I wrote this short story last year in a fit of creativity. I originally submitted it to a competition but it wasn’t right for them. Having read some of the winners pieces I can see why. It was a very different path taken to the winners and those who placed. I’m considering submitting another attempt this year. But in the meantime I have a short 600-odd word story, so I thought I’d put it up here. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do leave a comment. Hell, even if you don’t leave a comment. Constructive feedback is always welcome.
My name is Luca. I live at the second door, the one down from the night club where people younger and older than I party and drink, no cares in the world. They don’t see me. I see them. I watch as they laugh and joke, smoke cigarettes and drink excessively until they stumble home in the cold hours of morning.
My home is a doorway, my alley an outhouse. I sit staring at the pavement, in the rain swept city that never sleeps, a blanket around my shoulders as the chill of winter bites. A battered old cap on the stained concrete path. Occasionally a passer by drops a coin or two.
Alice lives three doorways away between the newsagents and the adult picture show. She does better at this than I do. Clasping a box of wine to her saggy breast she hurls abuse at everyone, demanding to be seen. The Queen on her street.
I sit and watch as people drop her a coin of gold, content in their good deed for the day, listening to her litany of abuse towards the Samaritans automatic gesture.
I used to do the same many years ago when loose change was a hinderance not a gift. I sit and watch as Alice drinks. I can smell the cheap wine from here.
My name is Luca but it doesn’t matter anymore. I see the young ones, their pupils reflecting the distance they have placed between themselves and the world. The world, is getting darker by the day.
The clink of a coin attracts my attention. Two small coins, enough to ensure at least a burger from down the road later on. I pocket them quickly leaving the silver behind, bait for the good Samaritans fuelled to charity by alcohol.
I stand and stretch. A hand in the neon light offers me a cigarette. A friendly face with a Porsche worth of Hollywood teeth smiling at me.
I take it placing it between my lips and accept the lighter. The cigarette is rough and burns my throat. I never used to smoke, now I take pleasure when and where I can. What’s one more bad choice in a life littered with things I’d do differently.
“Come on Alex,” another voice, slurry, whipsy. Another set of perfect teeth standing in the darkness. “Let’s go, I’m cold.”
Alex offers me a smile and drops something in my hat before leaving with the boy with the perfect teeth. I look down. In the hat is a $10 note. I pocket it before anyone around me notices.
Gathering my belongings, a stained old back pack and a blanket, now brown in texture, that used to be soft and comforting. I’ve done well tonight enough to eat and that’s all that matters.
I shuffle towards the burger bar, entering a throw back to 1950’s Americana out of place on a rain swept winter Sydney street.
Eyes inside the place slide from the sight of me like well oiled eels. No one wants to see the stark reality of mistakes and bad choices when their night is fuelled by laughter, drugs and hope.
That can’t be me, they think. I know they think it. I used to be them.
Noses crinkle and laughter whispers from behind raised hands as I make my way to the counter. I push the coins across the orange formica towards a young Asian woman who looks afraid to touch them, lest she catch homelessness.
I’m just a phantom in my own world now but even phantoms need to eat.
Food in hand, the greasy smell rising from rapidly staining brown paper, I go back to the second doorway sinking deeper out of the wind and the rain.
My name is Luca. I used to live on the 13th floor. It doesn’t really matter anymore.