Orphaned Mary lives with her granpa, but after he is mixed up in a robbery at the bookies where he works, they flee to the Isle of Skye. Heart-warming and heart-breaking, this darkly comic debut is from a new Scottish voice, compared to Roddy Doyle.
The Fountain is pleased to publish an extract from the first chapter with kind permission of the book’s author, Ross Sayers.
MARY’S THE NAME
When me and Granpa watched James Bond films, he told me not to be scared because people didn’t have guns like that in Scotland. That must’ve been why the robbers used hammers.
‘Empty the tills,’ one of them shouted. ‘Everybody stay back. Nobody needs to be a hero.’
The robber had the hammer above his head, like he would use it on Granpa if he didn’t do what he said. It was like something off the telly, but I couldn’t change the channel. I was crouched down under a table, next to the staff room. The robbers couldn’t spot me. They were both wearing those masks you wore for the cold—balaclavas—that was the proper word.
‘I need a coupon to put through,’ Granpa said, ‘To get the till to open.’
The robber had one. He handed it over.
‘Barca at home, twelve to one on!’ the robber shouted.
‘But a win’s a win, eh?’
He was using a silly, deep voice so we wouldn’t know what his real one was like. Granpa took the betting slip and scanned it. His computer buzzed.‘The safe next,’ the robber went on.
‘We’ll have the insert, as well.’ Granpa leaned down to twirl the clicky wheel to open the safe.
‘The safe’s nae problem,’ Granpa said. ‘But the insert takes thirty minutes’ notice to open.’
I could see the robber’s big teeth showing through the hole in his mask.
‘Don’t start,’ the robber said. ‘I know that bloke there’s been waiting on his winnings for about half an hour.’
As the robber pointed to a man standing near the counter, the safe beeped five times.
‘That’ll be the insert ready for opening, aye?’ said the robber.
‘Aye, very good,’ Granpa said. ‘Ye’ve it aw planned oot, I suppose.’
The other robber was going around the security cameras, spraying them with black spray paint. He had a hammer too. When he was done, he stood guard near the door.
There was Desk Robber and Guard Robber. Guard Robber didn’t come near to the desk, so I didn’t get to see his eyes or mouth, but I was ninety-nine percent sure he was the ugliest person ever. Apart from maybe Desk Robber. It was okay to call bad people ugly. They didn’t have feelings the way good people did.
It was a Saturday and the shop was busy. The robbers didn’t tell anyone to get on the ground though. The men stood with their arms crossed and made mean faces, but no one tried to stop it. One man kept writing his bet on a slip with a little pen. My heart went so fast it was sore.
Granpa was putting the money into their big rucksack as fast as he could. Granpa’s boss, Mr Ferguson, was in the staff room. He was staring out the crack in the door, whispering into his mobile phone. I hoped he was phoning 999. If he wasn’t, it was just the worst time to fancy a chat with someone.
I started to pee myself and couldn’t stop. All down my tights and on to the floor. It was terrible, but it still felt nice, the warm feeling down my legs. It made a puddle and creeped over the carpet towards the staff room. Maybe the robbers could smell it but they didn’t say anything. It would’ve been good if I could’ve chased them away with the smell of my pee.
Desk Robber looked up and noticed a camera above the desk that Guard Robber hadn’t sprayed with paint. He smashed it with his hammer and the glass tinkled down to the floor. I got such a fright I banged my head on the top of the table. I bit into the slimy inside part of my lip so I wouldn’t scream. Granpa wasn’t scared, or maybe he was just pretending that he wasn’t.
‘Easy, fella,’ he said. ‘I’m doing it. Ye’ll no get any trouble fae me.’
Granpa was being nice to them but they weren’t saying thank you because they were no good, rotten to the core robbers.
‘Hurry up, man,’ said Guard Robber.
Desk Robber leaned over the counter and snatched the money from Granpa’s hands and shoved it in the bag. It was probably a lot of money, but the rucksack didn’t look full. They could’ve brought a carrier bag with them, but then maybe they didn’t even have five pence and that’s why
they needed the bookies’ money so much.
‘Right, let’s move it, Johnny,’ said Guard Robber.
‘Fuck sake,’ Desk Robber said. ‘Dinnae say my name…Duncan.’
‘That’s no fair, you meant that.’
‘Boys,’ Granpa said. ‘On yer way, aye?’
I wished Granpa had stayed quiet like me.
‘Shut it, you auld prick,’ Desk Robber said, and swung his hammer over the counter. Granpa tried to get out the way, but it smacked into his shoulder. He fell off his wheelie chair. It made a big clatter when it hit the floor, but Granpa didn’t even shout ow or oh ya beastie. The two robbers ran off out the door. No one tried to be a hero and stop them.
I made sure I didn’t bang my head when I got out from under the table, then ran over to Granpa. My shoes were wet and squelchy. I wanted to be away from the pee smell, but it followed me.
‘Are you okay, Granpa?’
‘Never mind me, hen. Are ye awright?’
‘I peed myself. I’m sorry.’
‘Guess what? Me as well.’
Ross Sayers is a writer of Scottish fiction, and his debut novel, Mary’s the Name, was released on January 30th 2017.
You can tweet him @Sayers33 or see more of his writing at rosssayers.co.uk.