. Kelly’s heart burst open as she slung the fag out of the window and seemed to pounce over to mother her child.

‘Come on duck.’ Came the soothing voice of Rachael’s Mum.

She spoke through tears and sniffles. ‘I do love him. I tell all of my mates how mint he is. How he’s funny and caring but it all comes from memories. Now when I see him, even the sight of him infuriates me. I don’t want it to happen Mum, honestly, but it does. I can’t help it.’

‘Rachael, I don’t know what to say. Maybe you should talk to him.’

‘It’d do no good. What would I say?’

‘I don’t know dear. I think you maybe need to tell him that you know about it.’

Rachael quivered. They both knew it was probably overdue.

* * *

Pete was getting more wound up by the minute as he paced around the garage thinking about his daughter. There was no need for her to be like that. He’d done all that he could all of his life for that girl and she was being such a little cunt. Why did she feel the need to shout at him every time she saw him.

He wouldn’t have it any longer. He couldn’t go pussyfooting around her and trying to be nice to her any longer. He would have to do something to show her that he was the boss and if she didn’t like it then tough shit. He wouldn’t have got away with it with his parents, they would’ve slung him straight out on his arse. The next time he sees her he’ll have a word. Sure enough. She’ll get the gist.

Pete decided to go into the back room to get a drink. He needed a drink.

When he came back into the garage Rachael was sat up high in the passenger seat of the car waving at him. This was it. His stomach turned as he wasn’t one to enjoy these whole ordeals, but it had to be done.

He clambered up and opened the driver’s side door.

He started before he had even sat down. ‘Rache, you’re beginning to take the piss, I’ve been nothing but good to you all of your life…’

Dad.’ Rachael interrupted.

Pete carried on regardless. ‘We can’t live in a battlezone and I want this to stop before someone…’

Dad, just listen to me for one second please.’

He stopped talking and looked at her.

I know about what you did… When you were younger.’

Pete’s face dropped. All of the colour had sunk and he stuttered. ‘I… I don’t know what… you’re on about.’

You do Dad. And I just want to know why. You can find the newspaper articles on the internet about it.’

The past can’t just stay where it is, can it?… Who told you?’

Rachael shrugged. ‘It’s quite well known around here Dad.’

* * *

Kelly looked out of the kitchen window, biting her fingernails. She didn’t know how this would go down with Pete. All that she knew was that she’d spent many a sleepless night while Pete shouted and screamed about the event in his sleep. Not all of the time, but more often than was comfortable. She had never brought the subject up with him personally, but everyone in the town knew about it. The nice kid that’d turned into the murderous teen.

He’d done quite well after he served his time. He learnt the basic mechanics in juvie as a youth offender and then come out, eventually working hard enough to set his own business up on the back. He near enough lived there now.

She wished he didn’t have the scars though. He tried his hardest not to let the person inside him out, not knowing that she could see straight into him. Kelly knew how to make him smile, how to bring the bluebird to the surface.

She gazed at the car hoping that things could change. It had been chaos when the two of them were together for far too long now and Rachael had been hiding things from her father that he really should know about. The abortion was the last thing she would hold from Pete, Kelly had thought at the time, but it wasn’t. There was so much more.

* * *

I never meant to do it.’ Pete began. ‘But that don’t mean that he deserved it. We were just having a fire and a few tinnies up the res. We weren’t out for trouble, just a good time. A bit of a laugh ‘n’ a beer’

He looked down where the floor of the car was missing. It was about six foot down and he felt his insides contract.

Rachael didn’t say anything.

Pete sighed and continued. ‘It was just some nosey old man coming to tell us to move on. We weren’t hurting anyone and we were well outta the way… You know, I haven’t spoken about this in over twenty years and it still plays on me mind.’

It’ll do you good to get it out Dad.’

Your uncle Mark was there, but you can’t tell anyone this.’

She nodded. ‘Promise.’

He was the first one to hit him. We’d told him to fuck off and to keep his nose out, but he was having none of it. Mark hit him and he went mad. He decked Mark and laid him out. You’ve gotta remember we were only about fifteen and scrawny little rats really. He hit Mark back and everyone else started to run. You know Darren, Ian, Steve, all those lot of… well, old men now, who go drinking at the club?’

Rachael let out a small sound that was intended to be a ‘yeah.’

Those cowards all ran for it and left Mark bleeding from the side of his head. This man had him by the scruff of his polo. Shouting, the veins bulging from the back of his neck. I’d had enough of it and I picked a two-be-four up that had been knocked off the fence. One whack was all it took. Din’t think that that’d kill him! But… it did.’ His eyes were watering up and a lump had appeared in his throat, but he held it together.

Rachael looked up, forcing a smile. She wondered why she didn’t feel anything, no disgust or pity. It didn’t seem to bother her.

It haunted me constantly for a long, long time. Even now it still really gets to me sometimes. That man is etched into my scull.’

Rachael’s conscious mind was grateful of this, so it should she thought. Her emotions weren’t changing though. She felt nothing for the dead man, the detest for her father had gone but now there was a hollowness. She wanted to feel something, yearned for it, but instead she was wondering what they would have for tea. This wasn’t what she had expected.

And what about Mark? You two don’t even seem that close.’ She pried for information while the opportunity was there.

We’re not. We were though. Thick as thieves when we were lads. The whole thing fucked it up though. Did for me social life in general to be honest. What do you expect I suppose.’

Rachael nodded.

You not got this old car going yet?’

Pete frowned, not knowing why the topic has changed. ‘Nah, dunno what’s up with it. Tried everything. It splutters a bit but wont start.’

He turned the key and the car tried it’s hardest to start yet ended up dieing out yet again.

I thought you were going to do it years ago. Where did you put Berty?’

Pete looked over with inquisitive eyes. ‘Berty? Your little bear thing?’

Yeah! Berty! I hid him in the… head gasket?’

Ha ha’ Pete laughed, ‘I don’t think you did. Show me where you put it, that’s probably the reason I can’t get this fucking thing to move. I’ve tried everything.’

By the time Pete’s was down from the car Rachael already had the old stained, black teddy bear in her hand.

‘Well fuck me.’ Pete laughed. ‘I ant seen this thing in ages.’

Rachael handed it to him with a broad smile and a light in her face that had been missing for a long time. ‘I can remember when I stopped over at Bec’s one time and fell out with everyone. I’d only talk to Berty all night. I thought if I told him you’d be able to hear me.’

Pete looked at the bear wide eyed. ‘Well I never.’

‘Try the car.’ Rachael directed him.

Pete clambered up into the car and right enough it started after a few tries. He left it running and jumped down.

As Rachael stood there, Pete put his arm around her and kissed her on the top of the head. ‘You lovely girl.’

She didn’t know how this had happened but she felt so proud of her old man.

* * *

Kelly came out of the house. She couldn’t hold her curiosity much longer, so instead of barging in she decided to go and pick up some food.

She saw them standing next to the car that he’d managed to get running somehow.

She shouted over. ‘I’m gonna nip to KFC, what do you two want picking up?’

They looked at eachother, Pete and Rachael, before Pete jumped up into the car and Rachael ran over.

Kelly was in the 4X4 now, she noticed Rachael smile as she reached the window. ‘Me and Dad’ll come with you, he’s just gonna lock the garage up.’

Bewildered as Kelly was, she didn’t question it.

* * *

Pete pulled down the shutter and locked her up.

He was unsure what had just happened, but he felt better for it. For some reason.

We knew all families have secrets and here we see how one can both devastate relationships and repair them. Foul in it’s language but sweet in it’s execution, it is tragic and funny in equal measures.

Check out for other stories and poems from some of the best in the country.

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