Book: Tribute Act
A Porthkennack Novel
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Garrett leigh
Publication Date: January 15, 2018
Length: 215 pages
— “Christmas Stocking” by The Sandy Coves, 1989
“I hope this doesn’t make you late for your night out, Jonathan love,” Mum said.
Always my full name from Mum, even though everyone else called me Nathan.
Her voice was tight with anxiety, and though I couldn’t see her from where I lay with my head wedged into the tiny space under the kitchen sink in Dilly’s, I could picture her wringing her hands as she watched me work.
I didn’t bother answering her, instead continuing to wrestle with the uncooperative plastic waste pipe. The plastic fittings should have come apart easily but were holding firm, and there was something about the whole arrangement. I peered it at it more closely.
It looked . . . crooked.
“Has Derek been messing about under here recently?” I called out.
“Not for a while,” Mum replied. “Though come to think of it, the sink did block a couple of months ago and he had to clear out the U-bend. He might’ve had some bother getting it back on.” She paused, then added, “In fact, now you mention it, I’m sure he said something about having to glue it back on?”
Somehow, I managed to stop myself saying that aloud, though I couldn’t suppress a long-suffering sigh.
I could see the problem now. Could see where Derek had forced the fitting too hard and broken it. The repair with . . . Jesus, what had he used? Superglue?
Derek, my stepdad, was a great guy to go to the pub with but he wasn’t exactly the most thorough handyman in the world. A lick and a promise, that was his style. Which usually meant that Yours Truly would end up having to sort out the mess at some point. In fact, when it came to dealing with those sorts of problems—whether at Dilly’s or at home—Derek tended to go for the easy way out. It was a bit of a bone of contention between us.
And one of the many joys of combining family and work.
I squirmed out from under the sink and clambered to my feet, opening my mouth to deliver a rant about Derek and his slapdash repairs—only to close it again when I saw how exhausted Mum was. She generally favoured a glam look, but it had been a long day and her makeup had all worn off. She had dark circles under her eyes too and, worst of all, her roots needed touching up. I frowned to think she’d done a shift today with her roots showing—she wouldn’t even answer the door like that normally.
But of course, nothing was normal right now.
I sighed inwardly, glancing at the clock. It was already after five. She’d be worried about Rosie and anxious to get home, though probably feeling guilty about leaving me with this mess.
Or rather, bloody Derek’s mess.
“Why don’t you head off?” I said gently. “You look exhausted. I’ll sort this out and finish closing up. It won’t take me long. And it’s not far to Gav’s.”
Lies, lies, lies. It was going to take ages to deal with this and the drive was over an hour. I’d have to text Gav and warn him I’d be late for our first big Saturday night out in months.
“Are you sure?” The weary note of relief in her voice was unmistakable.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll be half an hour tops here. You go home and put your feet up.”
She gave me a tired smile and kissed my cheek. “Okay. Thanks, love.”
Once she was gone and I’d locked up behind her, I texted Gav.
His answer arrived a minute later.
I sighed, heavy, then texted back.