"Laidlaw" by William McIlvaney
This chapter is told from the point of view of Harkness, a young man assisting Laidlaw on the case. It opens using the sound from a TV set to underscore the contrast between this life and the life that is going on in the streets of Glasgow. His mind can not get away from the case and it trivializes the life he observes in the flat of his girlfriend, Mary and her family.

From Chapter 14:

  "All of us at some time or other," the minister was saying, "have been to the seaside." It wasn't exactly a riveting start. "The sea attracts us. Yet we hardly stop to think of it as the source of all life. For us it's hardly more than a social amenity. Weather permitting - and that's all too rare, I can hear you say, in Scotland - we fill the car with food and children and go down to the sea on trips. We play. We laugh. We splash water on one another. We eat our sandwiches. And it's not until Wee Johnny finds himself in difficulties or Wee Mary is caught in the current - or perhaps a stranger drowns - that we remember the awe-inspiring power of the sea. In some ways, the presence of God is like that."
  Harkness was finding it hard to focus on who he was. He found it impossible to connect himself as he was with Mary's mother offering him "a wee cup of tea" and home - made ginger biscuits. He sat eating biscuits while the photograph of Jennifer Lawson weighed on him like the corpse, while Mary's father sat watching "Late Call" on the telly as if it was news of Armageddon.
  The room seemed as unreal as a stage - set. They all seemed to know their parts. He watched Mary's father, trying to catch a glimmer of dismissal of what he was hearing. There was nothing. Mary's father stared solemnly at the set as if the minister was telling him something. Harkness began to worry about Mary's father. He also began to worry about ministers who clasp their hands across their knees and talk about God as if they were His uncle, who seem to suggest that He's not such a bad lad when you get to know Him and that whatever His past, He means well in the future. He also began to worry about Mary's mother making ginger biscuits and about Mary. Harkness began to worry about everything.
  He felt bruised with contradictions. Where he had been was being mocked by where he was. Yet both were Glasgow. He had always liked the place, but he had never been more aware of it than tonight. Its force came to him in contradictions. Glasgow was home - made ginger biscuits and Jennifer Lawson dead in the park. It was the sententious niceness of the Commander and the threatened abrasiveness of Laidlaw. It was Milligan, insensitive as a mobile slab of cement, and Mrs Lawson, witless with hurt. It was the right hand knocking you down and the left hand picking up up, while the mouth alternated apology and threat.
  Tomorrow with Laidlaw he would no doubt see some of it he had never seen before. Jealous of his own affection for the place, he reminded himself that what he would see would only be a very small part of the whole.
  "Tonight let us reflect for a moment on this great mystery which surrounds us," the minister was saying.
  Harkness's thoughts were a secular gloss on the minister's words. He watched Mary's father complacently watching television, her mother reading the Sunday Post, Mary herself putting papers in her briefcase for tomorrow's teaching - each with a finger in the dyke of their own illusions. He decided, to his surprise, that he didn't want to share their illusions. He wasn't sure, as he had thought he was, that he and Mary would be getting engaged. The things which were happening outside, and which he didn't know about, seemed more real to him than this room.


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