Hi there! I have written the first chapter of Maclean – at the moment it’s only a rough draft but the final version may just be this but more polished. I hope you enjoy it and look forward to eight more chapters as it’s going to be a short novel.
Chapter I – Warton Warehouse
When Peter had first found the job at Warton Warehouse and they had interviewed him, he wanted to be known as Peter or Pete; he did not like his first name, Stanley, which didn’t sound like it originated from Scotland. Peter never knew that Scotland was his country of birth until recently. He had returned from America and had been living with his mother ever since. He wanted to find a job soon, so he could afford to live on his own and escape from his mother.
“Have you had any previous experience,” the interviewers had asked, their accents distinctly different from Peter’s own more American one.
“I don’t.” He never found work in America, and his parents never gave him any work. They never helped him find a job, so he knew he had to muster up the small amount of courage he had and seek one himself. No experience. He felt his ribcage tighten, as he always has since his adolescence. He breathed in slowly.
“We’ll train you and make you learn how things work here. We’ll give you something manageable for the moment so you can get the hang of this work environment.”
Peter said nothing, his gaze focussed on the photos on the wall, staring at them blankly. He nodded and whispered, “It’s ok.”
“What do you hope to find in this job and where do you see your life in five years?”
Peter dreamed of becoming a musician and hopefully forming a band with some people. He had this dream when he was twelve years old and he read an article about an artist who supported herself by having a primary job that would give her money, and during her time off she would practice. He believed that it was a wise way to live, and wanted to do the same. He would work at the warehouse during the day and at night he would stay up for a few hours and work on songs he had in mind.
Peter thought about the question, and the obvious answer was to say: I want to be a musician. He felt it was inappropriate and said, “I hope to be more organised and have a family.” He was not honest. His ribcage tightened. He could beat himself up.
“Could you be more clear, please?”
“I mean I hope to organise my life and have more money so I can have a family. I’m twenty-four. I don’t want to live with my mum.”
“Of course, it’s only a natural part of progression in life.”
And I’d like to play the piano, he almost said. He decided to keep it to himself. After all, dreams are private and Peter feared that revealing them would not only harm him, but also cause them to fester from the judgement of others. He just wanted to live life as an ordinary man who lives in Edinburgh, has fees to pay, have a family, and be a proud member of Britain. To be at home in Scotland. Find someone who can empathise with him.
Peter then remained silent and allowed the interviewer to continue.
“Find something to dedicate your life to and grow with it. Detaching from your parents—or parent in your case—and managing on your own. It’s a decent plan for a young person like you.”
The interview continued and Peter touched his chest at times, trying to prevent himself from visibly gripping it in front of the interviewer. It ached.
That one night when his stepfather did not want to understand it; Peter had found himself tied to the bed with cloths restraining his arms and legs. That was when noticed the aching in his chest.
Now, no one must find out. Don’t be an idiot, he told himself, You must keep this all to yourself now.
“So,” the interviewer continued, “we’ll give you a place here and see how it works for you, and if it meets our requirements. Well done, Peter.” The interviewer smiled at him and they shook hands.
Peter left the Warehouse and made his way home. The cold atmosphere of Edinburgh was still new to him, and the mist of the morning clung the streets he passed. Peter kept his eyes down as he passed others, and some people blabbered in their alien accent that Peter could not understand. Ever since he arrived at the airport, the first impression of Scotland was that it seemed tranquil and quiet. However, as he spent his first few months living with his mother, something started to seem off. Almost as if it betrayed the initial tranquillity. Something was in Peter’s mind…
No more getting nervous, he thought to himself. He had to understand his nervousness, and he prayed that this job could help in some way. This could be your great chance. So when he would arrive on Tuesday, his first day, he would try his best.
The afternoon came by though the mist remained, cold and dry, and Peter returned to his mother’s flat. He knocked on the door. No response. She is at work, and will return around seven. So Peter let himself in. The dull and odd smell of decay filled his nostrils. He went to his room and locked himself in until his mother returned.
And before him stood the piano. It belonged to his step-father so he could practice musical pieces for the church choir. Peter saw his step-father perform several times at St. Mary’s Church, back in America, and he would play the organ. His mum wanted the piano and soon Peter himself took a liking to it. The piano stood before his own shoddy bed. It watched over him as he slept, and was the first thing he saw when he woke up. He would see it stand tall and powerful before him.
