Bag of Weasels
Story about Madness and civilisation in the backstreets of London.
The warmth had gone and the cold bit in, but sleep came anyway. The morning was colder still. I dragged myself up and opened the side door to sniff the day. Patterns moved in an early mist, other streets forming and shaping, surely to only melt away if I'd turned to walk them. Two-faced mist, hid me and tricked me.
Once upon a time in a land I've mentioned, it was hotter than the sun and the water was cut off. .
And so I came day in day out, lulled by the stillness, til a barely discernible trickle of oddness seeped into the days, and it all began to change. One sleepy still afternoon as I lay on the soused floorboards, I saw the light inside the house glimmer and brighten to a brilliance that smacked of visitation.
I was out on the scavenge, a long trawl up along the Barking creek, round the stumpy brown box buildings and across the A13..
I walked away from that house doing the crowd-clearing march of the not-right, but I ran out of steam around the first corner.
Back in the time when my world had unravelled and my life spun away, I was taken to a building, all battleship grey and electric lights, to be fixed up, measured, watcheded and labelled. And in there was Ralph: unapproachable Ralph, the Mad Maori, furious angry and dangerous. He was tough guy big, a natural born lump, they came in mob-handed when Ralph fetched up, kept him by the security door and braced themselves for violence. He could scare people shitless with just a look, pin them to the spot with his energy, but when he rolled up on the wrong side of the door he looked over his new domain and just smiled at his keepers. He dwarfed them all.
The rattle of keys being put to a lock, and the creaking turn of an opening door. .
So it was off to the South and the crumbly slums and the bad-name districts and depots, eating the finest from the skips of giants. It was an easy zigzag route.
The bridge was clear and Banksy led, and we padded over quick as you like into the South. A couple of streets in, and we were on it; "Eyes up, said Banksy.
I held up the last page. It had been folded and screwed up so many times it was turning to tissue. The words across its surface were hardly legible, but unlike all the others they were typed. "What's this?
The heat from the fire got into me and I slumped down and drowsed in my rags, watching the flames make patterns and castles and creatures that came and went. Ralph was rolled up in a giant heap with a sack over his head.
I'd got the frights. I didn't want in. I didn't want to get sucked in, and go wallowing into something monstrous that would take me to places downright scary; I generally did my best to keep well clear of the twisty side of life. .
On a good day I know, I'm not the full ticket; on a bad day I don't know my arse from my elbow. So I've been told, and so it is written; it must be true. I've learnt to live with it after a fashion, and I can tie my own shoelaces and count to ten, but for the sake of my head I stay off the maindrag. I was on a downward curve about then anyway, drifting like litter down side streets and alleyways, slipping into the empty, unused spaces, the long-untouched deserted houses; cracks in the city, cracks in between. London was a scary place for me.
For the right now though I was stuck, wedged in tight all shoved up shoulder to shoulder, and it was livening up a treat.
This piece of town gave its age away by its twisty-turny street lines, and although their reason was long-forgotten I could smell the old below, and Flea employed the twisty-turns to keep us weaving through and in.
Right about now I reckoned Ralph would be stamping out his mission-from-god, daily crowd clearing path up Richmond Hill, holding up his precious object like a piece of the true cross. London has its ways, and some of those ways - the less trodden, the hidden and meandering - are now mine: and so I weaved my own way down.
I got yanked up and scraped over the low wall next to the towpath, spun round and put back on my feet, then looked up into the face of Ralph. "What the fuck do you want? he growled.
"How shall we go? "How did you get here? "I came through the streets. A different route would be prudent under the circumstances. "We'll go back, Ralph decided, " by river.
We bobbed round the edge of the brown water, looking for access. Waterlogged wooden pillars poked out and up over our heads, and in between there slid a recess of mud that sloped up to a possible route.