The Swiss Riveter: From NAW MUCH OF A TALKER by Pedro Lenz, translated by Donal McLaughlin

It aw started long afore that. Ah kid jist as well make oot but: it aw started that wan evenin, a few days eftir the let me ootae the Joke.

Boot ten in the evenin, it wis. Hawf past, mibbe. An’ see the wind? The wind widda cut right through ye, fuckin freezing it wis. Fog Valley. It November an’ aw. Ma heart wis like a soakin-wet flair-cloth, it wis that heavy.

So ah takes masel intae Cobbles, fancied a wee coffee ah did, wi a guid shot ae schnapps in it.

The dosh they gi’e ye when ye leave the nick ahd awready blown awready, naw that ah kidda tellt ye whit oan.

So there ah wis: fuck aw dosh, desperate furra coffee but, wi schnapps in it, furra bit of company an’ aw, a cunt or two tae talk tae.

Ahm tellin ye, arent ah? Ma pockets wur empty, part fae a few fags, a few coins. Things wur a bit tight like. Tighter than tight, tae be honest. Waitin on money some cunt owed me, ah wis. Try saying that but when yir fresh ootae the nick. Ahm owed a whack o money, jist dont hiv it yet.

Impresses nae cunt, that.

So ah goes intae Cobbles, like ah say, an’ order a coffee wi schnapps.

Regula asks hiv ah the money fur it?

Naw a bad question, ah admit.

Dae me a favour, Regi, ah gi’e it, spare me the patter, bring me o’er the coffee jist an’ we’ll take it fae there.

Total patter-merchant ur whit, she goes – an’ goes an’ fetches it.

She’s like that, when she comes back: Ah didnae pit it through, an’ she looks at me thon wey – ah dunno whit way, masel. Diffrint, anyhoo, diffrint fae usual, wi a bit mair longin in her eyes, or summit. Ahv nae idea whit like it is fur ither guys, see me but? That kinda thing warms ma heart – toasts ma insides, it dis – a woman like Regi lookin at me like that.

Thanks Regi, love. Ye’ll get yir reward in heaven. The money an’ aw some time.

Gi’e her peace wi that kind patter, she gi’es it next, an’ ahm naw tae start getting used tae it eether, cos if Pesche finds oot she didnae pit it through, aw he’ll’ll break loose so it will. Ah know masel whit like he can be.

She’s brilliant, Regula, ye hiv tae hand it tae her, she looks oot fur us, jist takes it intae her heid naw tae pit summit through, nae cunt’ll know, an’ anyhoo: Pesche, the gaffer’ll be the last wan tae notice. Goalie here, meanwhile, his his coffee an’ that’s aw that matters.

Ahd known furra long time she his a big heart, Regula. That evenin there but, ah started tae like her a loatae other ways too.

It’s strange, that. Dead strange. Yiv known a woman fur years an’ naw thought nuthin of it, an’ suddenly, Christ, suddenly she’s got summit. She his: she’s suddenly got summit that’s got unner yir skin, suddenly ye like her like. Explain that yin tae me! That particular evening, ahd a loatae questions tae answer, tae be honest. Suddenly, but, wan single question, jist, intristit me – an’ that wis: wis there any chance at aw, in this here lifetime, that me an’ Regula kid become an item mibbe?

Regula, love, ah gave it, kin ah ask ye a wee favour? Kid ye slip me a fifty tae Monday?Whit it is is: ahm owed a load ae money, jist hivnae actually got it actually yet. A wee cash-flow problem. Ye ken hoo it is –

She looks at me like that. Then goes like that: so ah hidnae changed at aw in the Joke, eh? Ye widnae think, tae listen tae me, ahd done nearly a year in there, ah hidnae changed a bit still full o the same auld shite ah wis.

Don’t yet yirsel work up, Regi. Ye dont know whit yir on aboot. Ye know fuck aw aboot me, fuck aw aboot the Joke an’ aw. An’ it’s better that wey, believe me. Ye should coont yir blessins. As fur the dosh: ahm naw begging, certainly naw goney beg fae you, it’s up tae you, eether yiv a fifty or ye hivnae an’ we kin talk aboot summit else. That’s aw there is tae it.

She gave me the fifty: folded it an’ pit in ma breast pocket, wi’oot a word. Ah took her haun, gi’ed the inside ae her arm a wee kiss an’ gave it: see if ye didnae hiv tae go tae work, ahd take ye straight hame so ah wid an’ blow ye away. Ah swear, Regi, ahd make ye a happy woman.

She wis like that tae me: ah wis a daft bastard, really wis, an’ she gave a wee laugh again, it really wis. Ah hidnae hidmuch tae laugh aboot recently, ah really hidnae.

By Pedro Lenz

Translated by Donal McLaughlin

Pedro Lenz was born in Langenthal and is famous for his poems, articles and novels written in dialect. He has won numerous poetry slams and prizes, notably for Der Goalie Bin Ig, a novel about a downtrodden ex-con with big dreams. It was translated into Glasgwegian dialect as Naw Much of a Talker and made into the Swiss vernacular film I am The Keeper.

Donal McLaughlin is a freelance writer and translator. He was Scottish PEN’s first ècrivain sans frontières and a recent recipient of the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Award.

From NAW MUCH OF A TALKER (Freight Books, 2013)

Photo of Pedro Lenz © Pedro Lenz

Category: The Swiss RiveterTranslationsDecember 2018 - The Swiss RiveterLiterally SwissLS Extracts


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