Author Topic: A Fair Day (Part 1)  (Read 111 times)

Offline NothingName3

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
A Fair Day (Part 1)
« on: September 11, 2018, 07:50:44 AM »
“Alright lads, you know what to do, make the rounds from Newham Way and Rainham, to the arches by Woodford Bridge—and don't forget old Carl by the arches; on riverside. Thompson, you see to old Carl, he likes you, a good christian boy— you bring your bible? Good, nice touch. And, Danny, three-pound for each puke; I know you a got a thing for that young Slovak girl, no special treatment for chissake; more for one is less for another, and I don't need any loose ends—You all know the routes; drive them in, towards the tramways if you can. Danny you're switched with Taylor this week. What?—Yes—A bereavement. His sister, or something...” 
    Orders barked by superintendent Smith, above the jingling, exchanging, emptying and assessing of loose bags of change of all denominations. Some, finding their pockets too burdensome, exchanged their coins of lesser value, for 50 pence, one-pound, and two-pound coins. Whilst those attired in heavy equipage—trench coats; baggy tight-fitting trousers, Burberry wool duffle coats, e&c— submitted themselves, like pack mules to a heavier load, compelled by an unspoken social contract. Gruff faces. Unblinking eyes, avoiding contact. Magpie fingers, deftly swooping upon a stack of coins; or else, by grunting, and crude signaling; trading, exchanging, and then departing from the dank, subterranean storehouse.

        London, January, 2020. It was Larry Parson's first day on the job. Before his arrival, he was given only two instructions: ask no questions; memorize your route. It was one of London's poorer, East-end, districts: Barking-and-Dagenham. Brown, faceless, brutalist buildings carved out the skyline. It was impossible to discern a prison, from a warehouse; a shopping complex from a low-rise block of flats. The weather was equally grim. 
   He walked toward Canning Town, his first port-of-call, the heaps of coins in his pockets rang out like sleigh-bells, he stopped for a moment to more equally distribute his load. He remembered superintendent Smith's orders: approach any beggar you see; befriend them; tell them, if you see them again, you would gladly help. But this is not your usual route. It's usually in a place, somewhere between, to and from work. Someplace towards the city-center—Set a place. Hand over 3-pound. Smile. Befriend. Repeat tomorrow. Simple.
   It wasn't long before Larry arrived that saw his first target, a middle-aged woman, wrapped in a  dirty purple bubble coat, seated cross-legged, by an ATM machine; her blond, uncombed hair falling moppishly over a McDonald's cup; as her her eyes fixed imploringly to the line of patrons. In the words of Smith, she was a genuine puke.
   Larry took a moment to steel his nerves, to survey the situation. Finally, he took an orderly queue a the back of the line; 3 minutes later, he withdrew 10-pound from his Barclaycard Black account; credit limit, £100,000.
   “What a lovely dog, is that a Burmese mix?” inquired Larry, fixing a smile, both affectionate and charmed.
   “Aye, she's an half-breed, like me, I'm 'alf-Greek. She's called, Mindy, 'ad her since, well, ages; love her, don't I? You old bitch!” She scuffed the neck of her dog affectionately, loving rapture shone out through broken teeth.
   “I had a Burmese once, lovely dogs! He walked off a cliff. Yes. I know, god! I loved old Bassoon. Thing is, a lot of people believe they're good on all terrains, on the fact of them being rescue dogs; but they have a lot of blind-spots, they can lose their orientation quiet easily.”
   “I'm sorry to hear that. Won't fear that for Mindy, 'round here,” she laughed. 
    “Look, here's 3-pound,” Larry dropped his payload, “I would give you more, gladly. Only I'm in a bit of a bind today, you see? I work at Linton's, the fabric place in town. If you're ever down Longbridge Road, you know, near the city-center; I'm sure, I could see you everyday, and help out a little, you know?” 
   “God bless you, sir.” Said the beggar woman, beaming “Where's that, Longbridge Road? Oh, aye, a' know the place.”
   “Yes, just catch me at 8.30 in the morning, or 5 after work. My name's, Carl”
   “Alright, Carl. I'm Roxanne. Appreciate that. Aye, made m' day that has. Thank you, sir!”
   “No problem—you take care now,” Larry waved, good-naturally, and walked off towards East Ham, whistling. 

