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A Hard Life

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 08 March 2017
Word Count: 906
Summary: For challenge 633

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A Hard Life
Between Tesco’s and the station, that’s where you’ll find me.  Riding the pavement from dawn till dusk.   It’s a good pitch.   You get a steady stream of shoppers raiding Tesco’s and later there’s party goers back from an evening in Town.    But it’s a hard life.   I thought of getting myself a dog, for the sympathy vote, but  I wouldn’t wish my life on any animal.  For starters, they’d have to put up with the verbal abuse.  Not that it bothers me, I’m used to it.   It was my lullaby when I was a kid. 
 Have you ever been lonely?   I don’t mean if your family are away or you’re on your tod in a strange town -  I mean,  lonely.  Like when you’re certain no-one gives a toss about you.   You’d die in your sleep and no-one would care, or even notice – except they would because the pavements have to be kept free of dead bodies.  
I watch little kids going in and out of the supermarket, clutching their Mum’s hand or swaying on their Dad’s shoulders and feel I could kill for a childhood like that.  My mum never loved me.   Not in the slightest.  I wonder why she never got some pills and flushed me down the toilet when she first realised she was up the duff.   Too stoned, I suppose and eventually I popped out of her fanny. 
            My gran took care of me.   She loved me - used to take me to the park to feed the ducks only I didn’t understand and ate the bread meself.          
‘No, lovie, that’s for them fellas over there, the ones with the feathers.’   She’d roar with laughter.
 We made gingerbread.  I mixed the ginger in with the flour and when she’d rolled out the mixture, I cut out shapes of little men.  Lovely, they were.
Yeah.   My gran loved me.   Although sometimes she’d cry and stroke my hair and call me her ‘poor little lamb’, but she’d never say why.
            Then she died and looking back. I reckoned she knew.   I lived with Mum afterwards.   At first, I didn’t understand why and kept crying for Gran.  Mum yelled at me, said I was getting on her nerves, threw me in a bedroom and locked the door.
            There was a constant stream of men coming in and out but I never knew who was my Dad.   I reckon Mum didn’t know either ‘cuz she told me to call them all ‘Uncle’.      When there was a special ‘Uncle’ expected, Mum didn’t want to let on she had a kid and shut me in the cellar.   It was pitch black and I was terrified.  Later though, I got used to it, at least no-one screamed or hit me down there.
            I was always hungry but it was easy to scavenge in our house.  There was always  bits of pizza lying around and occasionally an ‘Uncle’ would send me to the chippy.
            ‘Don’t bother hurrying back.’  He’d add.  So now I reckon I know every nook and cranny of this shitty town.  That’s come in handy now.
            At school, no-one wanted to sit next to me ‘He smells, Miss….’    I reckon they’d smell if their Mum didn’t bother to wash them or change their clothes but I always wanted a friend.  I hated break times when I had to hang around alone and look as if I didn’t care.   Then I noticed that all the kids wore the latest ‘designer’ trainers so I thought I’d get some and maybe I’d fit in.    That’s how I first learned to steal.   I’d tag onto a family in a shoe-shop, follow them around, then when no-one was looking, I’d sneak some trainers and scarper.   The trainers didn’t always fit and didn’t make any difference - I still had no friends.   Later, I graduated to jeans and that’s when I got caught.   Remand Home, Children’s Home and now the streets.  Story of my life.  
            About a month ago, I first noticed her.  A little girl of around five, standing looking at me.    Normally, I hate kids.   They try and pinch my money, or kick my tin over.   Some will cling onto their Mum’s arm and pretend to be frightened.  But this kid wasn’t like that and when I looked at her, I recognised the signs - fading bruises, stained, too-short dress and no coat.     She smiled, whispered ‘Hello’, then scuttled back to where her Mum was yakking on her mobile.  Sometimes she seemed to be completely on her own and she’d sit down beside me and we’d chat.   Not much, but enough to realise I’d found a friend.   She’d show me stones she’d found and I’d say they were pretty.  Eventually, her Mum’d show up and yell at her.   It used to make me so sad to see the cowed way she’d slink back.
            Then she turned up with a fresh bruise on her face.  
            ‘What’s that?’  I said.
            ‘I was naughty,’ she whispered, and that was when I made up my mind.
It’s nearly dark and the first stars are out.    In the surrounding fields, pinpricks of light dance and there’s the machine gun rattle of helicopter blades.    I grin, ‘cuz they’re way off course.   As I said, I know all the rat runs in this town and they’ll never guess where I’ve hidden her.   She’s mine now and I’ll never be lonely again.’
(906 words)    

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 17:28 on 10 March 2017  Report this post
Powerful writing with a very unexpected and disturbing ending. You have a gift for writing from a different perspective and then, to expand the entire story with that wonderful shock at the conclusion, is a commendable piece of writing.
If I had any suggestions it would have been to break up the narrative with more dialogue or even move more of the story into the present tense.instead of simply the last para..All a matter of perspective and, to be honest, it stands as a winner just as it is. Hopefully you can find a place to send it as it deserves a wider audience than simply on here. 

scriever at 11:09 on 11 March 2017  Report this post
Wow. That ending! I thought at first it was a straightforward story of a hellish life, then the little girl possibly offered a bit of redemption. Wonderful last 3 lines. Powerful, powerful writing.

Bazz at 15:47 on 11 March 2017  Report this post
Blunt and bleak, Janet, this is quite a hard hitting character piece. A damaged life unravelling, explained matter of factly, a stark confession of a hard life that leads to a sudden and startling ending. This is full of very vivid details, the casual abuse, the stealing, and the way he hides his "friend" at the end... a very layered and unsettling conclusion, strong writing.

Chestersmummy at 18:19 on 11 March 2017  Report this post
Thanks Screiver and Bazz - glad you liked it.


michwo at 22:45 on 12 March 2017  Report this post
I liked it too, Janet.  I encountered a 'body' - to be honest I assumed the person was still alive - apparently sleeping rough in A-u-L town centre the other Saturday and decided that the person in question, covered up by flattened cardboard boxes, probably needed professional help of some sort, so I reported their presence at my local police station.  I really don't know if it did any good though.  The big words fail to fit.

Chestersmummy at 23:36 on 12 March 2017  Report this post
I take it that you live in Ashton under Lyne then Michwo.    Must admit I have great pangs of conscience whenever I pass a rough sleeper.   A lot of them probably have mental health problems  caused by childhood trauma and some must die on the streets.  It is all very sad.



michwo at 00:03 on 13 March 2017  Report this post
I've finally calculated your age from your personal details.  Are you really over 70?
Your quickness and perceptiveness are astonishing!

Chestersmummy at 20:31 on 13 March 2017  Report this post
When you get to my age, Michwo - I'll bet you won't feel any different than you do now!

BW  Janet

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