An extremely long posting today. The prologue from my first manuscript. Got to make my voice heard so to speak
One of the first warmer spring days in London was nearing its end and a drizzle of rain had started to fall. Outside the Europa food and wine shop at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Tottenham Court Road sat a homeless man on a piece of cardboard. He was one of many in the lost tribe that none of the other inhabitants in this great capital would ever acknowledge. The man sat with his legs crossed close to his body. He was dressed in dark trousers, a sweater with a print of Mickey Mouse on the chest, a pair of relatively new sneakers that had been given to him by one of the staff at a nearby shelter and a pair of gloves with the fingers cut off. Beside him, lay a wool winter coat, which original colour was hard, if not nearly impossible to determine and a knitted grey hat.
He had been sitting outside the shop the greater parts of the day repeating the same sentence, "spare some change please", to the stream of people that passed him by. It was like a mantra that he needed to say to keep alive. His mouth had got drier through the day and now at seven o'clock in the evening when the neon signs and the street lights had replaced the sun his tongue felt like a piece of carpet. His speech was slurring and all he could show for his efforts was the meagre sum of three pounds and fifteen pence. It had been a particularly slow day, most people either ignoring him or considering him to be a great nuisance. A boil on their otherwise well planned and busy lives. Some people feared him. Others got really annoyed and wondered why he could not get off his sorry ass, get a job and behave like a law-abiding citizen like the rest of them. A few, a very few felt a twinge of pity for the man and it was they who threw him a few coins in an act to soothe their consciousness. It enabled them to pat themselves on the back, considering that they had done something to better the world.
One of these people was Salim Hadday, the pot-bellied manager of the Europa food and wine shop. Salim thought that the homeless man did no harm and sometimes he gave him a sandwich or some other piece of food that had passed its expiry date. He thought that this was more sensible than throwing it in the garbage bin. Djamila, one member of the staff, was of an entirely different opinion than her boss and every time Salim Hadday wasn't in the shop she swiftly took the opportunity to get rid of the man sitting outside HER door. She thought he was bad for business and nothing but a bacteria-infested lump of flesh. This evening the manager was away so Djamila went to the sliding doors and said with a voice filled with venom;
"Shift your ass, Badger, and crawl back to the rat hole that you came from!"
Badger. That was his name, at least his street name since no one knew what his Christian name was. Badger moved since he had neither the will nor the strength to argue. He knew it was easier to just disappear and let Djamila feel victorious. Badger did not look at her but he could imagine the snigger on her face.
He put the cardboard piece under his arm and shuffled his feet in the direction of Tottenham Court tube station. He put the cardboard in the shopping trolley he had taken from Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street. He had found it abandoned on the back street of the shop. It was now filled to the brim with things that made up the parts of the man's life. Things he had found in his rummages through various garbage bins around London and which had earned him the name Badger. Mingled with his clothes and the few other necessities were things like a broken radio and an alarm clock that had seen better days. Useless to other people perhaps but they gave some pleasure to the badger. He moved past the musical theatre and hardly registered the people that bathed in the light of the many lamps and who excitedly waited for the show of Beauty and the Beast to begin. Badger took a left at the tube station and walked down New Oxford Street. He gave a little wave to Anna or Grey as she was better known. She was sitting on the other side of the street a few feet from the comic book and sci-fi shop, Forbidden Planet. She had been sitting there for as long as anyone could remember. She had been there when Badger had to make the streets his home. Now as then with a cigarette constantly glued between her fingers. Badger had sometimes wondered how she managed to always have cigarettes but he couldn't imagine her without one. It fitted with her image because all of her was grey. The clothes, the grey hair that was cut in a crew cut, even her hands and face were of a sickly grey colour, probably due to her excessive smoking. All the greyness made her blend into the concrete wall that she was leaning against. They had never spoken to each other, only acknowledged each other as belonging to the outcasts.
