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.

No comments: