Dreaming of Mercy Street

09/09/2012 at 20:48 (Method Writing, Reviews, Writing, Writing Reality articles) (, , , , , )


The drunk waved his queenly wave at me, grinning through a chequered mouth while clutching the beer can tight in the other paw. His back was to the chipped tiles of the underpass that bore the legend “The Social Wheel is fucked.” His legs sprawled out before him, but he conscientiously drew them in for me as I strode past.

I moved fast because of the ragged cluster of men and women, some twenty to thirty year olds with precarious youth behind them and no future, all clutching the same black can with gold lettering. One man held a loose chain on a pit bull type dog. It ran its tongue out in the heat and panted. Two young women perched on one of the circular central benches of the underpass hub, and bawled to dog-guy that another canine was en route. Fair fuck’s warning, I think it’s called, as in, he probably couldn’t give a stuff about what might happen to said other canine – but he could do without a lawsuit.

But evidently, his own dog’s been trained or at least tormented in some kind of combative state. It had already caught a whiff of the oncoming dog and had proceeded to shift its snarls up a few gears.

I wandered, alternating fast and dawdling steps, between shuttered shop fronts and pathetic garden scraps full of garish, dying flowers. Tower block homes kept an eye on us all.

Lost expressions wandered with me, up and down the single aisle of the market-cum-bootsale; they waited for their bodies to catch up. Vacant eyes, gristled tongue of the drunk. Darting eyes of the youth with too much fat fake gold around his neck.

Peeling paintwork like chipped teeth, battered locks leading to stairways leading to over-shop flats leading to existence-lives. Sticker for a tenner-bouquet, stuck and unpeeling from a lamp post. I hope she got the message.

I should’ve got mine en route to town, when walking up the disused rail line and coming across a syringe-littered old platform. Sunlight licked off tiny silver dishes. Packs still lay unopened, their innocent labels telling the world not to use their fine needles more than once. Several someones had a high old time the night before, and still managed to forget their paraphenalia.

Old boys used older envelopes for their tight-scrawled penmanship, the simple shopping list of the widower. Trees stood lost in the town’s open spaces, lacy with dried leaves. Charity shops and sell-gold stores abound, Poundland is king while Jennys’ remains the greasy-spooned queen.

Out on the grass verge before the supermarket, a man lay on his side. No can in sight, no hope either. He wasn’t asleep and he wasn’t dead. He just lay. No one went to him. I was on the wrong side of the road. Traffic lurched and whirred past, lost as me.

The town’s laid out in an extensive conundrum, a defiance of common sense. No actual high street per se, and too many underpasses for criminals to dream of.

There are two types of people here. Those that live in and commute out of town, who shop busily in Asda and refuse to look at the beer cans and slumped bodies, who put glittery clips in their children’s shining hair…and those who Live this town, will never escape its legacy. It is in their blood, it is their heritage – an economy washed downstream by recessions and decline in local trade, laid to rest in poverty.

My heart ached the whole time I was there, though there are no personal ties; except for the shivery feeling of familiarity when faced with a spiralling descent. I cant help but come back, to wander and take notes. To report. I tie these people, their blank faces, their destructive stories, into my own weaving tale of fiction.

That’s about the sum of my contribution, for now.

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1 Comment

  1. drewchial said,

    Bravo. This piece is more of a photograph than a short story. A poetic snap shot of a place frozen in time. Several small events, likely pulled from several instances, laid out to illustrate the spirit of the place. You’re very good at establishing an atmosphere of unease and dread.

    This is a very haunting piece. Love it.

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