“Aye, coffin nails,” she says regarding the spread of used cigarettes collected on the table before her. Her dreadlocks are corralled on top of her small head with a knotted tie-dye rag. She wears a lot of tie-dye. She laughs and the tips of hair prance on her shoulders like waxen ponies. She drums her lips with her yellowed fingers and her bangles sing. “But, I find discarded tabs superior to regular smokes.” A particularly crumpled inch seems to catch her eye, and squeezing this inch of tobacco, and then another, out into a Rizla, she constructs a slim cigarette. “Cheaper, too.” She shudders as she exhales the smoke through her nose, shakes out the match in a cloud and returns to her knitting. The bubbles rise up the inside of the glass.
Occasionally, she’ll look up through watery eyes and add a something or nothing to the chinwag, for instance this thing about coffin nails. Sometimes, she’ll laugh at a tidbit, and sometimes, she’ll place the needles on the table and sip her gin, like a pensive cat – her top lip extended over the rim. Mostly she just knits. She’s knitting a blanket for a bairn.
The blanket is all purples and pinks. It collects in her lap wherever she happens to be sitting, which, this evening is at the Eight Kings Stitch & Bitch. She knits with a diligence that is both hypnotic and sad. Her bangles sing and the needles tick like clocks.
“Coughing nails, is more like.” This is Maria. Maria’s knitting a sleeve. Maria coughs like a bad actor might do for emphasis. “Cough-ing.”
“Coughing nails!” She laughs. She laughs until she begins to cough and then, just as she seems to be on the brink of extinction, she places the needles and the blanket on the table, takes a cat’s sip of gin and throws her head back and laughs a whole time longer. The gin glosses her thin lips, which she licks. She says that gin disagrees with her, but she suffers it for the tonic.
The kid wakes up in the baby chair beside her and starts to wail. “Och, now I’ve woke the nipper.” The kid is far too old for a baby chair, far too young for a pub chair. “D’you want your bot-bot?” But the kid don’t want his bottle. He knots his face, says, “Fugs, nana.”
“Oh, fudge, is it? What do you say?”
Everyone smiles, so the kid says it again.
“Little caesar, ain’t ya.” She produces a paper bag from somewhere, unscrews the twist of it and pulls out a cube of fudge that she proffers with a pinch of yellow finger and thumb toward the kid’s face. The knot tightens. “Och, d’ya want it or not?”
“No tab finger, nana,” says the kid. “No tab finger.”