Saturday, July 3, 2010

milton on drowning | waving one's hands in the air



The breeze comes at a price.


Each time we step out, tiny flecks of paint and metal are sucked up from the demolition site. Whipping against exposed flesh. Not quite drawing blood, but leaving face and neck scored. Livid.

"Fuck off." I spit.

Dragging my son to one side as a tin of coke two thirds full is lobbed from a fifteenth storey window. Erupting on the grass. Embedded like a shell.

It happens all the time. Minute acts of random disorder. We tiptoe through them half asleep, it is a wonder we have have not been killed or maimed. And there is not much wood left to touch. Concrete and glass. Rude steel girders.

Seals and Croft were cocaine dandies. Listless infatuists. Like Milton eulogising drowning, the gentrified swine.

And you can't leave your own windows open anymore. The debris flies in and coats every surface. Upending dog-ends in the ashtray on the sill.

It is Baghdad. After the war.

Well, not quite. Closer.

Two evenings ago, my stepson goes down to the shop on the corner to buy some soft drinks. We send them out as a pair, but one absconds by bicycle. Presently, the intercom screams. It is clear he is distressed.

He falls through the door clutching three bashed cans. Cherry Cola. The plastic bag shredded; carried off on the wind.

"What's wrong ?" we ask. "What happened to make you so upset ?"

I take the tins and set them down in the kitchen. One sizzling its stream of syrup into the sink.

"I fell and banged my head," he says. Taking off his glasses and checking for damage. Big round tears rolling down each cheek. "The bag was cheap! I had to carry all four cans... One of them spilt all over me."

We tease it of him.

It seems he tripped on the kerb. Falling headlong. Glasses flying.

A man hurries over to see if he is alright. At least that is how he sees it.

The man - balding, stinking of whisky - stretching out one hand. Gathering up the loose change tumbling out of my stepson's pockets. Rolling on a nudge.

Making off with it.

Agile as a crab.


"Jackpot!" I snap. "Which way did he go ?"

It is a pointless gesture. Each and every evening there is a steady line of men and women coming and going between here and those two or three off-licences on various corners. Many of them balding. Reeking of alcohol.

My stepson is not inclined to venture back out to identify anybody. We pour him a bath. His sister comes back in shortly. We lock her bike in the drying area we share with two other families.

If it is not nailed down somebody will claim it.


photograph by ken heyman, USA.

5 comments:

LöstJimmy said...

Glad your s.son is ok for his falling experience.

The same crablike theives, all ages, reside in this neighbourhood, earliest I've been tapped for some change was 7.30am when I was making for work. As for items going astray, they'll take anything, I've had 3 wheelie bins stolen, what do they do with them I wonder?
Somewhere there is a thriving black market in bins, like luxury cars I suspect they are stolen to order...

ib said...

Yes, he's fine, thanks, LöstJimmy. His sense of fair play is mildly bruised, is all.

As for the incessant attempts at tapping. It is brazen.

One especially foul morning I'd just stepped of the bus on an errand.

"Lend us a fag, mate ?" came the voice. Head to toe in designer crap. Topped off with £90 Nikes.

"No," I said. I walked past the bus stop and promptly lit up.

"Ho!" it came again. "I thought you said you had none ?"

"No," I said again. "I've got the better part of a twenty deck in my pocket, and you're not getting fucking one of them."

I was feeling lucky. The bastard was on crutches.

LöstJimmy said...

Hoho, lucky for the crutches, "designer crap" now that sums it up...

round here some ask for money with menaces team handed I always decline but at the same time the word comes out of my mouth a flash of fear of retribution crosses my mind. To date there has been none. As for tapping by veteran drunks, sometimes I will give some. I feel obliged at times. Often the salute in response is I'll pay you back, but of course the reimbursement never comes.

ib said...

Yes. The 'tap' rats often hunt in packs. It's best to avoid open confrontation when or if possible.

As for veterans. Round here anybody over thirty assumes that status. The real old timers would never ask for a penny. The very same sort of arsehole who 'taxed' my stepson - on the other hand - can be found every night outside our local Spar draining can after can and accosting women, children and pensioners for anything between 50p and £1. And since I know for a fact they are neither homeless, I have no time for the bastards.

ib said...

In the event that might seem too harsh, and in the sniping trail of our journey back from the hospital this afternoon - the attempt to waylay us in a carpark - I have modified my typical response.

"Why, yes! Pull up a chair and avail yourself of a glass of claret !

I recommend the oysters..."