Run As Fast As You Can, Bear.


Fast food wrappers waft the grey parades. Peter Smart is not at work today. Today he is in Jarrow at his ex-sister-in-law’s baby’s christening.

“On a Saturday?”

Sunday, surely, is the traditional day for such an event?




Tanya arrives late. She twitches. She shrugs at her hangover. She will not be redeemed by shrugs or sugared lattes or doughnuts. She quietly daubs bleach onto tinfoil and avoids eyes in every mirror. She bails out around noon.

Jo Baker is off to a christening herself at Saint Hilda’s, tomorrow in Jarrow. She offers a clue to the christening conundrum.

“There’s such a demand in the run-up to Easter some churches offer latecomers an alternative, a Saturday service. It’s that or double up with another family on the Sunday.

“A two-for-one splish splash?”

Jo pats her lap, straightens her back. “The Saturday option, though inferior, offers exclusivity over the Sunday.”

I cut the hair at the nape of her neck.

“There’ll probably be a bouncy castle, too,” she says.

“At the church?”

“No,” she says, suddenly serious.

She picks some hair from her lap and rolls it into a yarn and wonders at something to say. Her hands are laced with tiny scratches. She has a jaw length bob. It says something.

She has emptying eyes. She was once assistant manager of the jewelry concession at Benn’s. She watches the people outside on King Street as I dry her hair.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” she says.



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