The Good Neighbour

Dark, crevasse like creases appeared in her brown weathered face as she cowered in distress, surrounded by three or four cackling youngsters jeering and harassing, moving about her like urban hyenas. It was difficult to make out from this distance, but the figure looked vaguely familiar to Billy. He crawled gingerly out of his makeshift cardboard shelter, careful not to drag his tattered sleeping bag into view of the street.

Bloody thiefs. Can’t leave anything lying about here anybloodymore... nobody got any bloody morals.

Billy moved slowly, muttering as he went, conversing with a companion invisible to the few busy commuters that hurried by on their way to climb the surrounding towers of commerce.

What’s the world coming to… who works on Sundays? When I was a boy you’d struggle to buy milk after twelve on a Saturday.

He noticed a tall, slim boy dressed in what he would have described as the latest fad, and which he knew his kids would have ridiculed him for saying.

No need to worry now. Have to be nearly ten years since the missus booted me I’d say... can’t say I didn’t deserve it.

He saw the boy glance at the woman as he passed her, sidestepping to put an extra few metres between them whilst one of the tormenters urinated on her to the great amusement of his mates. The tall, well-dressed boy seemed to falter as he saw this, while the perpetrator re-zipped his fly, all smiles and horrid amusement. His pace slowed momentarily as he took another look at the unfolding abuse, before a disgusted and fearful look betrayed his cool.

I should stop... shit, I should definitely stop. But I’m already going to be late for church; and those guys probably have knives or something… what use would I be to her if they stab me. I’ll check back on my way home.

And with that he hurried on, pale and confused.

Billy was now close enough to recognise her as one of the girls who worked at the brothel down the end of Brunkers Lane; they’d come and go each day out the back door. She was beautiful in a plain sort of a way, but her looks were well obscured by years of addiction and abuse. Billy had trouble focussing his eyes but when he did she reminded him of his own daughter and the memories burdened his already anguish-laden mind.

The odd passer by threw a momentary look at the unfolding scene; disgusted, fearful, blank… but always unmoved enough to continue on their way.

“Oi, lay off ya little turds. Have some respect for the young woman!” Billy bellowed, surprised at how hollow and old his voice sounded these days. The hyenas turned and snarled as Billy moved closer. One of the boys stepped forward and threw a fist that landed square in Billy’s gut, dropping his knees to the pavement and taking the wind out of him.

“Piss orf yold drunk.”

They returned their attention to the lady, ripping off her tiny skirt to reveal her further, and laughed, “Dirty whore!” One of them tossed the skirt at Billy as they skulked off down the lane full bravado and youthful heckling. Billy gasped and wheezed, composing himself as he crouched down beside her. He took off his tattered coat and covered her while she sat and sobbed.

“I’m sorry about that love,” he croaked as he helped her up from the filthy concrete, “Let’s go see if we can get you a warm drink and some clothes… I’ve got few spare bucks I can give you.” Her wet eyes stared at the pavement and her bedraggled head bent downwards as he talked.
“I know a shelter not far from here… we can get you tidied up there, eh.”

Billy’s words were soft and kind as she limped towards the main street and around the corner, Billy holding her up.

never again shall a razor touch his face - part 1

Crisp trails of blood spread across his cheek leaving lines like crimson jet streams in a pale sky. Flecks of red sat in his brow threatening to drop. His face throbbed and pulsed and seemed to be separating from the rest of his body, as the days events jolted through his head, scrolling in different directions and etching themselves onto the back of his retina and into the experience.

...........


Bronte's words were soft and considered as they floated gently down the river a few feet apart. The trees were fading luminescent silhouettes against the evening sky, the glowing disc slipping down beyond the hills that pushed skyward from the river bank. They barely required movement other than the odd swipe of the hand to send a mosquito back into the reeds and concentric ripples in a thousand directions.

The beauty, he thought, was crushing and he was sure that he was only spared the pain of being squashed to death by the cool water surrounding his body, free of the full effects of gravity. Thoughts like this scared and surprised him - he wasn't often so "emotionally volatile" as he put it, with his prescriptions keeping him "level headed". But this evening he was open and calm and a faint smile crept across his face while the water lapped at his cheeks.