Homeless people may look similar to an onlooker and their lives may share the same characteristics, but the reasons why they ended up on the streets differ from one person to the next. These were the thoughts that ran through the Badger's mind when he looked at Grey and he drifted back to the memories of the man he had once been. Now he was only the Badger but long ago he had been known as Peter Turner, and he had had a good life. A small thriving business in Birmingham that produced rubber tires, a nice house, a beautiful wife and two children, a boy and a girl that had been the light of his life. His little world of perfection reached critical mass when his wife, Anna, found out that he was cheating on her with Veronica Bennett, the head of her favourite charity cause. Anna had filed for a divorce so fast that his head had been spinning and she had gutted him like a fish, taking the children and every single penny that she was entitled to. Some people would assume that Peter got into financial troubles, became an alcoholic and ultimately ended up on the street but Peter did not fit into one of the clichés held about homeless persons. His business was never in any real trouble. Peter had even stashed away money that Anna had no knowledge off. He had not drowned himself in a bottle and Veronica had actually wanted to live with him and take over after Anna. Peter just did not have the will to do something constructive about his life. He did not care about anything and what had led him to this road was the hate that he could see in his children's eyes. He had destroyed their lives and that was something that he could not forgive himself for. Peter moved to London and rented a room near Edgware Road tube station, where he shared a bathroom with eight other people. He just wandered the streets of London, went to the National Gallery or took a stroll through Regent's Park. The sum of money he had soon diminished but he had no plans of acquiring some more. Little by little he had joined the large number of people who had no home and whose only place of being was the endless streets of London. Peter had kept on wandering through the city for fifteen years and ultimately Peter did not exist anymore.
There was only the Badger. He was now fifty years old but a harsh life of starvation and cold, damp nights made him look more like seventy. Badger turned and headed in the direction of Covent Garden. He usually tried to find a doorway or an alley that was at least somewhat dry near the square that daytime was filled with tourists and various people performing acrobatics and playing music. But first he wanted to get himself a cup of tea and if he was lucky he had enough to purchase a sandwich. Most of the tourists had left the area to sit in a cosy restaurant or visit one of the endless Theatre- and musical shows that London could provide. The night clubbers that slowly emerged like butterflies had replaced them, leaving their cocoons, colourful and vibrant. Stepping into the pubs like Punch and Judy for a pint or two before going to the club that was considered to be the "right" one at the moment, and dance their butts off in the flashing neon lights. Badger always amused himself by watching them in their outrages club gear and intricate hairstyles. He was amazed by how much they seemed to be in love with life and how their joy made them shine like stars that had stepped down from the heavens. He also saw the shadow of ecstasy and other drugs that lurked behind them and which sucked them in and then spat them out wasted and disillusioned. Among the stars were black holes, whose only purpose in life was to get another fix that could carry them into the next day. Badger was thankful that he wasn't in his youth anymore. Being young seemed to be so hard these days. As he stepped into the sandwich shop, two girls walked past him. One of them all dressed in black rubber, her hair dyed black and arranged in spikes that stuck out from her head in all directions. She had a lot of makeup, tons of black eye shadow, which made her look a bit like a racoon. The other girl with her curled blond hair and her red satin dress made her look like Cinderella's fairy godmother, which was emphasised by the fact that she was carrying a big glittering wand in one hand. She circled it over Badger's head and said with a big smile: "Sweet dreams".
Badger smiled back at her and he was still smiling when he came back out of the shop with a tuna fish sandwich and tea in a Styrofoam cup. He relished the warmth from the cup that heated his old, aching fingers. He hated the cold and he had never been able to get used to it during all the years. He dragged his shopping cart into an abandoned street, the wheels squeaking a little so he made a mental note that he should try to get a bit of cooking grease from one of the coffee shops that he would pass by on his wanderings in the morning. He stopped by a garbage bin to see if he could find something that could be of use. Badger could not go by a bin without looking into it. He was drawn to them like a nail to a magnet. He noticed something quite far down that was made of a colourful plastic. It could be a discarded toy. Badger reached down deep and was very much occupied with his task. That was probably why he did not notice the swift movement in the air made by the figure narrowing in on him. Badger was taken by total surprise when a steal wire was put around his neck and pulled him back in a quick motion, the wire digging in deep into his flesh making the blood flow down, colouring his dirty clothes red. The pain was beyond words and it almost froze his heart. He was waving his arms, clawing at the hands that held him. His attacker pulled the wire back and forth so it dug in deeper. Badger cursed that the years as homeless had weakened his body that he could not fight back with the strength he thought he should have had. He saw the faces of his children flash before his eyes as death enveloped him. The last thing that went through his mind was, why?
In the early hours the morning after a postman by the name of Dean Richards was going on his bike from his home on Worfield Street in Battersea to his work at the post office in Kensington. He passed by the South Kensington tube station and then he could see the great building, The Natural History Museum, ahead of him. When Dean came closer he could see that something had been put on the right corner peg of the front fence surrounding the museum. His curiosity was awakened but he could not distinguish what it was until he came closer. It was the head of Badger that stared down on him with empty eye sockets. Dean Richards leaned over his bicycle and threw up, ruining his newly pressed trousers.
This is the prologue from my first manuscript that is collecting dust at the moment. I would actually like your opinions about it.