Broken

The tracks shake loose in the cracked cement as he leaves the train and the old majestic homes crumble while the flash men walk drunken, lusting, singing ditties with whisky voices from the docks in the old town.

It wasn’t as if he couldn’t remember where he belonged. It was that he didn’t want to live there anymore, so he stood for a while fumbling with his keys.  The old place was falling down from decades of neglect but it was clean and straight inside and smelled of fish broth and bread from the kitchen.

The daughter hangs clothes on a line out of the window and watching her father, hoping he isn’t drunk so early. She would not be shocked or surprised. He hasn’t been the same since the company shut down the docks.

He falls and the daughter helps him to his comfortable chair and fetches a cigar. He bites a tip and she lights it and he bangs on the arm when she doesn’t do it right. The acrid smoke fills the room so she opens the shutters despite the rain.

The people used to say he was brave man, a fighter. Now they say he is broken and ignored but for the daughter who picks up the pieces of his life. He has no purpose now and drinks more than before, driving the mother crazy. They argue and then make peace.

Drink, argue and make peace. It is the pattern of the days.

Dark Thoughts

Dark thoughts under a broken floor hiding away from malevolent eyes.The stranger waits at dawn in the diminished darkness of the waking house.

The first sounds are the crack of a broken stair tread and patter of paws. A small boy creeps sleepily down holding the handrail all of the way with his trusty mutt following.

He reaches for cereal and milk and a cracked bowl on a brown table. Too bad for the forgotten brother watching up through the dusty floor. The dog knows and sniffs the floor and holds one eye to the gap. The stranger holds up a hand for the dog to sniff but the wood gets in the way.

It’s not long and the teenagers are up and fighting over the single bathroom. The girl loses and complains while holding her pee.

The stranger still watches the small boy spilling milk and crumbs on the floor and the dog cleans it up. The chaos and thumping of feet are not noticed by the boy. They are the usual sounds of early morning.

The stranger waits until the parents arrive to prepare lunches while refereeing quarrels. Saying “no” and “maybe” and sending the children out to the bus and school. The parents then talk quietly and dress and drink coffee and make their way to jobs and the door closes.

The stranger pushes up the boards and pats the small dog. It’s time to rest after the haunting of the night. The old leather sofa is a welcome sight and the stranger lays and sleeps with the small dog and the cat to snuggle up and keep them warm.

Who will catch you when you fall?

I’m too tired to look up at a dog sniffing, I hope it doesn’t piss on me as I haven’t the strength to push it away. Need to keep notes on all of this. How the fuck did I get here? Life didn’t start out this way, that’s certain. I remember being young, good looking and in love. Was that so long ago? I can smell my own ass, and sure as shit I need a shower. Hell! Was it only just last week I was there in the bank, trying to get some money, from a check I got, from somewhere. It’s was like I have this force field of stench keeping people away. They don’t want to see me, as if I might ask for something, money, a favour, a few moments of their valuable time, what are they afraid of? Do they feel guilty? They should, because everyone is guilty.

I ended up here somehow? It was the relationship, the corporate job, the modern home with the spa and all the fittings. Now all I see are legs and asses. I’m as low as a roach down here.

The ground is hard and cold in the spring and my hands grimy black. My sign says that I am homeless and I need money for food. Most people don’t read it. Sometimes they put paper money in my cup. and that goes a long way. I can buy some wine for later when it’s cold. There is a clothes bin down near the public school I can sleep in, if Norm doesn’t take it first or the men haven’t emptied it. My teeth are loose and my back feels like it can’t take much more of this.

The street is illuminated like a noir painting,  A cross, a crack to fill, shiny things flashing past a nouveau post office. A man walking towards me jigging coins wanting me to notice how generous he is. ‘Thanks,’ I interrupt and a car parks perilously close to my legs on the pavement. A door clicks and she steps out. All legs with an ass I could go to town on. She has golden hair tied back. A pearl necklace which matches nicely with her white diamond wristwatch. The shoes she’s wearing would keep me warm for a month. I could buy a house with that car. She looks towards me but doesn’t see. I am something unpleasant. The man comes around and they walk, he looks back and tosses a coin as if to tip me for not staring. I saw though. I saw how she looked like a girl I once knew in a previous life. A time that is like a dream, before the estrangement and all the drugs, and the breakdown of everything. I was that guy and she was my girl. Maybe it’s not real. Maybe I was never that way. Not rich not handsome, not dirt under your shoes.

I see crazy Anne. ‘Poo Anne’ the locals call her, well it’s not nice but it is descriptive. She begs. We have our corners. Our territories. They say she was an singer. She did shows, all over the country. She sold records and was on TV. They say she was inducted into the music hall of fame. She was somebody. Now she begs and sleeps in the boarding home on Cavendish Street. She was with this guy who had connections. They used together. He use to beat her occasionally. Maybe he is in prison for putting his wife in a suitcase. Perhaps he is dead. Anne should be so lucky.

All the famous beggars, the handsome homeless, the millionaires rummaging through bins for throwaway sandwiches. We were loved once. Think about that when you see us. Our place is only a few doors away from your Bellview Hill home and your Mercedes. Your mental breakdown, your divorce.

I think I saw my brother last week, he saw me and crossed the street. I remind him of the old days that he can’t deal with. I think I saw my daughter. She was stoned and stared at me with bleary grey eyes, unable to focus. She asked me for a cigarette, but I don’t smoke and I said ‘no’. ‘Shelley’, I said but she said she thought I must be mistaken. She said her name was User or Hooker or something, I can’t remember but it wasn’t Shelley. Shelley doesn’t know I’m alive. She spoke with her dead eyes after a pause of staring at my hands then flinched when I lifted a coin from my cup not trusting it. She was waiting for some kind of recognition but wouldn’t look me in the eye. She was in a dark nameless place of shadows. A rung lower. Borrowing and stealing air from the living.

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