Tony and Socrates look up at the tower which is going to be their new hideaway. Until they demolish it. The entrances have been boarded up, most of the windows on the lower floors have been smashed through. Tony pulls back a piece of wood and ushers the reluctant dog inside, he squeezes through himself, emerging in a hallway. There are four doorways each leading to a flat but he decides staying on the bottom floor wouldn’t be a good idea, he won’t be the only person who would entertain the idea of living here and he wants to avoid other people as much as he can.
They climb the stairs together, the dog stopping to sniff things which have been left on the floor. He picks up a teddy bear which has been discarded on the stairwell, holding it in his mouth as they climb higher and higher. On the twelfth floor they stop and peers into the landing area, like the bottom floor there are four doors, all of them are boarded up but don’t look as if they would be too much of a problem to break into.
‘What do you think of this floor, mate?’
The dog lies down on the floor, the teddy bear still in his mouth, he doesn’t want to climb anymore stairs. Tony leaves him to rest as he tries each of the doors to see which one would be easiest to break down. He pulls the boarding on the first one and it comes away without any effort. Behind the board is a red door, unchanged since the previous occupant was obliged to leave. He pushes the door, it’s not lock or on the latch and opens. He walks inside, straight ahead of him is a living room, to his surprise it’s still furnished with a dusty sofa and an old dining table.
On the floor there are some duvet covers which are dusty too but would be easily shaken out. He calls Socrates who comes bounding into the room, puts his new toy on the floor and sniffs around his new home. Tony takes one of the duvet covers and puts in the corner for the dog to sleep on, he takes the other one and pulls it on top of himself as he lies down on the sofa. He quickly falls asleep, comfortable surroundings can do that to a man who has known little comfort.
Jennifer is still angry at the silly old drunk for not attempting to stop her son. She’s wondering the streets aimlessly; her last glimmer of hope has been extinguished. She was so close to at least being able to speak to him and now she’ll never find him. She needs someone to talk to but who? She has no one, years of isolation have left her friendless. It’s all built up and now she just needs to let it out, tell someone how she feels. She sits down on a park bench, puts her head in her hands and begins to cry. People pass her by, none stop, a woman crying in the middle of a park can only be crazy.
The bald man with spectacles is precariously close to signing himself up for some dental insurance he doesn’t need. Frank is excited, he doesn’t like the man. You might get the impression that Frank doesn’t like anyone but he’s just weary. He does like some of the people he’s selling too, in fact, half of his problem is that if he does like them he stops trying so hard because he feels guilty. The bald man isn’t a nice person though, he’s spent most of their time on the doorstep bemoaning ‘the bloody foreigners’ who live next door to him. The man signs the paper, Frank thanks him and makes his departure.
He folds the paper and puts it into his briefcase, he’s met his targets for today and now he can take it easy. He’s feeling good, so good he has images of himself dancing around the pole the following morning, that would really show Jeremey! Maybe he shouldn’t take it easy, perhaps he should go mad and break all selling records. Amazing what a bit of confidence can do. He sits down outside the block of flats he’s just triumphantly walked out of and lights a cigarette. He’s not supposed to smoke when he’s working but winners don’t follow rules and today he’s not just a winner, he’s a champion.
He blows the smoke high into the air, sending smoke signals to the world: Frank is back in town and all you door to door sales people had better be worried because he’s coming to take your crowns. He finishes his cigarette and takes a moment to compose himself, suddenly aware he is getting to far ahead of himself and some modesty is in order. He’s unaware of the person walking towards him, still unaware until she sits down next to him.
‘Hello, Jennifer. I can’t take you back you know? If you’ve changed your mind, I’ve already phoned into the office.’
‘I haven’t changed my mind.’
‘Oh, okay.’ Frank’s confused, even a little bit scared, not sure what this woman’s motive for returning to find him is.
‘Frank, I know you don’t know me, and I know I let you down earlier today but I really need someone to talk to. I don’t have any friends, and well, such is my life that you are the only person I could think of.’
He notices her eyes are red, she’s been crying. He looks at his watch, it’s just gone three o’clock, he’s met his targets for the day but he’ll have to forgo his dreams of dancing around the poll. He can’t refuse her, if he refused her he’d spend weeks feeling guilty.
‘I know a coffee shop just down the road, we can go there if you like.’
‘To be honest I could do with a drink.’
‘Even better, I know a quiet little pub.’
Tony awakes to darkness, momentarily forgetting his new surroundings. He reaches out for Socrates but he’s not there. He calls, hearing the dog stretching and yawning before ambling over to lick his hand.
