All Night, the Babby

by Anne Goodwin

All night, the babby cries. I pull me pillow over me lugs but the sound still gets through. It gans straight to me gut and sometimes I have to get up to the netty. Even if I’m up, I’m not allowed to gan to the babby. Ma says it’d stop her learning how to sleep through the night.

Ma checks the babby around midnight and I give her a bottle when I get up at six for me paper round. Ma says she oughta gan canny wi’ that. We divn’t wanna spoil her.

The babby shares the room next door wi’ me sisters. I divn’t kna if her crying wakes them. It’s not the kind of thing you’d talk about.

The littluns in wor room divn’t wake. But the noise still gets inside them. I watch them in the glow of the streetlight outside wor window, twitching in their sleep.

Ma takes vodka to help her sleep through. I said, Why divn’t you give some of that to the babby?

I didn’t kna if she wis gonna laugh, or give me a belt across the lug. Do you wanna have the Social knocking at the door?

I didn’t say nowt, but I looked it up on the internet at school. And I’d got it wrong, as ever. It wis gin they used to give babbies in the olden days. Not vodka. How wis I gonna get hold of gin? The money from me paper round wis for school dinners and anyroad, even if I managed to starve for a week, nobody wis gonna sell gin to a kid whose voice hadn’t even broke.

They sent Alfie home from school wi’ a note for Ma. She gave him a right thrashing for that. I gave him another meself just to make sure. I said, Do you wanna have the Social snooping around?

They said wor Alfie’d been bullying this new kid. Polish lad fresh from Gdansk. Threatening to beat him up if he didn’t give him his dinner. Ma’s scared Alfie’s gonna gan like his da. I can’t keep such a canny eye on him now I’m at the comprehensive.

I wanna join the army when I’m older. If I’m tall enough. And me voice breaks. Only I’m not sure about the torture.

At Guantanamo Bay they divn’t call it torture. They call it something scientific to make out like it’s for their own good. But everybody knas.

Everybody knas about the torture at Guantanamo Bay. But nobody does nowt. It gives me a pain in me gut when I think about that, and I have to make a dash for the netty.

One of the worst things, if you end up in a place that does torture, is hearing the other prisoners scream. You might be lying on your bed at night, trying to imagine you’re somewhere else, some place where you wis happy, but you can’t switch off the screams from down the corridor. You’re trying to remember a football match at school, when you scored the winning goal. You’re trying to recapture that feeling of power in your body, but the noise of them others being tortured gans straight to your gut. So it might as well be you who’s having your head pushed into a bucket of shit, or the soles of your feet burnt wi’ cigarettes. It might as well be happening to you when the screaming gans inside you.

All night, the babby cries. Ma’s never gonna kna if I get up now and give wor babby her bottle.

Anne Goodwin writes all kinds of fiction from flash fiction to full length novels, some of which is showcased via her website here.

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