The Lady With The Trolley – Part 1

The trains passing over the railway arch sounded like thunder. They always did. But Ron Price was used to it. For the past few months, the archway was where he had slept.
During the day he’d wander around, sometimes meeting up with some of his fellow street people, sometimes just sitting on the bench in the park to watch the world go by. He tended to stay away from the ‘normals’ – he knew he smelled a bit funny and his drinking problem meant that he could be a bit intimidating to people.
He was quite accepting of his current status in life. Oh, at first, he was angry and depressed and raged at the world for putting him in this situation. But now he understood that it didn’t take much for someone’s world to fall apart. A wrong decision here, a piece of bad luck there, and before you knew it you could be right where he was now.

In his previous life, he was software developer. Nothing flash, nothing fancy, but it paid the bills and he had a comfortable life. He worked hard, and although didn’t have any savings, he was paid enough to live in a nice enough way. But then the gambling started. It started small – a bet on the football at weekends, placing money on a couple of horses in the Grand National – but eventually the bets got bigger, the stakes higher. He started spending more than he was earning. Payments on credit card bills got delayed, then missed. Car tax wasn’t bought when it should have been.
Car insurance was not bought, which meant driving illegally, which meant he lost his license.
He then took longer to get to work, public transport being what it was. And because he was no longer driving to work in the morning, he thought he could enjoy more than the odd glass of wine in the evening. In fact, as he lived alone, why not have three glasses? Or six? Or a bottle or two?
Before long he was waking up nearly every morning, late and hungover, and getting into work later and later.
Of course, the gambling was still taking place, the need of the thrill of winning still sparking something in his brain that needed satisfying. Eventually though, even this had to stop because he lost his job.
He turned up one morning, nearer lunchtime than the start of the day, threw up in to the bin under his desk, and fell to the floor with a blazing headache. He was escorted from the building.

With no job, no car, and now with a quite crippling drink problem, the last thing to go was his home. He rented, he could never afford to buy, and after two months missed rent he was given notice. One month later, he had nowhere to live. With no family alive, and no friends to speak of (having alienated everyone with his drinking and loans for gambling) he was all alone and on the street. He begged, sat with his back against the wall of the local library,
and he usually got enough to buy the cheapest, strongest, biggest bottle of booze he could get. He’d then get back to his little patch under the archway and drink until he blacked out.

Now, he had settled into his new life with a sense of entitlement – he deserved this. Of course he wished that he could turn the clock back and do things differently but wishing for things like that was pointless. He was not at the point of ending it all, he still valued his own life enough to want to live, but he felt he was just existing rather than living.

It was during one of his trips to the park, while sat on the bench with a quiet buzz on from a bottle of cheap vodka he had managed to get hold of, that he met the lady with the trolley. She was in her late sixties, if he had to guess, dressed comfortably in a long wool skirt and spring jacket. Her hair, a mixture of grey and white, was held up in a bun at the back of her neck. The trolley was one of those shopping ones that ladies of her age pushed ahead of them, boxy with four small wheels. She was walking along the path that ran through the middle of the park, toward his bench, and as she approached her eyes never left him. She was smiling softly at him, as if to say “oh there you are!”. As she reached the bench, she stopped, looking down at him. Ron looked up, and the sun behind her head caused him to squint a little.
“Hello dear” she said, “isn’t it a lovely day?”
“It’s OK” replied Ron. “Warm enough”.
“I’ve seen you around the library, haven’t I?” she asked, “asking for money”.
“Yeah, sometimes I guess” he replied.
“You seem like you’ve hit some hard times, you poor dear. I could help you know. Would you like to come with me, and let me buy you something to eat?”

Now this was something strange to Ron. Usually, the normal people would avoid even looking at him, but to be spoken to so kindly, let alone be given an offer of some food… this was all new. But maybe because of the vodka, or maybe because of how genuinely kind she seemed, Ron decided to take her up on the offer.

“That would be nice, thank you” he said. With a grunt, he raised himself from the bench, and the two of them started along the path that led out of the park.

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