‘We’re going to have to get some candles from somewhere mate.’ He remembers he’s relatively rich having raised nearly thirty pounds earlier. He jumps up from the sofa and calls Socrates.
‘Come on son, we’ll eat well tonight.’
Downstairs the cross the road and enter the supermarket. The owner looks at the dog and then at Tony but says nothing. Tony grabs some dog food before putting it back on the shelf, he has a better idea. He picks up some plastic knives and forks and some candles, then stops next to the alcohol, he picks up a cheap bottle of wine. He rarely drinks but tonight is cause for celebration, they have a new home, even if it is just temporary. In the chip shop next door he buys two portions of fish and chips, one for him and one for Socrates. He’s been extravagant but when was the last time he could be extravagant?
His mother is out of his mind. In his new little home there is no chance she’ll find him, he’s not as disappointed now he wasn’t able to leave for pastures new. Him and Socrates will stay here until they finally knock the building down. He puts the plastic knife and fork down on the dining table, the room is illuminated with the candles and he’s feeling warm already with the little bit of wine he’s drank. He puts Socrates’ fish and chips on the floor and watches as the dog devours it in a under a minute, satisfied he takes his place back on the duvet in the corner of the room.
Tony picks up the knife and fork and starts to eat his own meal. Just for that moment he feels normal, he’s doing normal things. The flat hasn’t been abandoned, it’s his. He finishes off his food and lays back on the sofa with his bottle of wine.
‘We’re going to be okay, son. Everything will be fine.’
Jennifer sips on her second brandy, she still hasn’t said anything of substance to Frank and he’s starting to look a bit worried.
‘Sorry, Frank. You’re a good person for sitting here with me.’
‘What’s the matter Jennifer? I can see you’ve been crying.’
‘Ten years ago, my son ran away. He was only fifteen. Yesterday I gave a homeless man some money and I’m sure it was him. Another homeless man took me to an abandoned flat where yet another homeless man described Tony. Tony’s my son. Today, he left on a coach for somewhere and I don’t know where, I came so close to finding him and now he’s gone again.’
Frank looks at her not knowing what to say. He’d only met this woman yesterday and this morning he was supposed to be mentoring her and now they’re sat in a pub as she tells him her son has been missing for years.
‘Wow! I don’t know what to say Jennifer.’
‘There’s nothing you can say, I just wanted to tell someone.’
‘You’ve no idea where he went?’
‘No, him and his dog got on a coach and off they went.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘There was a drunken, old homeless man in the abandoned flat and he said he was doing me a favour by following Tony but he didn’t stop him getting on the bus.’
‘He wouldn’t have been able to get on the bus?’
‘Dogs aren’t allowed on those coaches, unless he left the dog behind.’
‘He could have got the train.’
‘Maybe. You’ve no idea where he might go?’
‘I’ve not seen him for ten years Frank.’
‘Even if he didn’t get on the coach, I’ve no chance of finding him. He doesn’t want to be found. I failed.’
‘Why did he run away?’
‘We think he was being bullied at school but he didn’t tell us, he must have had enough and just decided to run away. I guess he’s been to ashamed to come back.’
The woman in front of him looks defeated. He can see there’s little fight left in her. He wants to help her but he agrees with her that there’s little chance of finding him. He probably left the city by other means. He wants to give her some hope, you can’t let a person live without hope.
‘Are you free on Saturday?’
‘I just wanted to have a drink so I could speak to someone, Frank. Sorry.’
‘No, I’m not offering to take you out. We’ll go and see if we can find him, we probably won’t be able to but at least you’ll know you tried. The dog not being able to get on the coach is a small thing but you can’t give up. I can only go with you on a Saturday though because I’m not working.’
She sighs and then stares at the glass she’s holding. She throws it back in one go.
‘Ten, we’ll meet outside here.’
‘I’ll be here.’
‘We’re probably not going to find him Jennifer but we can try.’
‘Thanks Frank, you’re a good man.’
Tony awakes with a start. There’s a figure standing over him, the candles have all burnt out so he can’t see who it is, he jumps up and grabs the man around the neck, the man puts up no fight so Tony pushes him onto the sofa. Socrates, however is quiet, not barking as he usually would when he senses danger.
‘It’s me Tommy, Pat!’
‘What the fuck are you doing here Pat?’
‘I followed you, had a look around some of the flats myself, might take one if you want a neighbour.’
‘Why’d you follow me?’
‘That woman. She wants to find you Tommy, you need to speak to her.’
Tony slumps down on the sofa next to Pat, he thought he’d made an escape but someone always finds you.
I’ll try and put all the parts into one post tomorrow as it’s getting a bit messy. Remember to give a share if you like the story. Thanks! Seán