By Lee Hamblin
You don’t usually go out at this time of day.
You tell yourself that you should have brought that extra pint in Asda’s last Saturday.
You knew you’d run out, what with the neighbour’s ginger cat now having got the taste for full fat—and yes, you know it’s all your fault—but he’s such a lovely boy, and oh so friendly.
You know that Mr. Beresford next door only feeds him dry food and some days he even forgets to refill his bowl.
You know that his little girl lost interest in him straight after Christmas.
You know he drives a great big Mercedes—Mr. Beresford that is, not the cat!
Of course you know that milk’s now sold in litres but you still call it a pint, and you can’t remember the last time milk went ‘off’, but it was a long time ago.
You do try to make porridge with water, but it never tastes the same. And as for black tea…
You keep the lights on whilst you’re out, the T.V. as well, with the sound turned down low, but not too low—as a precaution—just in case.
But you’ll know that they’ll know you’re out because they would have been watching, wouldn’t they?
But you do it nonetheless.
Not like years ago—you never used to lock the front door—not unless you were away to the coast for a summer’s day out, for a treat, with Alfie and the family.
Faded memories of a time long ago.
There’s a shop around the corner that used to just sell ciggies, newspapers and sweets. Now it sells other stuff too—but it’s all too expensive for a pensioner’s purse—even the milk (compared to Asda’s that is,) and most of it is foreign food that you know you wouldn’t like anyway. Though you once had hummus and quite liked it.
You used to go to Lidl on a Wednesday, but that’s the day the nurse comes round, and she’s always a bit late, and the number 73 to Lidl goes past the school and being stuck on the 73 is no place to be of an afternoon.
You tuck your purse away in an inside pocket and guard it with your hand—with your life—because that’s got to last you until the end of the month.
You heard about what happened to old Mrs. Beecham last week. She was 89, the poor old dear.
Mr. Beresford’s got two teenage boys too. You sometimes look out from your front room, sliding the net curtain aside just enough, keeping the light switched off.
You never really go in this room now, not now you’re on your own.
You miss Alfie, the silly old sausage, what’d he have to go and die on you for?
Mr. Beresford’s boys seem to spend their life hanging about street corners for hours with their mates, baggy tops, tight trousers, shaven heads covered by caps. A couple of them have even got motorbikes now and what a racket they make, and they all have those phone things. What are they called again? Tablets. Yes…tablets.
Tablets are what you have to take too many of every morning, and every night.
Haven’t they got better things to do? They always seem so bored. Not like when you were a youngster.
You remember your dad’s old Bakelite radio. You loved Round The Horne and The Navy Lark; you never liked The Goon Show, though, thought it a bit silly. Mum loved it, though. You picture her laughing.
You don’t know Mr. Beresford’s boys, but you think that one of them is called Wayne, or maybe it’s Dwayne.
You’ve never seen Mr. Beresford wearing a suit and tie.
Alfie always wore a suit and tie on weekends, even if it was only down to the local for a bottle of Guinness. That was yours; he had a pint of mild.
You’ve felt a bit queasy since lunch, and tired, but put it down to the pork pie that was a couple of days out of date, but you weren’t going to throw it out, were you?
Not at that price.
You’re never usually out at this time of day.
You’re sure that streetlights used to be brighter. Or days used to be longer. Or something— Everything was different back then.
There’s a big gang of kids ahead. Fortunately, they’re on the other side of the road, fussing about, not looking at you, but you tense up anyway.
You think about Mrs. Beecham. 89 she was, the poor old dear.
You make it as far as the corner when your legs suddenly give way and you collapse to the pavement. Your strength is sucked away in a gasp, and there’s a possibility you’ve blacked out.
You don’t know your hip is broken; you didn’t hear anything snap as such.
You have blacked out, or maybe you’ve died.
No…no…you haven’t left us yet.
You open your eyes; you’re lying on your side. Wayne, or Dwayne, has your hand held in his. Another lad has taken off their sweatshirt and is asking you if it hurts when he raises your head just enough to slip it underneath. You tell him it doesn’t, so he carries on, and it feels so much better than cold, hard pavement. It feels like a pillow.
Dwayne’s hand is warm and loving and kind. Like Alfie’s was.
You become aware of the pain, tremendous pain.
You start to moan and you want to cry.
You do cry. You can’t remember the last time you cried.
Dwayne looks you in the eye and speaks slow and clear and precise. “Don’t worry Mrs. Rogan I’ve already called for the ambulance. It’ll be here soon enough.”