A REEDSY PROMPT
A WINTER’S NIGHT IN THE CITY
by John Yeo
The time by the clock on the Cathedral spire chimed with three loud sonorous peals, assaulting the night and the eardrums of the lone figure wrapped in a dirty blanket, who was lying almost out of sight in a stone archway.
In the near vicinity, a loud siren screamed with an urgency as an ambulance sped through the city streets, answering a distress call or transporting a sick or injured person to a hospital.
A vicious wind, whipped around the tall tower blocks across the way causing a harsh updraft. The rain, correctly forecast by some of the passers-by; the few who took the time to talk had temporarily become slashing sleet. A chilling sleet that quickly turned to icy hard drops that stung the face of the figure lying prone on some sheets of cardboard. Clearly visible was a partially torn off address label that simply had the word Amazon left for all the world to see.
Suddenly Spot, the dog lying close to this frozen figure gave a low growl and bared his teeth.
‘What is it, boy?” Exclaimed Freddy, the sad supine sleeper who was forced to spend his nights out in this unfriendly cold atmosphere. Freddy tried to wet his frozen lips with spittle to enable his words to become audible.
Freddie had suffered a marital breakdown several months before and he was now forced to live on the streets.
Spot gave another louder growl as a four-legged, doglike creature padded past them on the pavement.
‘Ah! I can see him.’ Said Freddie to himself, ‘An urban Fox on the prowl for food scraps, you’ll be unlucky here Foxy. We’re both starving, it will be a while until any hopes of food arrive.’
Soon another sound broke the silence as Karla, a heavily made-up lady of the night stepped out of a taxi that suddenly drew up alongside the curb where Freddie was sleeping. Flicking her long peroxide blonde hair from her eyes, she frowned at Freddie and said,
‘Hey there! I brought you a cold hotdog and a cup of coffee. You’d better drink this fast before it turns to ice!’
A strong smell of cheap perfume wafted into the alcove, mixing and fighting for supremacy over the damp musty smell of unwashed humanity.
‘Thanks!’ grunted Freddie, wiping ice crystals from his lips. ‘Are you by any chance an angel?’
Freddie broke the hotdog in half and gave half to the dog.
‘Are you kidding? All my flying high is in my dreams. I’ve had a rough night, one of the punters tried to beat me up. If I had a minder I would have been fine, but I don’t believe in encouraging pimps to steal from me.’
‘What happened?’ Asked Freddie.
‘I kicked him hard between the legs and ran for my life. Goodnight to you, I would invite you home but my husband and the kids are fast asleep up there.’
With that she entered one of the tower blocks across the way, clip-clopping on her outrageous red high heels.
Soon with a sudden silent glare of headlights, two police cars stopped and stationed themselves across the street, right outside Oscar’s, a large nightclub a dozen yards or so away.
‘Must be chucking out time Spot, the law has arrived in case of trouble.’
As the club emptied, two bouncers stationed themselves each side of the door, a large crowd of people surged out into the streets at once.
The worldly-wise policemen just sat inside their high visibility police cars watching. They knew it was far too cold for any of the club crowd to hang around causing trouble. A fleet of taxis soon started ferrying the clubbers away and before long silence descended on the city streets again.
Dawn broke and as Freddie was drifting into a fitful dozy state. Spot gave a loud bark as a man in a Salvation Army uniform, wearing the familiar peaked hat greeted him with a friendly grin on his ruddy chilled face.
‘Are you OK? I’ve got sandwiches and a hot drink here if you feel like eating.’
Freddie grabbed the plastic carrier bag and immediately wolfed down a cheese and pickle sandwich. Mouthing his thanks, Freddie sipped the scalding coffee, that burnt his insides as he swallowed the steaming fluid slowly. He wrapped his hands around the outside of the polystyrene cup for warmth. Spot made some hungry doggy noises and Freddie fed him half a cheese and pickle sandwich,
‘Thanks be to God and the local supermarket’s largesse,’ said the kindly soldier of the Lord. ‘Are you in need of anything? I can take you to a shelter but I’m afraid dogs aren’t allowed.’
‘Then no thanks!’ Freddie replied, ‘I go nowhere without Spot, he’s my constant companion.’
‘I understand,’ replied the kindly man, ‘Here’s an address where you can get help in the morning, even with Spot staying with you for a short while.’
‘Thanks again,’ answered Freddie. “Goodbye!’
A road sweeping vehicle trundled by, with large brushes that swept up most of the detritus left in the road by the clubbers who seemed to consume vast quantities of fast food washed down with cans of drink and coffee.
Morning broke as the thick clouds in the sky lightened slightly. The persistent rain and sleet had stopped now. Freddie dragged himself to his feet and picked up his crutch. He rolled up his sleeping bag and his blanket and packed them into a large canvas bag.
He headed for the local hamburger restaurant where he could use the toilets and clean himself up a bit if the staff didn’t notice that he hadn’t purchased anything.
He tied up Spot outside and muttered, ‘Sorry boy, I won’t be long, I have an appointment at the hospital today. Got to get my leg sorted out.’
Spot whimpered and stood guard over the three bags that were all the possessions Freddie owned in the world.
Soon the roads were full of traffic, cars, and buses transporting workers heading for the city offices as another winter’s night in the city drew to a close.
Copyright ©️ Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.