A Day To Forget Ch. 1byOctavian©
A Day to Forget Part 1: Morning
He powered into her like a train. (Although as modern trains have electric motors, the brushes of which go round and round, rather than up and down, the metaphor is rather irrelevant for those who only have only ever seen electric or diesel locomotives. It wouldn’t be a train like the 18.30 service from Euston to Milton Keynes either, because that is nearly always running slowly due to engineering works on the line, and it sometimes even has to stop, which of course it always has to do at Hemel Hempstead and Bletchley because the service is only a semi-fast one, rather than an express. Not only that; it doesn’t even have a buffet car! And if that weren’t bad enough, would you believe that it doesn’t run at all on Sundays! No wonder the bloody country is going to the dogs!) When he finally came he took a moment to recover his breath and then he spoke.
“How was it for you, Clarisse? Did the Earth move for you, like they say it does in the books?
She put down the page of the newspaper devoted to horse racing. “What are you on about?”
“Never mind.” Brett got off her and lit up a cigarette. “What was that scene in Casablanca?” He put on his James Cagney voice. “Of all the bars in this crummy town why did you have to walk into mine? You dirty rat!”
“Don’t you know nothin’? It wasn’t James Cagney, what was in Casablanca. It was the other guy…what’s his name?” Clarisse’s brow furrowed. Her brain was tired after checking the form of the runners at Epsom and she was now struggling to cope with this new and complex question. She gave up the unequal task and changed the subject. “Anyway talking of dirty rats, isn’t it about time you had a bath? You do honk a bit!” She sat up. Her impossibly large 32A breasts seemed to defy gravity. “Accordin’ to the paper, ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ has got a really good chance in the 3.20 at Epsom. Shall I put that tenner on it?”
“Yeah, Clarisse, why not? This could be our lucky day.”
Just as he spoke his cigarette dropped from his mouth and into his pubic hair. There was a brief flare, a hissing sound, a strong smell of burning and a very loud yell. But Brett was not fire warden at the local abattoir for nothing. He grabbed the glass containing the rest of his lager and poured it over himself.
“I hate to waste good beer, but it was an emergency, when all’s said and done.” He carefully extricated the beer sodden cigarette from his groin. “I’ll save that for later.”
They were a well-matched couple. They had met each other at the local magistrates’ court. She was up for being drunk and disorderly and he was on a shoplifting charge. It was love at first sight. The really amazing thing was that the same policeman had arrested them both, and they had already decided that if they were to have a kid they would name it after him. Not many kids get to be called ‘Constable’.
He had impressed her from the outset. Not only did he know the procedures but he appeared to know a number of the court personnel as well. And he had managed to get off lightly. This was because in the week before the court case he had landed a job and sending him to prison was hardly likely to enhance his new career at the abattoir. So he was put on probation. Their eyes met as he was leaving the dock. He liked what he saw so he stayed in the court for her hearing. She had the loveliest and most gentle voice he had ever heard. He went weak at the knees when he heard her telling the magistrate to fuck off.
She ended up being fined but as she was not in regular employment it was agreed that she could pay the fine from a deduction in her unemployment benefit. In fact she wasn’t short of money. She was making quite a living from begging. The secret was to get a good spot and to try to have a dog with her. She didn’t have a dog of her own but the friend she had made at the remand centre had one and she would let her take it out for the day. She thought that Clarisse was a genuine dog lover; she had no idea that it was just a ruse to elicit more money from gullible passers-by. Fang fitted the bill admirably, looking every inch the long-suffering and malnourished little mongrel. One day her friend was out, so Clarisse had to go to her patch without her usual canine support. She had the bright idea of taking another dog with her, so she ‘liberated’ a Jack Russell that had been tied up outside a fish and chip shop. It worked because, as usual, people felt sorry for the dog, even if they didn’t for Clarisse herself. But everyone did feel sorry for her when the dog turned on her and bit her on her bum. It was only when she began to hit the dog with a piece of wood, and when she told it to fuck off back to the chip shop, that the widespread sympathy of the onlookers began to evaporate.
The smell of burnt hair was still lingering in the air, and was now beginning to blend with the other ever-present odours of beer, stale tobacco, sweat and unwashed laundry. It made for a magical potpourri that might have been of real interest to the riot police as it may well have been a cheaper and more effective product than CS gas.
