The Shortest, The Coldest

Despite his circumstances, it couldn’t be said that Ged lacked for anything. His demands were modest and usually satisfied with relative ease. To survive long-term, you need to build a routine. A crumpled photocopy in his pocket set out his schedule. On Monday, the cathedral, Tuesday was Oldham Street, on Wednesday night, the African church would hand out food on Store Street. He had to join in the hymns before they dished it out – usually chicken and rice – bit spicy but at least it was hot. Thursday was the nuns in Moss Side, and so on. He thought nothing about the people who ran these places. They were neither patronising do-gooders nor saints. If the soup kitchens were to stop, he would have found another way to survive.

Habit and routine substituted bricks and slate. The familiar comfort of a dog, totemic items lovingly carried and repacked, were anchors to a normal life. It was for this reason – and not through any work ethic – that Ged worked his pitch regularly. Not always soberly, he would be the first to admit, but he was there pretty much every day.
Drugs were neither a good thing nor a bad thing. They were simply a necessity of his life. A tickbox to be checked every day or as often as he could manage. Space was becoming a problem. His arms no longer hospitable, he was forced to navigate new territory. Shooting through his legs was a last resort.

But not everyone was a textbook dosser. Take Frank. A university professor in another life. He was part of a harmless, contented army performing a series of consequence-free, almost meaningless parades. What tie to wear? Which holiday destination? The predictable end game was visible from far in advance. But no person – no matter how seemingly unassailable – was more than a couple of turns away from this life. What was the worst thing that could now happen to Ged? Although not an old man, she and her sisters had drunk their fill of him.

When coins were placed in his hands, all he had to do was smile and look beatifically towards his benefactors. He admired every unspoken moment of the transaction, the eternal story of supply and demand. Charity disguised as business. Better giving to lesser, but both pretending to be equals. Brown hair, nice teeth, very clean looking, she smiled at him. He leered back toothlessly, as he pretended to hunt for change. Keep it, she insisted as she maintained her trajectory. He was not so blind as to be unaware that his physical appearance horrified this girl, but still he entertained notions of what could be. This women would be a substitute for who he really wanted. Her half-imagined breath. But he did not want to ride her. One didn’t treat a goddess that way.

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3 Responses to “The Shortest, The Coldest”

  1. February 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm, A Manchester Valentine’s Day post » Mancubist: Life is good in Manchester said:

    […] at Rainy City Stories we’ve picked a winner for our love story contest! It’s called The Shortest, The Coldest and it’s written by first-time writer Craig Melville. There were five finalists in total – […]

  2. February 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm, emily josephine mcphillips said:

    i just wanted to say that i think this is such a strong story & a very worthy winner.

  3. September 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm, Emma said:

    “each pull of his chest created a watery echo a handful of gravel landing in water”- very evocative use of words.


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