The Lady With The Trolley – Part 3

The first piece of meat he chewed upon delivered on the promise that the scent of the stew had made. Tender yet firm, a joy to masticate and satisfying to swallow. He had taken three or four big spoon fulls without even breathing. He paused, and looked across at the old lady who now sat opposite him. “This is amazing” he said, “I’ve not had food like this in so long”.
“I’m so glad you like it” she replied, “now tell me, how did you come to end up where you are in life?”
So in between delicious mouthfuls of the warming, filling stew, Ron told the tale of his life from professional, respected man to where he was now. Reliving some of the details, he was surprised that a tear or two formed in his eyes. It was such a long time since someone had shown any interest in hearing his tale, and speaking about it in this way made him realize just what it was that he had, and what he had lost.
By the time he had finished his story, his spoon was hitting the bottom of an empty bowl. He slowly sat back, thinking that all he’d need now is a few mouthfuls of the vodka in his pocket and he could happily snooze for hours.
“Mrs. Clarke, that was amazing. Thank you so much” Ron said.
“My pleasure dear, it’s always nice seeing someone with such a good appetite especially when it’s food you’ve prepared yourself”.
Sitting in this woman’s kitchen, with the sun somehow feeling stronger through the window by which he sat, Ron started to feel quite sleepy. His head began to feel at once heavy, as though hard to keep upright, but also light as though he could float away. He looked across at Mrs. Clarke and saw her sitting there, smiling gently at him.
He realized something wasn’t quite right when she seemed to move further away from him and then up close, even though she was sitting perfectly still. She was also blurring slightly, then coming back into focus, as though she were an image on a TV that was having trouble keeping the signal.
Ron had been on enough benders in his short street life that he knew when his brain had been affected by something external. He started to feel a cold sweat seeping between his shoulder blades and on his brow.
“Wh..what’s going on?” he stammered. “I don’t feel too good…”
Mrs. Clarke simply sat and watched him. He gazed across at her, and with an effort of will her face came back into sharp focus. Her smile was gone. Now she looked cold, hard, as though he had upset her somehow or made her angry.
In a voice much different to before, this one filled with venom, she spat “People like you make me sick. You have it all, you have so much to live for and so much to give, yet you selfishly squander it all and let yourself live like pigs. It’s disgusting”.
“What the fuck is going on?” Ron groaned. He could feel his body becoming heavier as though someone was pouring liquid led into him. He staggered to his feet, knocking the empty bowl to the floor with a crash. His feet tangled in themselves, and he pitched forward with a shout of surprise. As he fell, he grabbed the shopping trolley that was still where he had left it by the door, and pulled it down on top of him.
The top of the trolley came open as it fell and as Ron lay on his side, head on the floor, he saw what he’d felt moving about in the trolley earlier.
Heads. Severed heads. Two of them had fallen out, and one of them landed inches from his own face. The mouth was frozen open in a scream and the eyes, though open, stared at the endless abyss of death.
A scream erupted from Ron. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His body, now feeling like a puppet with it’s strings cut, responded enough to his movements to let him flop onto his back. Mrs. Clarke was now stood over him.
“This is what you get. This is what you deserve. You eat of your own kind and you go to feed your own kind so at least you’re giving something back”.
Ron stared in disbelief at the large carving knife held in Mrs. Clarke’s hand. All he could now move were his eyes in their sockets, and they followed her as she slowly knelt beside him. He could no longer feel anything. Not the floor he lay on, not the vodka bottle in his pocket, nor the urine that seeped onto the front of his trousers.
Mrs. Clarke slowly leaned down, so she was nose to nose with him, and whispered “I now take your head, as I took the others, and you will feed the next miserable wretch I meet. It’s all you deserve”.

Ron didn’t even feel the blade as it sliced into his throat.

