by Martin James Hunter
I wake in the morning to a river of passing children. There must be a primary school nearby. I feel like a pervert. Then a little girl crashes into my bush in full view. She’s about eight years old. She leaves quicker than she came in.
For a horrifying moment I think she is going to rat me out and send a whole horde of frothing parents in after me. Thankfully though she doesn’t say a word. I wait for the streets to clear then roll up my sleeping bag.
The library is open until seven today. It’s boiling outside so there are only a handful of chalk white students working. I stuff my bedding underneath a desk then clutter it with textbooks then leave. I cross the road towards a Tesco.
Sweaty queues curl around aisles. People desperate for a drink. Noticing the lack of security I pocket a sandwich and exit thinking I shouldn’t have done that. Then begins a habit.
The park now looks as though there has abruptly sprung a festival. Bacterial pools of students growing progressively drunk. Frisbees in the air like science fiction traffic. A geriatric turning to leather as he sleeps.
On a wander I discover a public toilet I haven’t been in before. I go inside and pause for a moment. The place smells pleasant, not like the others. There are no cocks drawn anywhere. I immediately feel out of place in this high-end environment.
I go to the sink and pump some soap into my hands. The water from the tap is warm. I hurriedly wash my chest and armpits before anyone comes in.
Cover of Night
The sun is gone and cold rows of streetlights assume its responsibilities. Bright shopfronts too. A police cruiser approaches with the road to itself. I catch the eye of an officer and for a second go rigid.
Further west I take a seat under the window of an empty store. Its windows white with coiled brushstrokes. Inside, dusty tables and chairs and a clock. It is just after eleven.
At first I’m embarrassed but then it gets cold enough for me to wrap myself in my blanket. All of a sudden I feel more comfortable. Begging doesn’t seem so bad.
I listen to those who pass because it’s all there is to do. A couple clearly in love go by and it makes me a bit sad.
People are always throwing cigarettes away. I smoke a few but then the practice gets too disgusting to continue. So I use the tobacco out of them to make grim roll ups.
I am daydreaming when the girl throws me a coin so I end up getting a fright as it lands in my cup with a crash. She smiles leaving me speechless. I watch her disappear. Beautiful. I look in the cup. A pound. Even more beautiful. A strange euphoria moves up my chest and suddenly I understand begging.
Minutes later a drunk girl goes by trying to start up a chat. I am caught off guard so end up rambling back like a madman. She gives me fifty pence anyway and another smile. The euphoria returns but not like before. Your first coin is like your first pill.
Next I have an interesting encounter with another beggar.