We are in the lull between meals, listening to the shrieks of the Monopoly game, and mulling over which film to watch. I sneaked away, thinking I’d just have time to do Sacha Black’s 120 second story challenge. Some hope. After two seconds I’m still staring at the clock and working out where the big hand will be in two seconds time. So I wrote this instead. It took about twenty minutes, if anyone’s interested.
That’s how they operate, bailiffs. They come with the police and a locksmith so you can’t keep them out. Your door swings open and a guy in a suit barges in with his clipboard and his writs, and the coppers stand either side so you can’t put your fist in his face. And the little bloke in the blue overalls packs up his tools and peers over their shoulders. His hard, beady eyes squint at you as if you’re something in a zoo. Then, as soon as he’s squared things about getting paid with the bailiff he’s off to his nice cozy place in the suburbs with a drive and a garage, and a bomb proof front door, and a wife and kids.
The bailiff goes round and notes down all the stuff he’s keeping back to put towards paying the arrears. The good stuff. The rest, most of it, his boys dump outside on the pavement. All I can do is watch. My fists clench and unclench, and I wonder if prison for assault would be worse than the street. But you get a record then, no hope of ever finding a job with a record. And there’s Jessie.
I stand outside, not watching, not feeling anything. The apartment’s a squalid place. I won’t shed any tears over it. But it kept the rain off and even without any heating it was warmer than outside. I had already put the important papers in a bag, with the photos of Mam and Dad, the kids when they were little. I tell myself the rest doesn’t matter. The things the bailiff wants, the TV, the stereo, they’re worth nothing. Not really.
He’s leaving with his little list. His boys are boarding up the apartment door. On the pavement, the breeze lifts the corner of a sheet, paper rustles, poverty stares at me from a dozen cardboard boxes. The neighbour from the floor above comes out, looks away when he sees all my bits and pieces lying there, spread out, like the innards of a butchered pig. He was about to light a fag but he catches sight of me and changes his mind. He’s off before I can touch him for the price of breakfast. Jessie whimpers and nudges my hand with her nose. I try to smile at her, but she knows, and licks my hand to cheer me up.
“Come on, old lass,” I say. “It’s finished here. This is the past now.”
Jessie pricks her ears and wags her tail uncertainly.
“Let’s go find us a future.”
I don’t know what Jessie says, but it sounds as though she’s up for it.