Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London.
In our current climate of increasing poverty, abuse in care homes, and problems accessing medical help, I was reminded of a story I wrote for a prompt in a writers’ group some years ago. So I dusted it off and edited it. I thought about submitting it to a zine I contribute to but it’s very sad and dark so I don’t think they’d like it. I don’t suppose you’ll ‘like‘ it, but I think it sums up some of the issues faced by today’s youth. Consider it my political rant of the week…
In the interests of readability the punctuation and spelling are not perfect for the narrator’s speech patterns, but should give a ‘flavour’. Non-Brit readers might have problems though. In order to present the dialect in some kind of sensible fashion I had to replace smart quotes with straight ones and that was quite a learning curve… If I’ve missed anything, let me know!
Johnny and Me, or Money can’t buy me love.
Warning. This is on a very dark theme with no HEA. 900 words
Us ‘angin’ round Piccadilly ain’t never bin much fun. Not when what yer really there for ain’t the company so much as the possible company if yer take me meanin’. Sometimes I pretend I’m on one of them slave blocks in the olden days – Romans or somefin’ – couldn’ a bin much worse, could it? An’ the buyers. Jeez! Talk about the dirty mac brigade. Still, they pay well, and if yer lucky it’s down the nearest alley, a quick suck or fuck, an’ money in yer pocket. Course, if yer ain’t lucky, it could be a knife, but us lot try not to fink about that, cos we’re trying to make a livin’ ‘ere, see? An’ it doesn’ do to get too scared or depressed about it, like. Puts the punters off if yer ain’t mostly smilin’.
Johnny an’ me run off togevver from the ‘ome, didn’ we? Bin ‘ere ever since. Not much fun, like I said, but plenty of punters. Good at avoidin’ the Social – can smell ’em a mile off. An’ arter wot ol’ ‘ammond did, well, we wasn’ going back not nohow. If I gotta get fucked by a creepy old man I’d sooner be paid for it, wouldn’ I? Offerin’ special privileges don’ really cut it, know what I mean? Johnny thought the same. We usually thought the same – ever since we was nippers an’ new to the ‘ome at the same time. Course, since I turned sixteen they probly couldn’ take me back anyroad, but no sense courtin’ trouble; it finds yer soon enough as they say. An’ Johnny was a year younger than me anyway so still at risk.
We did start to make a livin’, I supppose. Enough to doss down in this squat one of the uvvers found, an’ get enough to eat to get by. Though Johnny got awful thin lately and kept ever’body awake with ‘is coughin’, nights. Wanted to ‘old ‘im and make it better, didn’ I? Or mebbe keep ‘im warm. Okay, just warm, right? Though I’d’ve liked … But when I tried ‘e said ‘e couldn’ breave and ‘e didn’ like bein’ ‘eld – reminded ‘im of the guys in the alleyways, some’ow. So I just listened an’ wished.
Last Saturday I tried to kiss ‘im; just ‘cos I really, really care, yer know? An’ even too thin, well, ‘e were always sort of gorgeous an’ I always got well ‘ard when we touched, even by accident. But ‘e turned ‘is ‘ead away and wiped ‘is mouth.
One day …. Dreams… Always did get in trouble for daydreamin’, specially at school.
But I wished I could make enough to take ‘im on ‘oliday somewhere, fer a real rest. Somewhere nice, wiv clean sheets an coffee any time wivout ‘avin’ to count ‘ow much change yer got. Only there was never enough to be worth savin’, an if there ‘ad of bin it’d all ‘ave ‘ad to go on drugs an’ such. I don’ mean drugs like drugs. That ain’t never bin me scene, nor Johnny’s neiver. I mean cough medicine an’ maybe tissues or them sweets wiv runny stuff in the middle. Only I ‘ated it that ‘e ‘ad to wipe ‘is nose an’ mouth on ‘is sleeve. An’ I wished I could buy ‘im somefin’ nice to wear, nothin’ fancy, just… nice. Maybe one of them warm sweaters off the market.
Then one night there was this feller an’ ‘e goes can ‘e take me back to ‘is hotel for the whole night. The whole night! If ‘e’d said ‘is place, I might’ve thought twice. But a hotel. Seemed safe. An’ it was; ‘e only ‘urt me a little bit, just by bein’ impatient an’ wantin’ it often an’ kind of twistin’ me arms, like. I didn’ care much; I knew ‘e’d pay well ‘an if I was good ‘e might be back fer more.
So I walked out wiv me ‘ead in the clouds an’ me pockets full of money. Not just money, eiver; I ‘ad them little packets of coffee an’ sugar yer get in hotel rooms. Johnny were going to be so freakin’ pleased! We could go away fer a couple of days. For real! I looked in an ‘oliday shop where they book coaches and that; there were trips advertised to the south coast, travel an’ accommodation all in. Brighton. I could afford it. It would ‘elp. Sea air ‘ad to ‘elp, didn’ it? An’ it’d be better than savin’ it; a kind of investment, really.
I was singin’ a tune when I got to the squat, somefin’ I’d ‘eard on somebody’s phone on the steps round the statue. Catchy, even though it annoyed me at times. But then I saw ‘im and ‘e were quite still. There were a smear of blood on ‘is face; ‘is beautiful face. I went to wipe it away fer ‘im, then it dawned.
I phoned the Social. At least that way ‘e’d get a proper burial. Then I scarpered, like. No sense gettin’ caught; knew ‘e wouldn’ ‘ave wanted that. An’ now I can’t go back there, cos they’ll look fer me an’ make some sort of trouble, make no mistake. An’ there’s an ‘undred quid burning a ruddy great ‘ole in me pocket. No idea what to spend it on, not now, but I know it can’t buy me love.
Very sad – and totally believable.
I thought so. The news has been full of tragedy at an individual level recently, and I remembered the ficlet. I never posted it anywhere other than the writers’ group where I followed the prompt, because it was so dark I thought it wouldn’t exactly please readers, but I do think it sums up some of the things that are going on.
I can see why you warned about this. Very dark, depressing and sad – also rings true. Well done with the accent, I could hear his voice. But I did spend a few years living in Sarf Essex and worked in Walthamstow for a while, so maybe I have an advantage there.
I spent the first few years of married life in Ilford… Glad you were able to hear his voice! My own native tongue is Geordie!! And yes, it rang true when I first wrote it some years ago and things haven’t changed enough!