THE SUN ON THE DASH
They were parked in Northdown Park, a fact Patrick had made a joke about earlier. Mac had grinned but hadn’t fully understood. On the doors of the lorry, written in bold letters, were the words:
McCaulley and MacCulloch Ltd
Civil Engineering and Ground Works.
Inside the cab Patrick McCaulley and Charlie MacCulloch were having lunch.
‘Ham for you,’ Patrick said handing a slab of sandwich to Mac. ‘Cheese for me.’
They ate; their hands dirty from the trench they’d been digging.
‘How deep we got to go?’ Mac said through a mouthful of sandwich.
‘How deep is it now?’
‘A gnat’s cock shy of two feet.’
They didn’t speak again until the sandwiches were all gone.
Patrick rummaged inside his khaki tucker bag until he found a banana and a couple of satsumas.
‘You want the banana, I suppose,’ he said handing it to Mac.
Mac peeled and devoured the banana in two great gobfulls.
Patrick stripped a satsuma, dropping the peel expertly into the foot-well beside him.
The dashboard was home to Mac’s collection of red tops, plus a pair and a half of gloves and an old balaclava that doubled as a rag for wiping condensation from the windscreen. Behind the driver’s seat was a dog-eared map of The Isle of Thanet and a battered Manila envelope brimming with civil engineering drawings.
On the tarmac path outside, two magpies approached a piece of carrion.
‘I hate magpies,’ Mac sniffed.
Patrick watched the two birds for a moment, their blue-green feathers flapping angrily as they bickered over a morsel of hedgehog intestine.
‘Why do you hate magpies?’ Patrick said squeezing a satsuma pip between his finger and thumb, causing it to ricochet off the windscreen and into Mac’s lap.
‘They’re fuckers,’ Mac said. ‘Ruthless bastards.’
‘I bet you love lions though, don’t you?’
‘Who doesn’t love lions?’
‘Lions are ruthless too. And I bet you don’t know why.’
‘Neither do they. They just are. Just like magpies.’
Mac picked at a tooth with a matchstick then examined the soggy end: ‘Everybody loves lions,’ he said.
‘I don’t,’ Patrick said swallowing the last of his satsuma.
‘You don’t love nothing,’ Mac said transferring the match from mouth to ear.
‘Yes I do,’ Patrick said.
‘Come on then, what do you love?’ Mac worked the matchstick into the dark hole of his ear.
Patrick looked longingly across the cab at his oldest and dearest friend. He studied Mac’s weathered profile: the lines, the three day stubble, the mass of matted hair. ‘I…’ he said, and then he fell silent.
Mac settled the soggy matchstick back into the corner of his mouth and grunted. Grabbing The Sun from the dashboard he tilted the open page towards Patrick. ‘Would you look at the size of those beauties!’ he grinned.