Smethers the postman, that greasy fuck with his brown letters. Here he comes in his proud-blue uniform. It’s another day, another dense bright space to blacken in. He strides up the street to our porch, slicks his hair back underneath his cap and talks in through the letter-box: “Morning girls!” The voice is treacle sweet, reaching down the hall as if to grope us. He lives next to a distant cousin of ours who owns a fresh-fish caravan up past the Mormon Road, brings us herrings or lemon sole or whiting wrapped in newspaper.

“Yoo-hoo, ladies! Oh, girl!”

The stink of him. The come-and-get-me voice on him. Something’s not right. We had fish three times last week, fresh salmon once and this cousin’s someone we hardly know, a woman with a van Mam mentioned.

“Yoo-hoo! Oh ladies!”

My sister Cora doesn’t budge. She leans her elbow on the corner of the gas cooker and pulls on her morning cigarette, exhaling thick little beams of smoke. She never talks until that fag’s stubbed out. Behind our kitchen wall the quick snorts of a knitting machine that wake us up continue. When our neighbours first moved in we thought it was him, snoring, that their headboard was against our wall, but we were wrong. Here we do not know our next-door neighbours. Mam used to talk about neighbours. People playing poker until the small hours, men raising a huge tent together for a marquee on the square, pulling the ropes down tight around the stakes.

Cora takes a last pull, squashes out the butt and tightens the belt of her lilac dressing gown. I watch the prints of her bare feet fade on the lino while she opens the door and lets him in.

“A vision in the mornings,” he says, his eyes starting at her feet and travelling up like she’s something he could sketch. His lips are shiny with his own spit. “Oh, the versatility of the postal system. The service. Where would you girls be without us?” He hands over the parcel and the electric bill and marches in, plomps his satchel down on the hall stand. A little rub of the hands, a glance round. “Well, Cora, a cup of tea would be sweet.”

Rewards for the messenger.