He sat himself on the stool, and began playing the piano. He tried to invent a piece and work on it. He was able to play basic melodies, but he wanted more.
He was going to be a musician.
As he worked at Warton Warehouse, no one would even know he would practice his piano after work, as the colleagues would waste themselves at the pub.
As he continued on his improvised piece, something came to his mind. Something small. His face became grave and he grumbled inaudibly, Dirty culture…
As soon as he heard a key in the door, he quickly stopped playing and shut the cover with a careful thud. He knew it was now evening since the room grew darker; it was his anticipation that made him tense. “Peter? Are you here?” his mother called in the hallway.
He went next to the door and replied, “I’m in my room.”
“Ah…” his mother said, and then wordlessly went to the kitchen. The rustling told him that she had done some shopping on the way back. He laid in bed and waited for her to say that dinner was ready.
When it was, they ate together in silence. The mother never wanted to talk to him about her own work, so he never asked. He was caught by surprise as she asked him, “Did you find work?” Her tone quiet and reproachful, and she kept her eyes on her soup.
Peter’s lips tightened and glanced up to his mother, and remained silent. “Did you find work?” her voice sounding colder with aggravation. “Respond to your mother.”
“Yes,” he mumbled, a child’s tone. His eyes down and his expression hollow.
His mother downed a can of beer, some escaping her mouth and dribbling down her jaw. She croaked, “Don’t you ever misbehave with your mother ever again, you stupid kid! What are you now: Twenty-four? Behave like a grown up.”
They were silent for a minute, and Peter’s eyes started to darken. His ribcage clutched, and made it difficult to breathe for him. He flinched and his spoon cluttered on the table when his mother scoffed, “Your father didn’t punish you for nothing.”
“My step-father, mum,” he mumbled.
Just you wait, mum…, he thought. He had thought that one phrase, and in lurked in his mind for as long as he could remember. He remembered her drinking when they had been in America, and when her husband—he never admitted that her husband was his step-father—was absent, she would be drinking and croaking. At the time, when he was around fourteen years old, he attempted to play the piano with a simple arpeggio melody, and his mother burst his door open. Shut that thing up! she shrieked before slamming the cover on Peter’s fingers.
So he continued to think Just you wait mum…just you wait and see what I can do.
They remained silent and they both finished their soups, and she opened another can with a sizzle. Peter took both plates and washed them, and as he dried them, he looked at his mother. The person drinking the beer was skinny and frail with a frown that made her face creased, and her skin was grey. “I’m watching TV. You, go to bed,” she grumbled.
He finished drying the plates and cutlery and went to his room, and turned the key. Now he could be alone, at least in his little zone in their apartment.
He thought about his new work, and his luck at being accepted. He would have to give it his all. I can’t lose it at work, now, he thought. I have to be in control of myself; I can’t let it get to me. He placed his hand on his chest and tried to breathe in. The ribs were tight, and he wanted to dig into his flesh and grasp the bones. He needed the money.
He needed to get away.
He woke up, and a pale misty light of morning came through his window and filled his room. He lifted himself up and the piano was blurred in his vision. It was a cold, grey and gentle day outside. He saw 6:50am on his bedside clock.
It was Tuesday.
He got up from his bed and crept to the door. His mum does not like being the last one to wake up so he was careful not to make any noise. He put his ear on the door and tried to listen to any noise coming from the hall. All there was his mum’s gurgling snore and the static of the television, and it echoed. Echoed in the hollow hall, and it reached into his mind.
He then sat at the piano and stared at the black and white keys. His mind was blank and he wanted to hear the sound of the piano strings, but he did not want to wake his mum. He even thought of playing the piano loudly just to spite her. Instead, he laid his forefinger on a white key, and hesitantly, pressed down. The sound was timid and broken. He closed the cover with a gentle tap, and got a sheet of paper to begin experimenting with musical notes. Though he had little experience with song writing, he knew that getting it down on paper was enough to start progress and he would improve his craft later over time. He wrote an experimental melody quietly, tapped his fingers on the piano cover and hummed it in his head. When his mum would leave to go to her work, he would play it out loud.
He stopped, and his pen was motionless in his hand. The tip rested on the last note he drew, and stared at it for a minute. He then flared his nostrils and whispered through gritted teeth, “What a shit piece.” He put the piece of paper underneath a pot of orchids, and went to the door and unlocked it with caution. He took one step into the hall, and listened to his mum’s snoring. He tiptoed to the kitchen and got a glass of water.
