And yet, here we are.
The second-most horrifying - the explanation for the self-indulgence. If I reached pensionable age without ever giving fiction a serious crack, I'd feel like I'd failed my teenage self.
I'll be back with some politics chat sometime, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month. In the meantime, here's a section from my never-to-be-published first novel. It's some background on a secondary character Who Will Later Prove To Be Important.
And by the way - when other bloggers do this, I always ignore it, so don't feel guilty for doing the same.
How Mr Inglis Fell Out With His Brother
It wasn't over a woman. Mr Inglis told Helena that was the reason, but then Mr Inglis also told Helena that he'd “hurt his brother quite badly”. That's certainly one way of describing what happened.
Mr Inglis had given the Department the crack that they were looking for, and nobody had thought to ask whether Mr Inglis might still have been gilding the lily.
Four years and two months previously, it's half-past ten in the morning. Mr Inglis is lying on the floor of his living room with a broken wrist, covered in lukewarm vodka, while Police Constables Boatswain and Dalziel kneel on his bucking back. PC Boatswain is fighting desperately to handcuff him. Mr Inglis is not cooperating with police instructions.
“Sit still!” Boatswain shouts at the back of his head. “Calm down!”
“My fuckin' arm!” roars Mr Inglis, spitting into the carpet. “My fuckin' arm, ya black bastards! Ya fuckin' black bastards!”
PC Boatswain, who is white, has heard all of these mantras of arrest before, despite his relatively tender years.
In the corner, an emaciated young woman in a sleeveless T-shirt is trying without success to climb up the wall. “Ya hairy bastard!” she shouts at Boatswain, scrabbling frantically. “Leave him alone, ya hairy black bastard!”
PC Dalziel, a female police officer, kneels on Mr Inglis' legs and shouts at the woman. “Calm down! Just calm down, we're not going to hurt you, we're here to help...”
PC Boatswain manages to cuff one wrist. As he grabs the other, Mr Inglis lets out a piercing howl that causes everyone in the room to jump, except maybe Mr Inglis' brother Billy, who is writhing, pounding on the floor close by. Billy is screeching, trying to reach a deep, ugly gash in the right-hand side of his back.
Blood pumps thick and fast from Billy's wound and seeps into the crusty carpet. PC Boatswain tries to manhandle Mr Inglis across the floor, away from the spreading stain.
“Are the paramedics coming?” PC Boatswain shouts to Dalziel.
“Two minutes”, Dalziel tells him. In the corner, the young woman is screaming now, incoherent, hysterical.
Mr Inglis kicks his legs and shoves hard against the floor with his good arm. They have to lean on him with their full weight to keep him pinned down. As Mr Inglis thunders fresh threats, PC Boatswain notices that Mr Inglis's right wrist really is broken. That's bad news for PC Boatswain.
From the street, PC Boatswain hears the sound of sirens. He looks around Mr Inglis's front room, absorbing the full scene for the first time – the screaming, stabbed man on the floor, the panicking woman, the mound of detritus from numerous meals swept onto the floor, the discarded clothes, the ripped furniture, the stained carpet.
He'd chosen policing as a career, ahead of teaching. His careers advisor, a few years back, thought he'd make a good teacher. You've got a gentle manner, the advisor had said, and they're always crying out for male teachers.
Teachers don't have to deal with this kind of thing at work, Boatswain decides.
“Start again”, Sergeant Melrose says, “And leave out the bit where you break the arsehole's arm with your baton this time”.
PC Boatswain leans against the side of his car and takes off his cap. He scratches his upper lip, which is covered in short brown hairs – he's been growing a moustache for charity, for sponsorship. They're in the police station's car park and the midday sun is making his forehead sweat a little.
“At approximately ten-twenty-two hours, PC Dalziel and I were on patrol in Muirhouse when we were instructed to attend at 17 Park Street in relation to a domestic disturbance. We proceeded to the scene -”
“You're not writing your fuckin' SPR son”, Melrose tells him. “Just tell me what happened”.