"What would you think about me moving to Melbourne?"

At first he thought she was joking, " Oh, you'd be fine. Don't worry about me - I'll just stay here."

"No, I'm serious Pete - I've been offered a job down there. They called me earlier today."

Pete's heart started thumping as if it was going to burst out of his chest and let water come gushing in to sink him. His lungs seemed to demand more breath while his throat tightened to allow only a little. He thought about a tidal flow, though never a chance on this river, gouging through the valley and sweeping them both away into darkness.

"Shit...? You're serious? How long have you been thinking about this?"

"Pete, I told you about this job weeks ago... I've been wanting to get in down there for ages, you know that."

"Yeah, but jeez Bront, it's just so soon. I thought you'd take years to do that. What am I sposed to do?"

"Come with me Pete; I'm not really keen to go by myself."

"C'mon Bront; my job's here. What am I gonna do in Melbourne?"

"You'd find something. Or you could stay here for a bit; it's only a few hours away. We could come up and down on weekends until things were settled down there."

Pete suddenly had visions of his hulking frame slumped over the kitchen table, fists clenched, anger bubbling up in his throat until it burned.
"I fricken knew it would happen. You'd move to the city , meet some yuppie smooth talking lawyer wanker and be smitten. What chance did I have three hours away, in my average looking house and average paying job? Fucking knew it. What's he look like I wonder? Swami bastard I bet!"

Bronte's hand gently bushed his leg and it felt like a jolt of electricity. He took a deep breath and returned to reality. In his brief and angry dreaming he'd broken into a brisk swim, only because he felt he'd sink if he didn't.

"Love, we'll be fine. Just think about it okay? I could move down there to get settled and you could come down later. Just consider it please - it would mean a lot."

"Bronte, you know what long distance relationships are like. And me, jeez, I get worked up and worried that your sleeping with someone else when you're late home from work here. How the hell would I manage with you three hours away in your flashy downtown lawyers office?"

"Oh, Pete, you know I would never do that to you," she soothed, pulling his body towards her smooth skin, goose pimpled from the chill of the water and the falling night. His torso was warm against her stomach and she closed her eyes floating further on, sliding into each other as their bodies pulsed and ground against the shallow sand beach that rose quietly out of the river.

Four (percy)

The screeching whistle slowly grew louder and the wrought iron grill rattled under the boiling kettle. Percy stretched up from his seat at the table and lifted the kettle from the stove to the sink drainer, catching a brief glimpse of his weathered face reflected in the kitchen window before the steam clouded the glass.

Rubbing his eyes, he dropped in a half tea spoon of sugar and let the tea brew.

Wiping a view through the mist on the window he peered out into the darkness, his dark brown hands gripping the edge of the sink while his knees rested against the cupboards below. His legs ached more than usual these days; vague stabbing pains would interrupt his walks more regularly and he would need to stop for breath. He seemed to spend more time sitting around; couldn’t muster the energy to do much at all.
His eyes dropped to the cup sitting on the bench, steam twisting up and filling the window; the whites of his finger nails intensifying as he gripped the mug and shuffled back over to the table.

For some reason, Perc always grabbed the old red tin cup from the cupboard. He wasn’t sure why but he’d had it since the days on the mission with his mother. There were a few clay cups, the odd porcelain one; all tea cups he’d been given at different times. But he’d always reached for the red one with the dark blue rim; just seemed to fit his hand. He’d learnt over the years that one of the perks of being a small town priest was that you get given a lot of tea cups.

"Silly old birds," mumbled Perc with gum filled grin, lifting the cup to his lips.

His drift into nostalgia was short lived; tea splashed across the table with the tin cup dropping quickly as Perc tongued the skin behind his one remaining front tooth, stripping off a rather large layer loosened by the all but boiling water.

"Ah, ya bloody idiot! All these years and ya still can't drink a cuppa tea without burnin' y'self!"

The green and white plaid tea towel turned a mottled shade of transparent brown as it soaked up the spill and Perc slid back into his chair, his joints creaking more than the rickety old timber he was slumping into.