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Broken Down Angel

by scriever 

Posted: 28 January 2017
Word Count: 982
Summary: For the challenge. A very literal interpretation of the picture

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In the mid 1970s a 16 year-old male had few places to go for relationship advice. Your parents clearly knew nothing on the subject, and your mates would just take the piss. So Vince relied, as many adolescents did at that time, on music. Vince lived in Dunfermline, home of Nazareth, the Greatest Rock Band In The World, and so it was that his favourite Nazareth song, Broken Down Angel, proved his inspiration. Kathleen Turnbull was his perfect version of an angel, and, like the angel in the song, she had suffered in love. Paul, her boyfriend, had dumped her for Karen, her best friend. And like the angel in the song, she had a broken wing. Vince knew how to heal her broken wing. He would ask her out.

On Monday, and took more care than usual over his hair and personal hygiene. But it was all for nothing; Kathleen was off sick. Laura, one of the gang, thought it was emotional stress. Kathleen didn't come back until Friday. Just before history, when they were filing into Mr Monachan's classroom, he was just behind Kathleen. He took a deep breath. "Eh, Kathleen?" It came out a bit squeakier than he had intended, but she turned round.


"Eh, hope you're feeling better, like." Her look was not encouraging, but he was in too far to back out now. "Ah wondered if you fancied the pics tomorrow night? Jaws is on at the Odeon, half seven."

"Wi' you?" She considered as she chewed her gum. "Aye, awright. Meet you at the door at ten past."

He started to stammer something about getting the tickets but she had already turned away. He learned nothing of the internal dealings of the Third Reich that afternoon, which was largely why he failed the next test.

On Saturday he asked his mum to iron his best t-shirt. She gave him a look, but took it without a word, and delivered it to his room, perfectly ironed. His mum and dad were in the kitchen having a cup of tea when he went out. "Where you off to, son?" asked his mum.


"Who with?" But he was already out of the door so didn't need to answer.

He got to the Odeon an hour early, so he was able to get seats in the back row of the circle. Only ten minutes after the appointed time, his angel appeared, resplendent in black jeans and a red t-shirt. 

"I've got some popcorn, d'you want some kia-ora?" asked Vince. She was marvellous in her disdain. "Naw, kia-ora gives me the boak. Let's just get wir seats. You can get us a vanilla tub at the interval." She surprised him by grabbing his hand, causing his five foot six to become six foot two.
In the smoky cocoon of the darkened cinema he was petrified by indecision. Should he ease his arm around the back of Kathleen’s seat? He decided to wait for an opportune moment.  

His moment came when he, like the rest of the cinema, jumped when a severed head dropped out of the boat. Kathleen even screamed, and Vincent grabbed her hand, to offer comfort in a protective, male kind of way. Kathleen saw it differently. “It’s only a fillum” she whispered, “dinna be feart.”

He seethed in the darkness. In the intermission He joined the queue for ice cream, and on his way back saw that Paul was with Karen, and wondered if Kathleen had noticed them.
When he got back to his seat it was clear that she had. “Ah see that scumbag Paul’s here wi’ that bitch used to be ma friend.” She said, between mouthfuls of ice cream. Wisely, Vince kept quiet.

The film didn’t offer any further chance of intimacy, and when the lights went up he knew he’d missed his chance, possibly for ever. But again he was surprised when Kathleen took his hand as they left the cinema. The walk home left him plenty of time to work his charm. He chatted about school, asked her about her home, and did all he could to appear interesting and mature. Kathleen didn't react until about half way home, when she grabbed his arm. She even looked at him and laughed at something he said, although it wasn’t really that funny. When they got to her gate, she surprised him again by putting her hands on his shoulders and leaning in to give him a bubblegum-scented kiss. “Thanks for the night, it was great.” And then she was away. The front door closed while he was trying to make sense of what had happened. He didn’t notice, as he turned away in a daze, Paul and Karen passing by on the opposite pavement.

Sundays are always boring, but this particular Sunday lasted at least a week. He was actually keen to get to school on the Monday morning. His mum didn’t say anything, but fussed over his tie more than usual. 

When he got to school the first person he saw was Kathleen. She looked happy; she was laughing with someone. He was just about to break into a run when he saw who she was laughing with. Paul. Vincent changed direction, and ended up with his mates Keith and Brian, who were discussing Dunfermline FC’s latest defeat, to Arbroath. 

The rest of the day passed in a blur. In his room that afternoon Vincent decided never to trust women again. He wondered how you became a monk. He turned, as ever, to the guiding light of his life, the Greatest Band In The World. He had a new favourite Nazareth song now. He eased the shining black disc on to the turntable of his trusty Elizabethan, lowered the needle to the start of track four, and collapsed on his bed while Dan McCafferty told him how much Love Hurts.        

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Comments by other Members

BryanW at 10:51 on 29 January 2017  Report this post
The relationship that the hyperneedy adolescent has with the hyperemotional lyrics and hyperemotional music of pop songs makes this a story to really identify with, Ross. That it's-been-written-just-for-me feeling. You put that over really well.  Lovely. Mind you, quite a lot of pop music still keeps doing it for me, even now, in these my declining years.

Chestersmummy at 15:05 on 29 January 2017  Report this post
I identified with it too, even though I'm female.  Especially the bit about Sundays lasting forever.  And  love does  hurt even after adolescence.


Bazz at 22:05 on 04 February 2017  Report this post
Love the tone of this Ross, feels real, lived in. love the authentic touches, has a true weary, nostalgic tone. Great character work.

Desormais at 08:48 on 05 February 2017  Report this post
Kathleen is a delightful character - at least on paper she is.  I ached for your poor main character, all the memories of unrequited love came swimming back to me.  And yes, Sundays did last forever then.  Once you started work of course, they were over in a shot. Nice one.

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