There’s a mean looking hombre riding the number 9…
The number 9 to Auchenshuggle tramcar trundled its way slowly along Argyle Street. The beam from Its cyclops headlamp made the wet cobblestones glisten and shimmer in the twilight of the winter’s evening. The rain had just stopped and the streets of Glasgow seemed to have been scrubbed clean with the fresh rainwater.
Francis knelt on the long seat of the tram and looked out the window. He was happy and excited. At last his constant nagging had paid off and he got the toy he had always wanted, a toy Derringer gun.
In those days, toy manufacturers endeavoured to make the toy guns look as real as possible. This Derringer was a one-shot cap gun made of metal and painted silver. The grip had plastic panels, but were made to look like ivory. But what Francis loved most about this gun, was the time-consuming way it had to be loaded with a small round cap. First, he had to cock the trigger, remove the ‘cartridge’, separate the bullet from its shell, place the round cap inside the shell, replace the bullet and place the whole cartridge back into the gun, uncocking the trigger.
His imagination was running wild again. Today, he was Fast Francis, the fastest gun in the Calton. His mission, as always, was to rid the world of baddies. Stretching his fantasy to the limits, he imagined that everybody on the tram feared him.
His spectacles were still wet and he couldn’t see out of them very well. What looked like a grizzly bear appeared on the platform of the tram. Francis reacted swiftly, pointed his gun at the bear’s heart and fired. The poor old lady in the fur coat got such a fright that she farted and screamed at the same time. Pandemonium broke out as the conductress shouted at Francis’s mother, who in turn was skelping him across the ear. Eventually, everything quietened down and the old lady, with a vaguely unpleasant odour beginning to emanate from her, sat down. Everyone was glaring at Francis, whose face was red, not only with embarrassment, but from his mother’s slap.
The journey through the city centre was slow. Roadworks had closed some side streets and traffic was nose to tail. This gave more time for Francis to reload his gun. For now, a new danger just boarded the tram. This was a mean-looking hombre who sat facing Francis.
Slowly taking his gun out of his pocket, Francis made a big show of loading the cap. He gave the hombre a menacing scowl, to let him know he meant business. The object of his attention, a smartly dressed elderly gentleman, stared back at the little boy in amusement, guessing correctly that the boy had a vivid imagination.
Still snarling, Francis finally loaded the gun, made a show of cocking the trigger, and put it in his coat pocket. His mother told him that this was their stop. He got up slowly, still scowling at the ‘baddie’. As he slowly walked past the elderly gentleman, the heel of his shoe stood on something slippy. Next thing Francis knew he was flat on his back on the dirty floor, his head spinning. The gun went POP! in his pocket, the old lady in the fur coat screamed and farted again and his mother shouted that she’d kill him when they got off the tram. The elderly gentleman helped him up.
When they alighted from the tram his fiery-tempered mother lost no time and skelped his ear.
“You gave me a showing up!”, she screamed.
He tried not to cry, and looked back at the tram as it began to trundle off. He saw the elderly gentleman looking at him through the tram window. Then the gentleman pointed his finger at Francis, raising his thumb and bringing it down fast, as if to shoot him. Francis reached for his gun, then realised it was empty. His mother was walking quickly down the road, but turned and shouted to him.
“C’moan you, get alang the road - NOO!”
Francis decided to become John Wayne, and lurched forward in a slow deliberate fashion, lurching first to the right, then the left, trying to emulate the John Wayne walk. To the people standing at the tram stop, it looked as if the wee boy was drunk. He kept looking at the receding tram as he slowly, deliberately turned around, his hand hovering over the pocket where his Derringer was, pretending it was fully loaded. He head was the last thing to turn around as it came into contact with a lamp post. There was a clunking sound, followed by roars of laughter from the onlookers. He staggered back slightly dazed, saw his mother glare at him in the distance and decided to get on his imaginary horse and ride out of trouble.
Slapping his backside and holding imaginary reins, he galloped past the queue at the tram stop, neatly ducked under his mother’s swooping hand aimed at his head and rode into the sunset.
© Wishart Frankfield
- A video showing the last day for Glasgow trams
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