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Dance of the Cuckoos – Diane Simmons

Katrina’s dad borrowed a bowler hat for her frae his pal. But ma dad doesnae ken people like that. Mum said no’ to worry and made me one out of a Corn Flakes packet. It looks stupit. I never wanted to go as Laurel and Hardy for Hallowe’en anyway. And I dinnae get why I’ve to be the fat one. But I always give in to Katrina. This year, I was sure she’d be hanging around wi’ that Robbie McMaster rather than coming guising wi’ me. Robbie McMaster thinks guising’s childish, but it’ll be me and Katrina who’ve the money for fireworks, no’ him.

Katrina calls for me at six and teaches me the Laurel and Hardy dance she’s seen on the TV – something about cuckoos. We practise in ma lounge until we’re sore laughing and Mum gets fed up and shoos us out the door. Katrina’s no’ got round to making a turnip lantern, so I give her mine to carry.

The first neighbour we try is Mrs Grant at number five.

‘It’s fearful cold, girls,’ she says when she answers the door. ‘Come away in and do your turn.’  We go through to her lounge and Katrina starts humming the Laurel and Hardy tune again. Trying to keep together, we kick our legs out to the side, put on daft faces. Mrs Grant claps her hands when we’ve finished and hands us sixpence each and some gob stoppers.

Feeling happy wi’ our haul, we go to the next five houses in our street. Everyone gives us money except the rich old biddy on the corner. All we get frae her is a bag of monkey nuts. We’re walking away, moaning, when I hear a shout.

‘Over here, Katrina!’

It’s Robbie McMaster.

Robbie’s standing under the lamp post looking gorgeous in his new Harrington jacket. Katrina grins like a mad thing when she sees him, almost chucks her lantern and bowler at me and rushes over. They’re soon snogging. I look away, pick at ma chipped nail varnish until she shouts over, ‘That’s me done guising, Heather. See you tomorrow.’

I wave a cheery goodbye like I’m no’ bothered. As I walk away down the street, I chuck ma stupit hat into the mean old biddy’s hedge and put on Katrina’s proper bowler instead. It fits fine and I start humming the theme tune again. But I dinnae dance.

It’s a dance meant for two.

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