The clock in the kitchen read ten to seven, and at eight he would leave to begin his first day at Warton Warehouse.
He arrived at Warton Warehouse at twenty to nine. His shift would begin at quarter past eight. Others would need to guide him as he had little to no idea of what he was doing. He would half be in reality, listening and assimilating information about his job, about what to do and how to behave with others, and the other half would be distracted, telling himself over and over not to lose his patience, to control his nervousness and that his mother—fucking cunt mother—was away in a miserable apartment. He would make money and leave her forever, and be an ordinary middle class man with family and no disgusting mother to bother him.
Inside, there were some workers already there, eating sandwiches and drinking liquids before going to work. None said hello to Peter, especially giving that they had heard his American accent. They would probably invite him to the pub just to beat him up. Peter remained quiet, tense, his brow furrowed, his expression darkening.
Unsure what he was doing, he went to his boss’s office. His boss was a man named Glen Barker, a rather grey skinned man with heavy eyebrows and a cheerful smile, and yet he had serious, piercing eyes. Yet Peter was unsure if he could truly trust him. He gave the glass of the door a hesitant knock and waited. Glen came out and looked at him blankly.
“Excuse me, Sir. I am not sure where I am supposed to be. I…I-I’m new here and just wanted to ask where I need to go.” Peter said.
“Maclean, is it?”
“Well, I think you are going to help with the stock for today. Just counting things, easy stuff for a young fellow like you.” Glen gazed at him with concerned eyes, like there something he already did not like about Peter. Peter seemed to sense this, and he looked at the concrete floor.
Don’t do anything.
“Well, no worries, no worries, Maclean, you can wait here. Steve ought to be here in ten minutes and he’ll help you. You can sit here ‘til he arrives. Help yourself to some water.”
He’s just the boss. Has many of his own worries.
Peter sat in his office and waited exactly ten minutes, and Steve promptly arrived as if he was already waiting outside and was given the cue to come in. They exchanged greetings and got to work, Steve explaining what to do, where the stock was and what to count. As Peter was unsure what he was doing, he asked Steve to give him an example, and so Steve showed him what to do and left Peter to do the rest.
He counted the stock, and counted it again to make sure he did not miss anything. As he did, the grey sky he could see from the large windows now had light breaking from the clouds and the sun was higher. Soon it was lunch break. Steve would come and check up on him soon. Whatever, he did and whatever Steve saw, it would all be referred back to the boss. It was a small warehouse, and it functioned as a tight network.
Soon, Steve came to Peter and dismissed him for his break; he would make sure it was all done correctly. Peter finished eating a sandwich when the speakers of the warehouse called his name and wanted him to go to Mr Barker. He was still and his jaw got tense; what had gone wrong. Steve? He hurried to Barker’s office and knocked on the door, and a blank voice inside asked him to come in.
“Sit down, Maclean. No not there, in front of me.”
Peter sat down, and stared at Barker. After a minutes silence, Barker asked “why do you think you are here?”
“Was there something that happened to Steve?”
Barker remained quiet again, and then asked “what games do think you are playing?”
Don’t get angry, Peter whispered.
Stunned, he asked “Pardon?”
“What game do you think this is? This is a job, not a playground. Be a kid elsewhere. Steve told me that you got the stock all counted wrong, and he told you specifically how to do it.”
Be a kid elsewhere. Be a kid elsewhere. Be a kid elsewhere.
Peter said nothing afterwards, fixated on Barker.
“Here we do things with a serious mind,” was one of the phrases he heard Barker scold him with, even though it was just a small first day mistake. He never expected the boss to lose his temper on his newcomer already.
And Peter already found Glen Barker to be a fake person. A person who is truly negative on the inside, and he tasted a bitterness.
Barker finished by saying, “Return to your post, but Steve will now supervise you in case you are too clumsy.” Peter left, saying nothing, his eyes half closed and half staring at nothing. Nothing interested him. He wanted to stare deep into a dark void instead of his surroundings.
That Steve told me nothing.
Steve should have told Peter about this instead of going straight to Barker about his, what Barker described so excellently: about his clumsiness. He caught up to Peter, who looked at him from over the shoulder and gave him a cold nod. Afterall, no one knew Peter here so it was normal they treated him like a stranger. Like an alien.
