Old Men Complaining


Photo by Michael Ashton (copied from Flickr)

Photo by Michael Ashton (copied from Flickr)

I decide to walk the two and a half miles home. I cut through the park, past the waiting pond measled with weed. At this end fashionably dressed women walk their woolly disobedient dogs. At the other is the cottaging bog and people coming out of the bushes at you with knives and threats. I turn before then, through the wrought iron Victorian gates, across a busy junction where you wait in the railed-in middle for lights to change. Buses scrape the air before my nose, the sceptical or twisted or sleepy faces seeing me and not seeing me. Lorries at my back.

On the corner a green sari-ed mother wrests a cricket bat from her husband’s hands. I nod to her and go into the shop for milk and fags. I try to leave but am pinned in the doorway by a chase. A boy head butts me aside to get into the shop and his pursuers pile in after him. A display gets knocked down, tins roll across the floor, then a window – another one – is put through.

The sky is stained and thick, ready for a storm. Down the street groups form and reform, people run down alleys, whistles, signals, and insults are traded in English and Bengali. It’s as if the adults have decided to join in their kids’ games. Near my house I pick up a dark snarling child who shrugs me off, spits a blob of blood by my shoe. I round the corner to rain starting to darken the pavement and cats call across the street to each other like old men complaining.

Alan Beard

About Alan Beard

Alan Beard has two collections of stories out 'Taking Doreen out of the Sky' (Picador) and 'You Don't Have to Say' (Tindal Street Press). His stories and flashes have appeared in many UK and USA magazines and anthologies including 'Best Short Stories 1991', 'Best British Short Stories 2011', London magazine, Malahat Review, Vestal Review etc. His latest story appears in 'The Sea in Birmingham', an anthology celebrating 30 years of Tindal St Fiction Group. He works as a librarian at Birmingham City University.



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