   Suddenly, a nauseous feeling, stopped him dead in his tracks. Had he, Larry Parson, been duped into charitable work? Something so execrable and alien to his class and nature?
   He recalled how, Sam Bridges, his associate, assured him everything would be explained in due time; that the secrecy was all part of the game. 
   Larry, before retirement, had worked as a sleuth, and private investigator for rich clients—suspicious spouses; pinch-fisted husbands with cheating wives and large divorce settlements; relatives, gaming for any advantage in inheritance disputes. Well paid, and good clean, honest, dirty work. Sam Bridges, couldn't refrain from chuckling down the phone, when he called, and said: “Look, Larry. I got this quirky job for you, it doesn't pay too good. But I know you're not easing into retirement too good, either—you're bored. You got a mind for figuring stuff out. Try to get to the bottom of it. I'll give you two days—hell, I'll give you a week!” 

   He pressed on, determined to divine the secret of his strange occupation in the time for his rendezvous with the others. He scouted a old beggar, on the step of a monastery, his sleeping bag packed neatly besides him, a polystyrene cup at his feet. He cross the road to accost him.
   “Hello.” He said, warmly, by way of introduction.
   The beggar dropped his eyes from his book, and looked up to Larry, squinting, Hello," he replied in kind. Curt. A little suspicious, as if unused to being approached so directly.  
   “What are you reading?” Larry asked.
    “Oh, this, it's The Marble Faun.... Nathaniel Hawthone. Someone gave it to me.”
   “Any good?”
   “Not really,” he laughed, “I'm more of a Jack London, man”
    “Here's 3-pound, maybe you can find a copy of White Fang somewhere, eh? I like a man who reads; I don't usually come this way, I work at Linton's, you know the fabric place in town; if I see you again—”
   “Oh, you're one of them...” said the old man, brusquely; he returned to his book, disinterested. 

       Here's something! Larry thought. He decided to press the beggar further. “I'm sorry—what do you mean, one of them?”
      “Well, you know, every now and then, someone dressed very smart, like yourself, comes along, and says: “Here's 3-pounds, I don't usually, come this place,” only one time, I saw the same fella three times here, on this same road. Second time, he made made his excuses, and gave me another 3-pound. And the third time, he looked at me all sheepish, and walked off over that way; and then a few days later, different fella said the same, and now you're here.”
   
      He eyed Larry, as he ran his hand through his beard, reflecting.
      A moment passed in silence.
      
   “Say, do you fellas work for the council? You running off some kind of script? I know they want us in them hostels, and off the street, and the centre is a good place to round us up. I'm too old, and my legs an' any good. Those spots in city-centre are real... contested; it's a young man's game, being pull from pillar to post; in the system, not knowing where you gonna be next. I'm fine here, so tell your council friends, it's not gonna work on me."
        “Alright,” said Larry, throwing his hands up, laughing. “You got me. I'll let them know. Don't mind anyone else who comes by—we're just trying to help.”
   
   The old man was probably onto something. 

   One thing was certain—they were being corralled towards the busy, city-centre. Only they weren't being rounded up, or otherwise, helped in anyway. As later that day, after mixed success in winning the trust of beggars, throughout the outskirts of Dagenham; Larry passed, at last, through the city-centre, towards his rendezvous.

   The sight was so pitiful and wretched, it threatened to punch through his ego, to some compassionate spirit, long forgotten. Multitudes of beggars lined the high-street, on either side; sat, bedraggled, huddled, freezing beneath storefronts; or, panhandling along the busy, tram-stops, and along the shopping arcade. He could not fully digest the sight before him; much less forgive his own small role in its production; and he could find no sane reason for luring yet more beggars towards this bedlam of misery.
   
