Chapter 53: The Soldier
One of the Snowdrops looked down at the money given to him. He had not been begging. He did not beg, he just could not find a place in one of the homeless shelters. It was a mild night and his shop door alcove was one of the better places he had slept recently. His kids kept him going. At least he would see them tomorrow. At least they had a roof over their head and their mum was looking after them, the best she could.
He had been on the streets for 6 months, since their landlord had decided to sell up and keep their deposit. The Council had moved his girlfriend and his children into a hostel. It was one room but at least they had something and Jeanette could get to work and the kids could get to school. He was not permitted to stay at the hostel.
They just had to wait until they moved up the list. He had been keeping clothes at his work and showering there. He sometimes slept under his desk, but he had to be careful because of the cleaner. His military training meant he was good a roughing it. He had not turned to drink or drugs yet but it was tempting. He had to remember his kids. It was like being deployed, it would not be forever. Well, that is what he kept telling Jeanette. He hated to see the tears in her eyes when he came to the visitor’s room of the hostel. The love of his life was fracturing in front of him and he was helpless.
He thought he would treat himself to some fried chicken. He could see his alcove from the shop. He laughed to himself how ironic life was. If you don’t have a home, everything becomes more expensive. Food becomes more expensive when you do not have a kitchen and beds are expensive when they are rented by the night.
As he got up, an extremely drunk tweed encrusted man accosted him, “Could you help me? I will give you money.”
“It’s alright mate, what’s the matter? Lost?”
“No, no,” chuckled the man to himself. “I found the place, I was looking for just fine. No, the problem, you see, is the bars don’t seem to want to serve me or let me in.”
The drunkard lent heavily against the alcove, rooted around in his heavy over coat and pulled out an expensive ostrich leather wallet. He started fishing in it, finally pulling out a £50.00 note. The drunk waved it expansively at him, “If you get me some vodka, you can keep this.”
He thought this man had more than enough vodka, but 50 quid could get him quite a nice room for the night. “Alright,” he held out his hand. The drunk was not stupid and gave him £20.00. He went into the off license next to him and bought the vodka.
“Keep the change,” said the drunk happily. “And here is your reward.”
“Cheers,” he replied. Then he felt guilty for taking advantage. “Look mate can I find you a cab or something? You don’t look like you should be out here like this. “
“No, no I am fine,” slurred the man staggering along the pavement away from him towards the City. ” This is the greatest night of my life. I am free!”
“Poor fuck, he doesn’t know he is alive,” he thought as he gathered his sleeping bag into his rucksack.