Tell A Tale in 500 Words
Cold Nights on Bleak Streets By Seth Allan
Take a seat, take a seat. Make yourself comfortable. The kettle’s on - Jimmy’ll bring some tea through shortly - shouldn’t be a minute.
How have you been keeping? The weather’s always terrible this time of year so I’m glad you could make it. I know we’ve been talking for a while but it’s great to have you here. You’re not intruding, no - in fact I’m grateful you turned up because I wanted to talk to you. I guess you’ve seen the article and wanted answers for yourself. Well, here it goes:
February, this year, I cleared up three homeless bodies from the street. Each one smelt worse than the next. Each of them had eyes sunken into the back of their heads with bleak, exhausted expressions. The first one just seemed like any other that we might have been expected to pick up and I didn’t think much of it. The second one, well, that’s when I started to notice it - that same expression.
I’d been doing that morbid job for quite some time and sure, it gets to you but nothing like that. When I picked up the third body it was rank with piss and the next day I handed in my notice.
Through March and April, I filled my spare time by imagining their lives. It became a dangerous obsession. Martin was a business man, busy and focused. Tony was a social chap who filled his time at night classes, teaching and learning. And Jeremy, well, he was a family man. Through and through.
As I obsessed more, I became curious about them all. For some reason I felt the need to see their bodies and remind myself they were dead. A friend down at the morgue did me a favour and while I was there asked him how they’d died. It turned out those first men, Martin and Tony, had a cold sink so deep it froze their will to live. I’d expected the same result for Jeremy but my friend told me, “he drowned.”
“Drowned?” I asked.
“In a manner of speaking -“ he told me, “- the urine on him wasn’t his own. He was sleeping and someone’s pissed on him. Choked him as he slept. Nasty stuff.”
I’d tried to forget the stink that had come off his body but remembering it now made me feel vulgar. What reason or purpose could anyone have for doing such a thing.
“Do we call the police?”
“It’s a bit late for that.” He said.
I was stricken with guilt. Somehow I felt responsible - as a part of society that failed these men, and taken the lives they had no chance to live.
Ah - here’s Jimmy now. He’s been with me for about six months now. Since May, isn’t it? Anyway, that’s what I wanted to ask you - I wondered if you would let me give you the next chance, to stay with me that is. There’s no hurry to make a decision. Just when you’re ready.
see more submissions for the Tell A Tale in 500 Words click here