This was going to be submitted to the SFH publication but got sidetracked. I get to London often at stupid o'clock and see loads of street people. But some are diferent and stand out to me.
If I watch long enough, without gawping, I notice the old patterns. Boots inside your bivibag, two ground sheets, and even how they settle their rucksacks in on their hips and always start off walking on their left foot....
It can be a long way home. I was lucky and sometimes, that's the only difference
Some swearing and such.
Next to him, the radio squelched out over the speaker as he applied bandages to the wound in a frenzied panic.....
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR ... CONTACT... MORTAR ... WAIT. ... OUT...’
‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN,... REDMAN FIVE FOUR... MOVEMENT EAST OF PICADILLY RIDGE... BE ADVISED WE ARE ENGAGING WITH FIFTIES ... EIGHT-ONES AND FIFTY-ONES OVER....’
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR... KILO SEVEN SEVEN, LOC-SAT OVER....’
‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN... REDMAN FIVE FOUR.. CAZ-REP ... ONE TIMES P-ONE THREE TIMES P-TWO. REQUEST PRIORITY CAZEVAC OVER.....’
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, KILO SEVEN SEVEN , CAZEVAC INBOUND YOUR POZ... ETA ONE HOUR, SAY AGAIN, ONE HOUR... PLEASE HOLD ON... OVER.’
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR... CONTACT ... RPG... WAIT OUT.....’
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, KILO SEVEN SEVEN, SIT-REP OVER.....’
‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN, ... STANDY BY... OUT...’
‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, THIS IS BRANSON FIVE SEVEN...... FAST AIR YOUR LOCATION FOUR MIKES. ... TANGO, FIRING POINT BRAVO, .... EAST TO WEST... OVER....’
‘Jesus Christ.... those cunts are dropping it close.....' a growing roar overtook him and a white heat overcame his senses....
Dave twitched slightly in his sleeping bag. The cold of Leicester Square replaced the heat of HelmAnd as he woke up. The blood he was holding back in his wounded groin had become urine. He had pissed himself again.
He shook his head and tried to clear his mind.
‘Fuck!’ he muttered as he assessed his existing reality.
Despite the cold, he changed out of his wet trousers and underwear and stuffed them in a carrier bag. He would have to go down to Traf Square and wash them out in the fountain.
‘Take care uh yerrr kit, laddies and yerrr kit ‘ull take care a you..’ the echo of Staff McCallan’s advice, burned into him a decade ago at Catterick Barracks set his course of action without any conscious thought or decision...
“Staff would be proud” he thought as he surveyed his belongings and packed his ruck in the doorway of the office block. He folded up the cardboard he had used as a ground sheet and set it on a bench nearby.
He hefted his ruck onto his back and shook it into it’s familiar place. The weight mostly resting on his hips and the shoulder straps more for balance than lifting.
The Pret opened in another five mikes, he thought. He mentally allocated 10% of his entire net worth for a 99p coffee. He would wait until a queue formed and then go in. Knowing that once a week but no more, some kind soul would buy his coffee.
He assessed the mess that his life had become.
‘Not my fault,’ he thought.
‘Got to get past the bad dreams and then I’ll be fine..’
‘Get a place in the shelter, then get a job, and then fucking get on with my life....’ he thought through the plan he had made for himself but had yet to be able to implement.
He looked at his surroundings, smiled and whispered the squadie mantra to himself...
...' All I really want is a better place in Hell'