“Why did you not tell me about that?” he asked, reproachful. Steve did not give him the answer he searched for, “count the contents of those boxes, please.”
“Can you please answer my question. I asked you why did you not tell me. Am I not here to learn from you.”
“I find you—and many others I know here—untrustworthy. Your accent…you American?”
“I was brought up there.”
“You’re the only one here then. All Scottish.”
“What does that mean? Is there a strict nationality rule here?”
The sarcasm in Peter’s remark got to Steve, “Well you American’s can feck off and leave us be. You all greedy shits.” Peter froze in his spot, in fear and in building rage.
“Well, you disgusting scots all spend time at pub wasting your pathetic selves and for what? All because what is not from Scotland is shit? Yeah? Well you can suck cock, fuckface.”
Steve was motionless and shocked at Peter’s words, and then he wordlessly went away, to Barker again.
He did it.
Soon, the speakers once again called his name, and he could distinctly hear chuckles and laughs coming from the other workers. The warehouse was one large space, enough that voices could be hear from the other side. The repressed laughter echoed in the large space, and dug into Peter, dug deep into his skull. He went to Barkers office once again.
Barker called him in and Peter sat at in the same chair he had earlier.
“Why did you use harmful language against one of the employers?” Barker asked. He was straight to the point and did not have a minute’s silence like he had before. Peter gave him a straight answer, “because he offended me by saying that Americans like me can f off. To make things clear I was born in Scotland, but was raised in America for all of my childhood and adolescence.”
“I see,” he replied, and there was a sincerity in his tone that surprised Peter. As if perhaps Peter should not have judged him, and Steve was indeed the one who exaggerated. “However, you also used harmful language against him, and I thought it would be fair if I end your shift for today. You will resume on Friday. I will have a word with Steve.”
“Thank you, and I did not mean to miscount the stock.”
“I understand, no worries, no worries.”
Peter left the warehouse, feeling unusually positive. Barker was not a fake person at all.
Sometimes I really hate myself, he thought.
Peter returned home, and went to his bedroom where he checked him alarm clock. It read 2:17. Mum would be home in four hours. He continued to work on his musical piece he had put down in the morning. He tried to play it, and as he had thought before, he mumbled to himself, “what a shit piece.” He was tempted to take the leaf of paper, and rip it into tiny shreds, crush them together and throw the little ball into the bin. He then breathed in, and reassured himself, easy, easy, just work on it, add something weird and then it may be better. And so he did. It turned out nicer. He was proud of it.
His mother returned at around 6:15, and she exclaimed to Peter, “I got some food. Come to the kitchen to eat it, Stanley.” She had got a takeaway meal – a burger and salad for Peter and a larger sludgy burger for herself with cans of beer.
They both ate their takeaways in silence at the table, and Peter, wanting to sound positive asked, “Did you have a nice day, mum?”
“I did,” she replied and took a large bite out of her burger, the sludge squirting out onto her thin dry lips, and she took a long sip of her beer. “And you, how was your first day at work?”
Peter hesitated his response, and said simply, “good.”
“That’s not true. Tell me, you little liar. What really happened.”
“A guy was being mean to me. He told me that Americans—which I am not—should fuck off.”
“Don’t you dare swear! Have respect for your own mother!” she downed the rest of her beer, and then chuckled. “’You Americans should fuck off’ Did he really say that to you?” She could not contain her laughter.
Peter closed his eyes. His body trembled with rage and he wanted to cry at the same time. His jaw chattered, and he remained sitting there for a minute. “I hate you, mum. I hate your very guts, you disgusting bitch!” The words stammered but were delivered, and the room became cold. Next, fingers grabbed his ear and his mother’s voiced roared into them, spitting some of the alcohol into his eardrum, “Don’t you fucking dare treat your own mother like that ever again. To. Your. Room. Now!”
He was dragged by the ear, and he already began to sob in deep, shaking frustration.
“What a child you are. You’re pathetic! You’re a failure of a man,” screamed his mother. She kicked him into his room and slammed the door. He struggled to get up, his legs shook violently, and he reached his piano stool for support. He sat down at the piano.
Then he took the piano case and slammed it down several times. Up and down—bang bang bang! And he thundered random keys on his piano and finally let out a furious, dark scream with each broken chord.