I’ve been away with the Scotland Writers football team twice over the last couple of months – first to “the most Scottish town in Italy”, Barga, and then to London to play England. Both great weekends, both defeats (unfortunately). No doubt more on this to follow, but if you’re interested in finding out a wee bit more about what life as an international footballer isn’t like, the Scotland issue of “The Football Pink”, just published last week, has an article by me about oor jaunt tae Italia. You can get it here, as well as many other fine vendors.
Because what the world is clearly crying out for is a Scots translation of Kafka, I’ve decided to write one. This is the first wee bittie of the first wee bittie.
It wis yon mornin, when Gregor Samsa awauk frae oot wanrestfu dreams, that he fund hissel transformt in his bed intae some kind o tairible beastie. As he lay there on his haurd, sheel-like rig, he raised his heid an leukt at the broon bumphle o his roond belly, sindert oot intae sections bi lang airches. Sae big an brent his muckle-kyte had growen that his blanket wis hairdly able tae hing ontae it, an wis ready tae slide aff awthegither. Compared wi this wappin bouk, his mony legs leukt peetifully shilpit as they flichtert daelessly afore his een.
“Whit’s the story here?” he thocht. This wis nae dream. His room wis still a warldlike human room, quate atween its fower fameeliar waws. On the table lay a range of saumple claiths – Gregor wis a traivelin salesman – an abuin there wis a pictur he had newlins cut oot o an illustratit jurnal an set in a bonnie giltit frame. It wis a drawin o a lady in a fur hat an a fur scaurf, sittin upricht wi a girthie muff o fur kiverin her gairdie, that wis liftit taewart the viewer.
Gregor turnt his glance taewart the windae, but the dreich wather – raindraps stottin aff the metal windaesill – made him feel awfy glumph. “The hicht o nonsense, this! Hou’s aboot ah get a wee bit mair shut-eye an forget aw aboot it,” he thocht tae hissel. But he couldnae manage it, for he wis used tae sleepin on his richt-haun side, an the wey things were richt noo he had nae chance o winnin tae a comfy poseetion. Nae maiter hou haurd he bunged hissel doon ontae his richt, suin or syne he’d whammle straucht back ontae his rig. He must o tried it a hunner times, shuttin his een so’s no tae leuk at his sprauchlin legs, an he gied up anely when he stairtit tae feel a dowf, fremmit stoondin in his side.
“Och, man,” he thocht, “This is some line o wirk ah’ve got masel intae! Day in, day oot, ayeweys on the road. Ah’d much raither hae ma ain wee shop at hame. Whit a nichtmare! The traivel, the trains, the misst connections – ye’re lucky when ye get a bite tae eat, an it’s aye rotten. Niver settin een on the same body twice, niver getting tae ken onybody, niver makkin a pal. The hell wi it!”
He felt a wee kittle up on his belly then; pusht hissel slawly up on his back taewart the headboard, the easier tae lift his heid; locatit the itchy spat, saw that it wis spreckelt ower wi a laid o peerie white plouks he kent naethin aboot; an went tae touch it wi yin o his legs, but resiled awa immediately fae the oorie shidder it gied him.
He sliddert back doon tae ontae his rig. “It’s nae guid this, up at the crack o dawn,” he thocht, “It maks ye doitit. A man needs his eight oors, ah’ve ayeweys said that. Yon ither salesmen! They’re livin the life o Riley, them. Pit it this wey – when ah gan back tae the guest hoose in the mornin tae copy oot the orders, wha’s anely just sittin doon tae brakfast? Nae prizes for guessin! But then, if ah wis tae pull somethin like that wi ma boss, ah’d be oot the door in double-time. An wha kens, mebbe it’d be aw for the guid. Ah mean, if it wisnae for ma mither an faither, ah’d hae jacked it in a hunner times ower bi noo. Ah’d hiv maircht richt intae the heid yin’s office, so ah wid, an telt him a few hame truths. Man, he’d faw richt aff his desk! Wha sits on their desk, onywey? Ah dout it’s meant tae mak ye feel smaw, gittin talked doon tae; an it’d wirk anaw, if he wisnae that deif ye’ve tae sit mare or less on his knee or he cannae hear ye. Well, there’s howp yet. Yinst ah’ve got the money thegither tae pey aff whit ma faither owes him – five years, eh, mebbe six – ah’ll gie him a piece o ma mynd. Aye, there’ll be some big chynges then, ah’m tellin ye! But ah suppose in the meantime ah’d better get up. Ma train’s awa at five.”