The Lady With The Trolley – Part 2

They left the park walking together, the old lady pushing her trolley and Ron clutching his bottle of vodka in a brown paper bag. As he turned to walk toward the shops, the old lady stopped him and said “No, I think we’ll go to my house dear, I have a big pan full of stew that needs eating, I’m sure you’ll like it”.
“Oh, no, really, I couldn’t do that” replied Ron. He was worried for a number of reasons; what if someone saw him entering her house? He knew his bodily odor wasn’t the nicest and he wouldn’t want to stink this sweet old lady’s house out. And he just felt uncomfortable at the thought of being alone in a woman’s house, no matter her age.
“It’s alright, really, it’ll be fine” she said. And with that, she set off away from the shops, walking alongside the iron railing fence that separated the park from the road. Ron dithered for a few seconds, but then his stomach had a say, growling at the thought of a bowl of hot stew. With a sigh of resignation, he set off after her.

Eventually, after around ten minutes, they reached her home. It was a small, single story building, a little run down but sturdy and clean looking. The path from the road was narrow and straight, but was crowded on both sides by bushes, and as Ron looked harder he saw they were brambles. The gate to the path was closed, and as the old lady stopped before it she said “Would you mind, dear?” indicating that she’d like him to open it for her so she could push her trolley through. He leaned over the gate, saw the latch, and opened it.
As she walked through and along the path, he followed her and heard the gate shut behind him, obviously on some kind of spring. He heard the rasp of the brambles as they slid along the side of the trolley, and as he walked behind her he felt small tugs on his trousers as the thorns from the brambles caught on the cloth.
“Your garden could do with a bit of a tidy up” he said, hoping his tone didn’t come across as rude. “If you like, I could cut some of these back for you? It’s the least I could do if you’re going to feed me”.
“Oh that’s very kind” the old lady replied “but it’s quite alright, I like the wildness of it all, it makes me feel like I’m living closer to nature than I actually am”.
She reached her front door, and carefully withdrew a key from her pocket to unlock it. There was a step up into the house, and once she was inside she turned and indicated her trolley. “Could you lift this over the step for me?”
Ron moved toward the trolley as she disappeared into the house. He slid the bottle of vodka into one of his voluminous coat pockets and then grasped the handle of the trolley. Rocking it back, he lifted the front wheels up and over the step. As he did so, he felt something shift inside it, as though something quite heavy but free moving was inside. He lifted the rear wheels up and into the house and felt the weight resettle again.
“Come in, come in” she called from in the house. He pushed the trolley a little way along a short hallway, turned, and closed the front door.
“I’m in the kitchen” she called again, “straight through from the front door. Would you bring the trolley with you?”
He turned again, and pushed the trolley ahead of him.

He entered a small, but tidy, kitchen. Everything felt a little surreal to him, the combination of the alcoholic fogginess in his mind and the situation he was in causing him to feel a little light headed.
Across from him, by a window in the wall, was a small table with two chairs. The wall to his right held cupboards, and shelves, with china plates and cups stacked on them. On the opposite wall was a work top between a small cooker and a fridge. And at the far end, in the corner, was a closed door. The old lady was stood before the cooker and as he turned toward her, she lifted the lid of the pot that was on the stove and a smell filled the kitchen. Ron’s stomach growled appreciatively, and although he no longer ate regularly (the need for alcohol usually outweighed the need for sustenance) his mouth as filled with saliva as the scent of cooked meat and herbs flooded his senses.
“Please, sit down” she said “the stew will be a few more minutes as it warms through. Sit there, at the table, make yourself comfortable”.
He moved to the table, pulled out the chair facing the cooker, and slowly sat down. The feelings of discomfort and awkwardness were still there, but something about this sweet lady was putting him at his ease and the smell of hot, home made food was going the rest of the way to relaxing him.
As she stirred the pot, she said “Tell me your name dear, I don’t think I asked before”.
“Ron” he replied, “Ron Price”.
“Nice to meet you Ron” the old lady said “You can call me Mrs. Clarke”.
As he watched, Ron saw her reach to the work top and take hold of a round, deep bowl with a spoon already in it. She carefully ladled some of the stew into it and then put the lid back on the pot. She turned, moved to the table and placed the bowl down in front of him. “There” she said, “now you eat up. I hope you like it”.
Ron had no doubt that if it tasted anywhere near as good as it smelled he would enjoy it immensely.
“While you eat” she said with a smile “you can tell me about how you came to be how you are now, you poor thing”.
Ron nodded, and grasping the spoon he took his first mouthful of the stew.

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.