The Shortest, The Coldest

Home for the present was a railway arch in Old Trafford opposite a scrap metal yard. The chicken wire had been stripped back to make space for Ged and a rotating cast of domically challenged fellows. Supermarket trolleys collided with car tyres, welded together by thousands of dumped newspapers, sodden with urine and rainwater. Ged, by dint of being the longest resident, had ownership of two wooden pallets, raising him three crucial inches above the miasma. Fire reflecting off the archway transformed the space into a cave. This was how our ancestors lived, Ged thought. They were scum as well, crawling around in the mud, defacing the walls. We’re the men in the trenches, living in the shit and the mud.

From here, he could see the outline of the tower, its width improbably narrow. He remembered the picture in Roy’s bedroom of Rio. The stretched Christ looking down from the hill, blessing his people. Where was Jesus in Manchester? Why are there only towers and not crosses? The Muslims don’t allow it – they’ve destroyed this country. He didn’t really believe in either his country or Jesus. But he might have done had the authorities done a better job. When he slept or when he shot, there were sometimes glimpses into his old world. Christmas, football matches, telly on Saturday evenings with his nan. Roy liked the Sixties sound. Vinyl was scattered throughout the room. Shame about Roy, shame about his wandering hands.

The happiest summer was in Blackpool a few years ago. The lights and the sea. Plenty of people on holiday who didn’t begrudge a pound or two. Plenty of his mates up from Manchester. There was none of the usual bullshit. There were parties every night where you could score for gratis. The rivalries and problems of your home town were forgotten and there were plenty of places to crash. Someone always seemed to know someone with a bedsit or a room or an empty house. Even sleeping on the beach wasn’t too bad.

It was harder to get to Crumpsall. He sometimes dreamt of dealers coming into the city but it didn’t work that way. No-one would ever stoop so low as to deal in the city. Ged and his kind were at the bottom of the food chain. The route to town was along the canal path, past block after identical block of fashionable new apartments. These are my neighbours, Ged thought. The brown water was strewn with carrier bags and filled the air with its sweet, putrid odour. They’ve paid thousands to live in those flats, but they smell the same shit that I do.

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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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