An he leukt ower at the alairm clock tickin awa on the caibinet. “Name o God!” he thocht. It wis hauf past six – naw, worse – the hauns had creept forrit nearby tae quarter tae. Had the alarim no went aff? He coud see fae the bed that it wis set for fower o’clock as uisual; it must hae rung. Aye, but then, hou coud onybody hiv slept throu aw that dirdum, lood eneuch tae shoogle the hale room? His sleep had no been tranquil, true, yet it had been aw the mair deep for that. But whit wis he gonnae dae? The neist train wisnae until seiven; an he’d be hilter-skilter even tae catch that, wi his saumples no packed up an his heid still full o mince. An even gin he managed that yin, the boss wad still be on the rampage – the office assistant was ayeweys there tae see the five o’clock train in, an his report on Gregor’s absence wad hae been in a lang time ago. Yon wis a richt wee souk, fair-fleggit an uncharitable. He coud ayeweys report nae weel; but Gregor had no had a day aff seek in the hale five years on the job, an it wad leuk awfy suspicious if he suddently took yin noo. The boss wad turn up wi the doctor fae the insurance company in tow, indict Gregor’s paurents o haein a guid-for-nothin son, an cut aff aw objections bi referrin tae the doctor, tae wha every ailment wis a seemple case o skiveitis. An it wad be a soond diagnosis, since Gregor, apairt fae bein a wee bit drousie fae sleepin that lang, felt awthegither hertie, an had even wauken wi somethin like an appeteet.
He was still thinkin aw this ower at howdie haste, no able to mak his mynd up tae get oot o bed, when – just as the alairm clock hit a quarter tae seiven – there came a tentie chap on the door near the heid o his bed.
“Gregor,” the voice cawed – it wis his mither’s – “That’s quarter tae seiven. Shoud ye no be awa?”
Yon gentle voice! Gregor was startelt when he heard his ain voice in reply, sae unalike it wis tae the voice he’d had afore. It cam fae somewhaur deep doon inside him, an wis blanded in wi a pynefu, undevaulin squeakin soond that left his wirds unnerstaunable anely at the instant they war spaken, afore drounin them in echos. It wis a voice naebody coud be shuir o hearin richt. Gregor wantit tae answer, tae expleen everythin, but unner the circumstances he had nae choice but tae say “Aye, thanks mither, that’s me getting up noo.” The widden door must hae misgysed the chynge in Gregor’s voice, for his mither seemed satisfeed wi this an shauchelt awa. But throu the peerie conversation that had taken place, the ither members o Gregor’s faimily war made awaur (tae their surpreese) that Gregor wis still at hame, an afore lang his faither cam knypin at the door, quately, but wi his fist.
“Gregor!” he shoutit, “Gregor! Whit’s gaun on?” A wee while efter he shoutit again, this time in a voice deep wi wairnishin.
“Gregor! Hoi! Gregor!” Meantime, at the ither side door, cam his sister’s plaintive cry.
“Gregor! Are ye no weel? Are ye needin onythin?”
Gregor directit his answer tae baith doors at yinst. “Ah’m awready ready!” he cawed, tryin haurd tae take the stryngeness oot his voice bi pronooncin every syllable as carefu as he coud, an leavin lang pauses atween the wirds. His faither went back tae brakfast, but his sister whispert tae him, “Gregor, please, ah’m beggin ye – open the door!” But Gregor had nae mynd at aw tae open it, an insteid he lay there congratulatin hissel on his carefu prattick, whit he had picked up on his traivels, o ayeweys lockin aw the doors at nicht, even when he wis at hame.