Part of Your World
I stay at school long enough to sell six packets of fags and get my name checked off on the register. Declan finds me when the bell rings and slips me a fiver for his Maths homework. I’ll have to give him half back if he doesn’t get above eighty percent but I’m almost certain he’ll get a solid ninety. When we leave for assembly Mrs Ridley puts a cross on my uniform card and tells me to take my trainers off. She sighs when I tell her I haven’t got my school shoes but she doesn’t give me a detention. On the way to the hall I slide into the toilets and hang about until I can hear the first verse of ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ belted out from the piano. The corridor is empty. I walk out through the music department, cut across main yard, down the steps by the sports hall and out across the field. I jump the railing and drop down on to the link path. There is a woman with a pram walking one way and a man with a fat bulldog walking the other. I pull my hood up and walk with my head down and none of us look at each other.
The woman behind the counter grins at me.
‘What’ll it be this week?’
I reach in my pocket and pull out the list,
‘Three meat and potato, two cheese and onion, one steak and ale and a sausage roll please’.
‘How come you’re always the one to fetch the pies?’
‘That’ll be £8.80 please’.
I shift the carrier bag round in my rucksack until it all fits in.
‘You still enjoying college then?’
‘It’ll be your last year now won’t it? You’ll be looking for a job soon eh?’
‘Suppose I’ll have to’.
‘Ah well, could always be a delivery man couldn’t you?’
I smile and make my way to the door. I’ll have to remember that next September, make up that I’ve started on a construction site or something. Somewhere where people would still want pies.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. It’s a text off Mike from the corner shop: Need someone to cover the till tonight u free?
Sorry mate no can do tonight, cheers for the offer.
I know it’ll piss him off but what’s the worst he can do, take away my paper round? I’ve got two more on the go and it’d be easy enough to pick up another. I turn my phone on silent but before I shove it in my pocket I stop and look at the home screen. It’s a picture from the summer before last, me and Amy on the beach. Her hair is all over the place and she’s not even looking at the camera but she still looks beautiful in her own way. Twenty four hours until I see her again. Time to get to work.
The new woman on reception buzzes through to her boss to check I’m allowed in.
‘It’ll be Maureen’s lad, he’ll be here for his Duke of Edinburgh volunteering’.
The receptionist hands me the sign in book and holds the button down to let me through the alarmed doors. Daisy greets me on the other side,
‘Hiya Josh, thanks for coming in again. I’ve got the chess set out and some craft stuff but otherwise they might just be up for a chat, is that okay?’
I nod. She steers me into the communal area, ‘Everyone Josh is here, be nice to him won’t you?’ She winks at them.
‘If you need anything just give me a shout’.
I smile and nod. The door barely closes behind her before I’m swamped.
‘Did you manage to get it?’
‘Where’s my steak and ale?’
I plough through the sea of walking sticks and zimmer frames and plonk the carrier bag on the table.
‘Everyone take a seat and I’ll bring your orders to you. Ailsa here’s your usual’.
She grasps the pie with both hand and bites straight into it. I hear her dentures clack and the filling spills down her chin. She wipes it off with her hanky and looks towards the door.
The pies are eaten up quickly; eyes closed, flakes of pastry sticking to their jumpers.
‘Evelyn I’ve brought your sausage roll’.
The old woman’s eyes snap open and she scowls up at me.
‘What am I supposed to do with that?’
‘You ordered it last week’.
‘I wasn’t even in this place last week!’
‘I want a scotch egg’.
‘Well you’ve already given me the money for the-’
‘You can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine’.
I move to put it back in my bag,
‘Actually pass it here, I’ll trade it off with someone else, see if they’ve got a scotch egg’.
She snatches it out of my hand and stares at me.
‘How old are you?’
I don’t know why I tell her my real age, maybe it’s because I know in five minutes she’ll forget it.
‘You’re stupidly tall for your age’.
I move to the door and listen out for footsteps in the corridor. A familiar sound creeps closer behind me, a rasping mucous filled cough that builds until it’s hacking and rough, until it sounds like a lung is going to spill out onto the carpet.
‘Here you are Josh, next week’s orders and-’, the cough pushes it way back up and he pulls his hanky out to rack up something that makes me look away. He takes a moment to get his breath back.
‘And £35 cash for this week’, the old man hands over the envelope; I feel the weight of the notes and coins.
‘I’ve put a 50p tip in there as well’.
‘That’s very kind of you Morris, thank you’.
He leans in closer and I can here the creak of his chest,
‘I was wondering-’
‘Look I’m sorry Morris but it’s like I said last time. I can’t get you any, I’m just bringing things from the pie shop-’
‘Just one packet wouldn’t do any harm. My grandson says-‘
‘It’s different here. If you’re really desperate ask him to-’.
‘They never visit. All I’m asking for is one packet of fags’.
‘No. Either you’d fall asleep with one and burn the whole place down or someone will catch you at it and then the whole thing falls apart. I’m sorry but I’m just sticking to pies’.
He whacks the radiator with his stick and swears. I can’t tell if he thinks he’s doing it under his breath or if he wants me to hear him.
‘See you all next week’.
I hold the door open for a care assistant who is wheeling in the food trolley. The stink of over boiled cabbage and pureed mash seeps down the corridor after me. After a week of eating that sludge I could probably charge £50 and they’d still pay up. Daisy walks me back down to reception,
‘They look forward to seeing you every week’.
I smile and nod at her. It’s been a year since Gran died but the system still works.
Outside I make a quick check just to see that all the money is there. £35.50 exactly. So that plus the money I’ve already earned brings it up to £110.50. It feels good to see the numbers creep up. During the week I let the cash grow under my bed. I keep it in a shoebox, the one that Amy and I decorated with our handprints. It was supposed to be for keeping memories in. At night I picture the pile of money growing, creeping its way to the top until it pushes the lid off because there’s so much of it. I’ve had nightmares before where someone’s broken in and taken it. Every night I slide it out from under my bed and count up everything inside it. When I put the lid back on I place my hand on top of hers. It’s over two years since we made it. The pink poster paint she used is starting to crack.
Hannah Wilkin enjoys writing short stories for adults but is particularly passionate about writing for children. She says: “I usually write for age nine plus but have recently begun exploring picture book writing.” Hannah does not restrict herself to one genre and is currently working on a play set in her hometown.