Short story – George takes the Biscuit – published by New Writing Dundee
‘You got a quid, mister?’
George’s eyes narrow. Once you sit still in the park they descend like bleeding vultures.
‘Give us a quid. Go on.’
‘You’ll get nothing,’ George says and takes another bite of his sandwich.
There are three of them. They’re fourteen going on twenty-one, George thinks. They wear their school ties back to front and their blouses knotted above the belly. They trail clouds of perfume and their skirts are like lampshades.
‘What are you eating?’ one says.
‘Chip fat,’ another says.
‘Want a bite?’ George holds the sandwich out. His hand is ink-stained from the rolled-up Mirror in his pocket.
‘I only need a few quid.’
‘It was a pound a minute ago,’ George says.
He churns bread and lard round his open mouth. Plagued by sinus trouble, he’s always been a mouth-breather. One of them sits next to him tugging at the hem of her skirt. She takes a phone from her bag and points it at George.
‘What are you playing at?’
George raises a hand, but now another one is pointing her phone at him. There is a click, whirr, like a camera shutter.
‘We only want a quid.’
‘Mean old bastard.’
The men on the green have stopped to watch. Heat shimmers on the grass. Their pastel knitwear blurs in the haze; ice white, mint green, salmon and lemon. A radio crackles and George looks up. Terry strolls over, hands hooked in his belt. The Plastic Policeman they call him – he’s one of those community support thingies – but he’s a decent bloke. Terry tells the vultures to clear off and they sling their bags over their shoulders, scuffing their heels back to school. George isn’t hungry anymore and tosses his sandwich from the bridge. It splashes and sinks to the bottom. His head throbs. He doesn’t want to be in the park. He decides to try the library.
Sunlight peeps through the stitches in George’s curtains catching motes of falling dust. He blinks, rubs the amber grit from his eyes and takes his teeth from the bedside table. Drumbeats thump the plasterboard. George thinks about thumping back, but knows better and goes out. There are comings and goings until all hours and George has found needles in the honeysuckle.
He shuffles down to the bridge to check on Duck Patrol. He has a few crumbs in his pocket. He stops and blinks. His own face is stirring back. He squints and sees a poster tacked to a tree. It says ‘Loser’ in capitals. There is a grainy photo of George. His features are lumpy, bovine. George frowns. He thinks he recognizes a school blazer in the corner of the photo and he understands. Little vultures.
‘I’ve got stacks of friends,’ he says.
George rubs his nose. He sees another poster on a bench, then another on a willow. There are posters of George all over the park. He feels light-headed and sits down. There’s an ache in his throat. It means something is not right or not fair. George got the same ache as a boy when he was told to shut up and couldn’t explain himself. There is a gentle tap on his shoulder and the tinkle of a teaspoon on china.
‘Have a nice, sweet cuppa,’ Cynthia says.
George takes the cup and saucer. It rattles in his hands. A tiny crescent of bubbles spins on the surface.
‘They’re nasty little Bs,’ Carol says. George nods. She hates swearing.
He grins. At last, his tea in a cup and saucer!
‘Come on, we’ll get the others taken down,’ Cynthia says.
She pats him on the back.
‘You’ve got plenty of friends,’ Carol says, ‘you don’t need me to tell you that.’
‘I know, petal. I’m famous at last,’ he says, trying a smile.
She hands George a packet of biscuits; his preferred jam rings in a cellophane pack of three.
He opens one and dunks it in his tea.
‘George takes the biscuit,’ he says.