“Come on, Meg. It’s off to work we go.”
He took a quick look around before they left.
He was reluctant to leave the little wooden shed. In the last few weeks, he’d made it pretty comfortable, one way and another. He’d got some battered furniture from a skip, a rickety little table and a chair. And a camping stove. There were even pictures in the wall, two framed prints he’d found in the doorway of the Oxfam shop one night. He thought they were Impressionists, and they were nice and colourful.
Meg jumped up from her corner. She was a black and white sheepdog cross he’d found cowering down an alleyway, cut and bleeding. She had a big chunk missing from her ear from a fight with the foxes, or so he had guessed. It had been love at first sight, and now they were inseparable.
The nice thing was that having a dog doubled your takings. Everyone stopped to pat her, and if he looked cold and hungry enough, which wasn’t difficult, his cardboard box would usually fill up with enough to buy some coffee and maybe a burger by lunchtime and a biscuit for the dog. He and old Meg, with her soulful brown eyes and wagging tail, made a powerful team.
He pulled the old rucksack over his shoulder, and folded the tartan rug over his arm. The rug was well overdue for a wash, but he hadn’t wanted to draw prying eyes by pegging it out across the wall of the little yard to dry. And anyway the weather was too damp. Winter wasn’t far away. It was going to be cold on the street today.
He patted Meg on the head, and they crawled out through the gap in the wall. It was inconspicuous from the road, and hidden by a huge buddleia. He’d found it by chance, and made a hole big enough to crawl through, chipping away at it brick by brick. Once you were inside the overgrown little yard, you were hidden away from the world. Home sweet home, he thought, and grinned. It was a f***ing sight better than the children’s home he’d been in for the last five years before that, and that was for sure.
That evening, when they left the High Street to come back down the little side road, he felt more cheerful then he’d been for a long time. They’d taken £11 today, plus some foreign coins and a packet of sandwiches somebody hadn’t wanted.
It was getting dark, but they’d be snug enough in their little house.
Jim, the friendly butcher off the High Street, had given him some bones for Meg which he was keeping from her with difficulty. “As soon as we’re home,” he said to her as she trotted along beside him. “Nearly there now.”
But when they rounded the corner he could only stare at where their hole in the wall should have been. His blood ran cold. The huge buddleia had been cut down. The hole in the wall had been bricked up again, and a large notice board read
STRICTLY NO ENTRY
He could smell a bonfire still smoking in the yard. The shed must have gone. Meg was whimpering nervously, pawing at the new wall and looking up at her master in bewilderment.
His feet seemed rooted to the ground. It had just begun to snow. Small flakes were being squeezed out of the darkening sky, chasing each other down to the dirty pavement, to lie desolate and abandoned before slowly melting away.
I retired to the Cotswolds ten years ago after selling the retail business in North Wales which I had built up over forty long years. Fortunately for my sanity most of my time was spent creating advertising copy and promotions, which dramatically increased the business and taught me the power of words. Being a member of the Chippy Writers’ Group encouraged me to attempt a lifelong ambition to write a novel. Recently published, In the Shadow of Hitler is a romance set in the ruins of bombed-out Hamburg in 1946.... more