Extract from
Lifeguard (a novella)

An excerpt from this novella was published by Glasgow West End in 2013.

It was a while since Raeburn had been in the town centre at night. He walked quickly. The buildings that had stood since he was a boy were now flattened and bulldozed into rubble. The town was being re-built. He passed under a streetlamp, not able to tell if it was flickering or whether the rain was coming so thick and fast it was obscuring the light. The main street was in darkness, all the pubs closed already, no taxis waiting at the rank. In his hurry he nearly walked into an object sitting in the middle of the pavement. As he shielded his eyes and looked, he saw it was a man in a wheelchair.

The guy’s head was thrown back, rain splashing right into his mouth. His clothes soaked through to the skin. If it wasn’t for the gurgling sound it would have been easy to think it was a dead body.

Here fella, here, Raeburn said, giving his arm a shake, Ye have to get up, ye can’t stay out here.

He tried to shrug off Raeburn's hand.

C’mon now mate, ye’ll catch yer death in this.

The water started to get down the back of Raeburn's jacket, he could feel the bones of his spine wet against the material.

Come on tae fuck! Raeburn said, and with another hard shove on his shoulder the guy came to life, lurching upright in the seat. His eyes rolled in his head as he tried to focus. He coughed, sending rainwater dribbling out his mouth and down his chin.

Fuck… the man said and stuck one arm up, as if to stave off the drops that were cracking down on his bald head.

Where d’ye live?

The old boy kept waving one arm in the air. His eyes started to close.

I can take ye wherever ye need to go, just tell me where you live, what area?

Fuckin… ah, fuck it, fuck…

It’s alright, Raeburn shouted at him, I’ll get ye indoors.

The man mumbled and waved his hand. Raeburn got behind him and heaved at the chair till it moved. It was a tough job, keeping a straight path. He was heavier than he looked. Raeburn had to keep forcing the thing up the slope of the pavement as well as forward to avoid crashing into the shop windows.

The guy in the chair could’ve been shouting, his head was jerking around but the noise of the storm was everywhere. Raeburn guided them round, nearing the polis office. It was the only lit building in the street. He almost lost his grip on the handles trying to get it started up the ramp. He kicked the door open and pushed the old boy into the lobby. The door swung back and banged the man's knee before he could stop it. Raeburn shook his hands, spraying wee droplets all around, before pushing the thing through the glass door and into the reception.

No no no! said the policewoman behind the desk. Just turn yourself and take him right back out.

Naw, I found this guy in the street there..

I know, she said in a raised voice, I know who he is and I know his game. Get him out of here, leave him where you found him.

Look he was round there unconscious, he was swallowing the bloody rainwater.

She came out from the desk and walked over to him, lowering her face closer to the chair.

He’s been told before, she said, pointing at him with one finger. You can’t just get too bloody drunk to push yourself, and get brought in here. This isn’t a doss house.

She turned back to Raeburn.

You will need to take him out.

But he could get fucking pneumonia and die. It’s pishing it down.

This is a police station. You’re not dumping a soaking-wet wheelchair in here. Remove it or it’ll be yourself spending the night, not yer pal.

Raeburn wanted to say something. He grabbed the chair roughly and forced the old man back outside, shooting her a look as the door closed. The rain was still battering off the tops of the cars.

Raeburn walked round in front of him.

WHERE DO YE LIVE? he shouted, shuddering as the water slid down into his trousers. The tongue lolled out.


You, the old man said, his eyes opening wide, You, yer a fuckin bastard!

Raeburn wiped the rain off his face using his sleeve.

Am I?

Aye, yer a fuckin bastard! You!

Alright, Raeburn said. He shoved the chair off the pavement, it clattered and nearly fell. They started moving slowly up the middle of the road, Raeburn’s clothes now sticking to his skin and the low sound of the man’s swearing and muttering as he kept facing forwards. ●

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