Clarisse and Brett had moved into a squat in Highbury, in north London, not far from the Arsenal’s home ground. They shared the large old Victorian terraced house with twelve others. Not that there was a lot to share. There was no power so there was no heat, light or hot water. Worst of all, there was no television. Now it is often said that television has killed the art of conversation, ergo this art should therefore flourish in an environment free of the negative influence of such a medium. It certainly proved to be the case here. There were many lively and well-informed discussions about topical subjects, especially if the participants had just come in from the pub. And as a number of them subscribed to the theory that one good punch is worth a thousand words of reasoned argument there were also many fights. The police as well as the ambulance service were regular callers.
Brett and Clarisse might have had their sight set low but it didn’t mean to say that they were devoid of all ambition. There was a regular weekly wage coming in so they could think about their plans for future. It was Clarisse who spoke first.
“Why don’t we move up-market? There are some nice empty houses in Islington. We can squat there, can’t we? And it would be nearer to where I work.”
“Work? It’s not fuckin’ work Clarrie is it? Sittin’ on your arse all day holdin’ a dog is not what I call work. You want to spend a day at the abba.”
“Excuse me, sittin’ on me arse, when that soddin’ dog took a chunk out of it is bloody painful.” She got up from the settee and pointed to the scar, still clearly visible on her left buttock. She began to get dressed. “Anyway I fancy, ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ It’s fate when you think about it, because it was a Yank that gave me the ten quid yesterday. I’m gonna put it all on it.”
It was a Saturday morning. Brett didn’t have to go to work but Clarisse did. Saturday was always one of the best days for her. Some of the shoppers in Oxford Street would feel guilty about having so much money to spend and in order to assuage their consciences would often be more generous to beggars than they would have been otherwise. Not all of course, and Clarisse had let a goodly number know that she was singularly unimpressed with their largesse. Oddly enough, calling them ‘tight fuckers’ and threatening to set her dog on them, proved to be somewhat counterproductive.
“I’ve got to go to work so it’s your turn to fix breakfast,” she said.
“OK,” he replied and reached round behind the settee. He pulled out two lagers and offered her one. Taking his duties seriously he hooked his finger in the ring pull and opened it for her.
“Thanks, Brett. I think the first lager of the day is always the best one, don’t you? Got a fag for me, please?” (Now I don’t want you Americans getting the wrong idea here. Fag means a cigarette to us Brits. Why you had to misappropriate the name ‘fag’ is beyond me. It is just the same with the boot of a car. You call it the trunk. What was wrong with boot? I suppose it is because of Boot Hill. But you didn’t need to call it Boot Hill. You could so easily have called it Dodge City Municipal Cemetery and Garden of Remembrance. And you must admit that it does have a certain ring to it. I can just hear Wyatt Earp saying, “You two coyotes had better get outta town or you’ll wind up in the Dodge City Municipal Cemetery and Garden of Remembrance.”)
She lit up and inhaled deeply, before blowing two perfectly formed smoke rings. She flicked her ash on the carpet, or she would have done but the carpet was covered by a profusion of empty lager cans, and cigarette packets. There were also the ubiquitous MacDonald carrier bags but some of these were not completely empty. Half eaten burgers were in various stages of decomposition and a microbiologist would have been in seventh heaven.
Brett was the one who was responsible for the housework and he always did it on Saturday mornings irrespective of how late he’d got to bed the night before, or how he felt. For him it was a matter of personal pride. OK, so he lived in a squat, but that did not mean the conventional standards of cleanliness and hygiene need not apply. Housekeeping didn’t take that long to do, anyway, because he was, by now, able to lob rubbish out of the window from any position in the room.
Clarisse finished her fag, (sorry cigarette) and was now ready to leave for ‘work’. Some of the more fastidious readers might wonder why she hadn’t washed. Think about it. How can you be a beggar and look as if you are staying at a Holiday Inn? And if you have been paying attention, you will remember there was no hot water in the house. Anyway, she was rather slovenly by nature so what makes you think she would have washed in the first place?
And what, I hear you ask, about the £10 note, shortly to be presented to the betting shop? Well that was stuffed down her knickers, where it was safe, very safe indeed. There was, nevertheless, a minimal risk. It was theoretically possible that she could encounter a mugger with no sense of smell whatsoever.
This is the first part of a story that is planned for issue in 1,768 parts. I would have liked to have issued Part 2 free with Part 1 but unfortunately Part 2 is not yet written. Neither, for that matter, are the other 1766 parts. However, suitably fulsome feedback, especially if accompanied by money, might encourage me to write Part 2 at least.