by Heather Haigh

PA ALWAYS SAID blood’s thicker than water, when he was scrounging the price of a pint from his old man. When he was cajoling our Tom into supporting the right bloody football team, to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in the stands. But to his daughters, he always said, ‘Bring trouble to my door and you’re out of it.’

Not the kind of trouble our Tom brought when his lip was bloodied and his knuckles skinned. Nor the kind that visited when Pa had a run-in with the bloody bailiffs.

No. The kind that had you knocking on Bloody Mary’s door, close to midnight, with your knees knocking and your guts twisting. Course, you’d try the stairs first and hope you didn’t break your neck. You’d make sure there was no stench of gin on your breath, in case there were questions about funny business. Just a fall, you’d say, an accident. Like the ones where you’re stupid enough to walk into the door and blacken your eye.

Some accidents are fine, a sign of high spirits, that’s all. Like when our Tom ran into the neighbour’s dog on his pushbike or smashed the caretaker’s window with his football. But the accidents that can befall a lass. Those sorts aren’t fine at all.

And your Ma always warned you to keep yourself tidy so the sheets could witness your blooding. And he’d claim his prize. That tiny piece of flesh a testament to your worth—measured from first blood to last. And you’d wash your rags in cold water in the outhouse tub, because there was no money for Kotex, while Ma soaked the bandages from Tom’s brawlings in the kitchen sink.

Then one day, you’d be a respectable woman and you’d puke till your sides were afire and pray it held. And they’d check you were keeping yourself clean, not drinking, not smoking, eating right, sitting right, praying right, living right.

And if the puking stopped and the cramps came early they’d look at you askance. Maybe you hadn’t been careful enough, looked after yourself right. Must have been something you did. Maybe you’re just a bad carrier.

And if you were a good ‘un, you’d strain and groan while he did corridor duty before he sloped off to the pub to wet the latest bairn’s head, and they’d clean you up and stitch you up, and you’d soon work out your life’s fucked up, while he’s kicking the dog and telling you to shut the bloody brats up.

And you’ll hold Ma’s shaking shoulders when Tom’s service papers come. And when he comes home with one leg burned or buried or maybe left for the dogs, and he loses himself in a bottle and gives you a bloody lip, you’ll hold him too. You’ll keep holding him till he drinks himself into the ground.

And one day, you’ll wonder what the bloody point of it all is. You’ll cradle your granddaughter in your arms, pray life treats her kindly, promise her all the love in the world, and pray she bloody well gets it.


Heather Haigh is an emerging disabled, working-class writer from Yorkshire. She found the joy of writing late in life. Her work has been published by Reflex Press, Anansi Archives, Mono and others. She has been nominated for Best of the Net. 

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