On Skid Row

John was skinning up. It was his bag. The others listened to music or were just chilled out on the bed, on the sofa or on the floor.

Signing on books littered the table. it was Tuesday morning and today they all signed on at 11:00. Time for a quick smoke first.

Johns girlfriend was at the back of the flat in the kitchen. As usual she stayed pretty much silent. On the television, a man in a blue jumpsuit was dong acrobatics while a young girl sang songs.

In the room was a collection of men or individuals aged between 18 and 38. They all wore similar clothes with brands tagged on the side front rear or all three. And they all wore trainers. All but one had a crew cut.

In the newspapers, these people had a name ‘detritus’ They were clogging up the streets, pubs, benefits systems, towns and villages where they lived with their low morals, high expectations and high volume illegal activities that had a disproportionate drain on police and social services resources.

Sociologists keywords tables flashed into overdrive in this room. Politicians would use them as an example of something tragic. Mothers would direct their children in another direction and god fearing folk would be curious as to how they made ends meet, raised their families, socialised. This was their power and they knew how to use it.

The spliff got lit and cool blue smoke floated towards the ceiling where it would eventually spread outwards until it reached the sides of the room where it would attach itself to the window in a thin film.

The fact they all got together every fortnight was mainly economic. They could outnumber the bus driver and sneak past him on the bus if there were enough of them. They could cash their giros together then pool their funds for drug buying and tobacco buying. Or they could buy a large jug in the pub of seven pints of lager for the price of three.

The other reason was sex. Johns girlfriend would put out for all them after a spliff and a drink. When they got back later that afternoon. She would be ready with a jar of vaseline at hand.

‘Right then Andy that’s enough, pass it on’ said John not unkindly.

‘That’s good weed John,’ crept Andy straight back.

A smirk appeared on a few faces.

Julie entered the room. Eyes looked down. Her pink tracksuit was stained and burned and the mascara around her eyes was smudged.

‘Hello’ she said.

‘ I know you are coming back later,’ she said smirking that winning grin of hers and raising a cheer from one or two of the crowd at the back.

She paused.

Outside was the sound of car doors being slammed and the heavy sound of footsteps echoed off the concrete walls .

Julie reached behind her just as the front door was kicked down and produced a warrant card.

The room was suddenly full of police officers dressed in black.

‘Julie said ‘Your all under arrest for the following benefit fraud, illegal gathering, handling stolen goods, aiding and abetting a known criminal. She continued for five minutes until one of the men in the room shouted ‘BITCH!’ grabbed a bottle and launched himself at Julie, real name Esmerelda John Little.

To Be Continued…

 

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