Boatswain sighs. “We got to the door and we could hear the guy screaming inside, screaming like he was dying. It was open, so we went in, me first. In the living room, I saw Alec Inglis waving a knife at her, Justine, the girl. I could hear Billy Inglis howling but I couldn't see him at that point”.
“Alright. And then, what did you do?” Melrose is taking notes, scratching rapidly.
“I told him, Alec, to drop the knife and he started shouting, telling me to get out of his house. I drew my baton and he just came right at me. He meant it too, he was going to do me, right there”.
“I struck Alec Inglis to the right thigh with my baton and grabbed his wrist, the knife-hand. We both fell onto a table and Alec Inglis was injured in the process. I restrained him until the paramedics arrived”.
Sergeant Melrose nods and tucks his notepad away. “Right, that's what goes in your report. The FMEs are in with Inglis just now. A couple of Fife police will be here in a wee while to take a statement from you, so take a minute to get it straight in your head”.
He looks at Boatswain for a moment, then claps him on the shoulder. “Are you alright son? That's a nasty situation and you did the right thing there. If it's him or you, smash the fucker, put him down. I don't ever want to have to tell your poor mother why her dippit son's been chibbed by some wee ned”.
“Aye, I'm alright, it was just...” Boatswain struggles for words. “I didn't even think. I wasn't scared until after, until I realised what had happened. I just wasn't expecting it”.
Melrose takes a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and lights one. “You don't, do you?” Blowing out smoke. “Any idea what it was all about, then?”
“We got most of the story out of the girl. You're not going to believe this... So, they're sitting watching the telly, drinking a bottle of vodka that Billy's brought round. Ten in the morning, steaming on vodka. She says they were getting on fine, then the next thing she knows, Alec's gone for a piss and come back waving a baseball bat around. He's going daft, shouting 'Where's my money, I had twenty quid, one of you's nicked it, I'll kill the pair of you', that kind of thing”.
“And that's when he stabbed Billy?”
Boatswain shakes his head. “No, they managed to calm him down. The girl, she says Alec takes these radges all the time, over nothing”.
“Aye, his old man's the same”, Melrose says, taking another puff. “Always was. The whole family's mental. Alec's big brother's been in Saughton for six years for killing some innocent punter, over nothing. Anyway, sorry, go on”.
“So, Billy calms him down. He says, Come on Alec, it'll be here somewhere, we'll look for it, and they do. They can't find it, but Alec seems to have chilled out a bit, so they think he's fine. The girl says he looks kind of weird, but calm”.
“And who's the girl?” the sergeant asks, dropping his cigarette butt and grinding it. “Is she Alec's bird?”
“Can't say”, Boatswain says. “Could be either's, could be both, she didn't tell us... Anyway, so now they're getting on happy as Larry again, watching telly. Billy says he's going to make a joint and he bends over the table in front of Alec. Suddenly Alec's up, he's got a knife from somewhere and he's stabbed Billy through the kidney, and he's standing over him shouting 'Where's my twenty quid you robbing bastard, where's my fuckin' money', all the same stuff. That's where we came in”.
Sergeant Melrose gives Boatswain a disbelieving look. “I know Alec's a nutter, a right nutter, but are you seriously telling me that he stabbed his brother in the back... because he stole twenty quid off him?”
“Oh wait”, says Boatswain, holding up a hand. “It's better than that. So, we get Alec in the back of the car and he's still going mental, greetin' about his arm now. He's shouting about how it's sore and he never done anything. What are we taking him in for? We get him back to the station and the custody sarge searches Alec, goes into his shirt pocket... And pulls a twenty pound note out of it. The dozy prick's had the money in his pocket the whole time and didn't realise it”.
Melrose stares at him, starts to speak and then stops. “Jesus”, he says eventually.
“I know, Sarge”, Boatswain says. “It's the stupidest fuckin' thing I've ever seen”.
They stand there in silence for a while, watching cars come and go.
“The hospital reckon Billy's touch and go”, Melrose says. “They say even if they can save him, he'll be on dialysis for the rest of his life”.
Boatswain puts his hat back on and stands up straight.
“Stupidest thing I've ever seen,” he says again.