Wendy Erskine

Paris est magique

Bus is rammed, always full on the wet days with the blazers stinking of dogs’ blankets, and that nutter three seats behind him, heavy guy who elbowed him in the face so his teeth snagged on the soft inside of his cheek, been sucking a big sweet at the time so the slobbers he spat out were blue and red.  Doesn’t like at all the two teachers he had this afternoon, Miss Hinds and Madame McGuigan.  Hinds didn’t let them do a practical today, Come on Miss like what’s this about?  What’s the point if we don’t cook anything? Talked about food safety instead, don’t reheat this, don’t reheat that, but she got pissed off cos somebody messed about with one of the baguettes that was there from the other class, kidding on it was his dick, Quit that, she said, quit that, you think somebody’s gonna want to eat that after your dirty paws been all over it? Another class made stuff but some of them chucked it in the bin at the bus stop, white sauce, lumpy white sauce running onto the concrete then on came the rain.

Crowd down the back of the bus are flicking bits of rubber at people, not sore, just annoying. Hit again, back of the neck.  Yous gonna stop that? comes a voice.  Yous gonna stop that?  Big Dawn, trying to put stuff on her face with a brush.  Yous gonna wise up?  They repeat what she’s saying, high and whingey.  Gonna stop that! Gonna stop that!  Sacre Bleu! Sacre Bleu!  The guy that came in when Madame McGuigan was off for the month told them the words Sacre Bleu. That fella with the shitty wee car.  That your shaggin wagon?  No more of that please, he said.  Sacre Bleu. Sacre Bleu.  Sack my Bleu. Suck my Bleu. Suck my bla.  Everybody was saying it.  Hey, suck my bla!  suck my bla why don’t ya? A bag’s just got emptied on the floor, stuff’ll get booted around, wee guy is scrambling to try to get it back, wee guy cares about his pencil case! he’s not going to get that stuff back. 

Why don’t you stop that and pay attention? Hinds said this afternoon. Dunno. This is important. To be fair miss, it’s not. What did you say, I beg your pardon? Right, out! Get out! Wrote stuff on a bit of paper and sent him to see the year head, the guy who looks like Martin Tyler but with a fatter face.  Dandered off to see the year head.  Jesus, this bus driver must be a learner cos what speed is this? Crawling along. His shoes are too small, they’re toe-pokers, bought for that cousin’s wedding and the marriage is already on the rocks, the folks say.  Kick those shoes off when he gets in, take off the fuckin tie strangling him all day, be home soon now anyway, shit, what’s that, felt more like a coin hitting him this time, but soon he’ll be home, soon 

he’ll be 

pressing the white button though

hearing the little flute of sound

toodle oodle oo

the whirr inside 

ahh ok 

switch on the TV and there will be – 

two guys in the front seat, taking it in turn to dig each other’s arms, hitting on bruises there from the day before.  Guy that covered for Madame McGuigan said they don’t go ouch in France, Paris, places like that, they go aieeee! Nobody believed that cos you don’t go aieeee no matter where you’re from, wise up like, wise the fuck up. Aieee, get to fuck.  Everybody started hitting each other, aieee!  Aieee! Suck my bla! Guy went crazy.  The bus breaks,  they’re flung forward and then back like in the car crash adverts, but only just a bit.  Somebody drums their phone against the window, quicker and quicker, somebody bangs the seat but

a big paint splash 


English, press that

the swirl, then –

late for Madame McGuigan this afternoon cos of having to see that year head, headed down the corridor to her room past all the flags.  Somebody said to the guy that was in for McGuigan, you not got the gay flag? the rainbow flag? No, he said, because gay is not a country.  Got a lot of junk in those rooms down that corridor though, that picture of the big glass pyramid, somebody said it was on the TV in a show where you had to find a crystal, that big photo of all those cyclist guys going past that grey thing, the big bridge in the middle of nowhere.  Madame McGuigan asked something when he came in, Dunno miss, dunno at all, and she did that dopey fuckin thing, held her hands up to her ears like the words were disgusting, she did that when you tried to speak normal and not the aieee language.  Tried to explain why he was late but she just made more of the noise and pointed at the free chair at the front.  Oh well whatever, suit yourself, but anyway

UEFA Champions League

select country, country France

Angiers  AS Monaco Asse Dijon FCO EA Guingamp FC Nantes Girondins de Bx Losc Lille Montpelier HSC Nimes Olympique OGC Nice OL OM Paris 

Paris St Germain, always gonna be, 

Parc des Princes, yeah. 

Parc des Princes

When he sat down Madame McGuigan started playing something, it babbled away, everybody wriggling in their seats, Suck My Bla! somebody whisper, then fill in the work sheet.  It’s down the bottom of his bag now, drink leaked out this morning so it’ll have turned to mush. Madame McGuigan’s got a big poster behind her desk, a couple sitting at a table in a street, wee waiter coming over with a tray, but so fuckin what, places like that in the town.  There was even a place in the town had a rat, somebody filmed it through the window late at night when it scurried around the café.  Big old rat like

OK, will go with Barcelona

Shooting basics, crappy wee spot like the school pitch

Shooting basics with its wee park benches 

alright, Parc des Princes

push and he hits the cold metal of the seat in front, hard whack on his ear so there’s silence and then every sound’s like at the swimming pool.  Don’t turn round to look at the big guy as he’s getting off, even though he can nearly taste the sweet bloody slobber again, just look out the window, watch that man getting the black bag ready as that big dog crouches at the bus shelter, that one that’s always wrecked, the plastic over the timetable bubbled with a cigarette lighter but 

Parc des Princes

grey sky but no shadow, dazzle of the lights, 

criss cross crosshatch, bright white,

the red and blue squares, Paris est magique

wraparound, only the grey up above

wraparound the 

six dark green stripes six light green stripes

squares, blue and red, triangles of flag 

snug in the Parc des Princes, happy shapes of sounds from 

the crowd and it’s gonna start soon 

Revons plus grand

Revons plus grand 

everything’s gonna go grand is what that means or something like that, doesn’t really matter who da fuck cares

suck my bla

Paris est magique

suck my bla

suck my bla


Wendy Erskine’s latest short story collection, DANCE MOVE, was published by The Stinging Fly Press and Picador earlier this year.  Her first collection, SWEET HOME, also published by The Stinging Fly and Picador, was longlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and shortlisted for The Republic of Consciousness Prize and the Edge Hill Prize.  It won the Butler Literary Prize.  She also writes about art and music. She works as a secondary school teacher in Belfast.

The above piece appears in the February/March 2022 issue of The London Magazine.

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