   He felt unusual, a feeling both indignant and repulsed, like a bag of worms, had bust through the lining of his stomach, threatening to devour him. He decided, to make towards the storeroom, at once, and to confront Smith head-on, and demand an explanation.
   Fortunately, he caught Smith as he was locking up the storehouse, likely on his way to meet his detestable retinue of false-Samaritans. 
   “Alright, Smith,” barked Larry, “What's going on, here? What game you pulling, eh? What kind of operation is this?”
   “Parson! Christ, you startled me!” cried Smith, tucking his keys into his waistband, making off hastily; not stopping for a moment, “Giving up already? Tsk.”
   “Come on, Smith, out with it!” Larry kept close behind, bunching up the small of Smith's coat, threatening to yank him off his feet, for Smith was only a short, wiry-frame, man.    
    As they turned into main-street, Smith stopped, suddenly and, turning to Larry said: “Look around you, Parson—what do you see? Shops, complexes, workers, buildings, tram-lines, train-lines; executives, middle-men; telephone wires, high-speed internet; cars, junk and more junk—a theater— props, Parson, nothing more. A set scene, on which we all play out our little roles-”
   “You want answers?  Sure, alright, I expected more from you,” he sighed, “Bridges, that sonovabitch—he'll pay for putting you on my arse. He said this is kind of thing would be right up your street. Say, weren't you P.I?”
   Larry yanked him down one knee, and drew back as if to strike him.  
   “Alright, alright, Christ!” pleaded Smith, rising to his feet and dusting himself off, “It's all labour discipline, that's all it is. We move from town-to-town, keeping the homeless afloat, just enough, and sort of shepherding them in towards the city. It makes a lot of money for my sponsors. They're much more valuable as a symbol, sort of like scarecrows.”
   Seeing that Larry had not quite grasped it, he re-collected, and tried again: “Imagine, you work for a big company, they're cutting staff; demanding long hours, and they pay well, shit, Parson, you know that. Well, imagine enroute to work, it's cold, miserable, and you ask yourself, Christ, why do I do it? Because the alternative is terrifying—that's why. It scares the shit of the workers, to see destitution, real destitution, “That could be me,” they think. 
   “Big people in high places, they need that—that symbol. They need it to live on as a real possibility. Sure, they go a long way in creating it themselves; but, our job is to make it open, manifest. We have spotters, that get 'em strung up on all kinds of synthetic junk, keep them on the open streets, hungry for their next fix. They're invaluable, Parson. Mobile symbols, at a rate of 3-pound a day—most are free! They'll never know what kind of profit they turn. It's beautiful. "
« Last Edit: September 18, 2018, 06:40:10 PM by NothingName3 »

Offline Mark T

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3882
    • View Profile
Re: A Fair Day (Part 1)
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 05:01:37 PM »
Thanks for posting, NN3. Are you looking for feedback or just readers?   

Offline NothingName3

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: A Fair Day (Part 1)
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 05:28:13 PM »
« Last Edit: September 18, 2018, 06:58:43 AM by NothingName3 »

Offline Mark T

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3882
    • View Profile
Re: A Fair Day (Part 1)
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2018, 01:58:15 AM »

It's good writing, even if unpolished. It didn't take long to engage my attention, and that's what counts, hm? Revision is a bitch isn't it?

Offline NothingName3

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: A Fair Day (Part 1)
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2018, 06:23:06 AM »
.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2018, 06:58:59 AM by NothingName3 »

Offline Mark T

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3882
    • View Profile
Re: A Fair Day (Part 1)
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2018, 04:49:52 PM »

Interesting. The socio-economic order in essence is dependent on constant growth. When growth slows, it's a calamity. Just like a Ponzi pyramid scheme.

I like the idea of the incognito glitterati. In his non-fiction book Most Secret War, RV Jones tells of some titled senior officer who in WW2 would go to his military office in London, get changed, and then spend the day as a beer drayman on a cart, feeling it was more useful to the war effort, and then change back and go home to his mansion and ladywife.