Bitter Water

Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris Read Free Book Online

Book: Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gordon Ferris
Tags: Fiction, Mystery
even the intention of criminal activity; well it just wisnae fitba’.

SIX
    I headed back through the deserted Sunday streets to the newspaper building. I pushed through the Gazette ’s big doors and bounded up
the three flights of stairs behind the splendidly tiled entrance hall. Outside the newsroom I stood for a moment to catch my breath and savour again the sweet notion that I’d at last found my
place in the world. I heaved the door open and plunged into the smog, the clatter and ping of typewriters, the insistent phones and the shouted conversations. Even this half-shift was controlled
bedlam, and I loved it. I’d been in the newsroom of the London Bugle a few times while I was freelancing down south after demob. But this was different. I belonged here. Not just as a
full-time, salaried – though probationary – reporter, but in that ease and comfort that comes from operating in your natural habitat. Otters and brown water. Drunks and breweries.
    The accent helped. The cut and thrust across the chaotic desks, the shouts and catcalls and patter, was in the tough nasalities of the West of Scotland. Entering the newsroom was like slipping
into a hot bath: shocking at first but then utterly enveloping and cosy. In every sense they were speaking my language; or, to be truthful, the language of my boyhood. Though Big Eddie spoke a
purple subset of it that would have brought a flush to the cheeks of a sergeant major. Not that Eddie had ever marched across a parade ground. He had enough health problems to get a regiment
classed 4F. Between the fags, the booze and the stress it was a daily miracle to find him patrolling the newsroom spreading ash and anxiety in his path.
    Assisting him was Sandy Logan, his whippet-thin subeditor. Seeing the pair of them together was like looking in a fairground mirror. Sandy was nearly six foot with limbs the thickness of his
fearsome blue pencils. He didn’t say much. All his communicative energy poured out in a stream of corrections, admonitions and razor-sharp summations of some hack’s garbled story.
Sandy’s editing eyes were all-seeing, all-knowing, pitiless. There were no split infinitives or dangling participles on Sandy’s watch.
    Sandy and Eddie inhabited tiny glass-fronted offices on either side of the corridor that led into the newsroom. Scylla and Charybdis. Reporters running late with a submission or with a nagging
conscience about the provenance of a story had to steer past these twin hazards. Invariably the hapless hack would fall foul of one. Often both.
    This fine Sunday morning I found Eddie in his den biting his nails and hiding behind mounds of old clippings and discarded drafts. Eddie kept his office like a crime scene. Smoke rose from
several smouldering fag ends in an overflowing ashtray.
    The sub’s office was empty, and out in the newsroom Wullie McAllister’s desk was empty too. Either he’d already filed his copy from his morning meanderings or he was keeping it
back for Monday. During the week Wullie would arrive mid morning, drink a cup or two of sugary tea and be back out the door in time for the pubs to open. Somehow – though it was still a
mystery to me – a three-column article would appear in sharp prose that would hit the presses with scarcely a comma altered by Sandy. I could only aspire to such insouciance.
    I scribbled out a rough draft of the story in pencil. I knew enough about Eddie’s preferences to spare my gentle readers none of the details. There was a liking for blood with the morning
porridge among the fair-minded citizens of Glasgow. Reading of terrible things happening to other folk – especially bad folk – set them up for the day. It provided the juice in
the conversation on the tram going to work; the spice in the gossip over the clothes line in the back close; the flavour in the first pint of heavy after work.
    By midday I’d bashed out a fair copy of my article – in triplicate. I slid the top copy in

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