A Squat To Remember

Posted: July 23, 2010 in #fridayflash, Short stories

“You’re only as good as you think you are” a quote from Bill Clinton, Nick remembered from school.  Nick repeated the sentence in his head as he walked along the shadowy street.  So, did Clinton mean; if you think you’re excellent at being a screw-up, then you probably were?

He kicked a small stone with the toe of his worn trainer and it flew forwards, bounced off of the dusty pavement and landed a few feet away from where he was walking.  He continued this process for most of the journey home.  Feeling obliterated, with the alcohol and cold night air combining a mixture of thinned blood and temporary blindness, he scrapped his arm on the wall, against the brittle rough surface.  He climbed over the tall back gate and fell to the unlevelled paving below, before scrambling to all fours and making his way through the unhinged kitchen window.  The room was murky, but a place Nick could call home.  He shared the shabby derelict house with three others; a hippy couple who lived upstairs and Jac who lived in the dilapidated back bedroom.   They all shared the kitchen, if you could call a cold running tap and mouldy festering fridge a kitchen.  Jac was in the living room starring at the various damp patches and perforations in the ceiling, spaced on some narcotic as usual.  Nick opened the door to his room and passed out on the solitary mattress.

Nick’s past had been a continuum of disasters.  He truanted regularly from school, before being expelled for smoking cannabis behind the science blocks.  His father told him to “shape up or ship out”.  Nick was kicked out when his father found remnants of cannabis in his bedroom weeks after the school expulsion.   He tried several jobs; stacking shelves, collecting trolleys and window cleaning, but none of them lasted.  Moving from youth hostels to doorways he had ended up here, miles from home and with no hope for his future.

The light coming through the window was like a raw excruciating laser, cutting through his eyesight.  He pulled the flimsy covers over his drowsy head wishing he were anywhere but here.  He emerged from his room and headed to the kitchen. He could sense a strange atmosphere as if some sort of force field had been unleashed around the house.  He got to the kitchen door and rubbed his eyes, blinked and rubbed them again.  Was he still inebriated? 

The kitchen cupboards were smeared with blood and the floor looked like it had been used for a scene from a movie massacre.  He looked at his hands and down at his legs.  Apart from the small abrasions to his arm from the evening before, he had no traces of blood on his body.  He looked behind him but there was no trace of anything.  It was as if someone had planted a giant water balloon, in the kitchen, filled with blood and it had exploded. 

He turned to run upstairs to get Jac, when he saw something.  Cautiously he moved closer.  A tiny fox cub, no bigger than Nick’s forearm, was curled up in a ball underneath the battered coffee table.  It was shivering but was snuggled in Nick’s favourite jumper, the only item of clothing he still possessed from his life with his parents.  He knelt down and held out his hand to the cub.  It was nervous at first and froze like an effigy.  Nick gently touched its nose.  The tiny fox cub hastily got to its feet.  His legs shook like a pneumatic drill and he had splashes of blood on his legs and paws.  Seeing the cub cold and frightened, Nick gently patted him on the head before running upstairs to find Jac. 

“Jac,” he called.  “Jac mate, you up?”

He pushed open the door but the room was empty.  He ran back downstairs, when he saw a bloody handprint and smudges on the kitchen window.  Bypassing the fox cub that had now coiled itself in the jumper, Nick went to the window and pushed it open. 

The back garden was a mirror image of the kitchen, with Jac lying face down in the middle of the patio.  Nick jumped out of the window and attempted to turn Jac over.  He wasn’t dead, but a bloody knife lay by his side.

“Get off me!” Jac said in a gruff voice reaching around on the patio for his weapon, his eyes still closed.  Nick stumbled backwards and landed with a squelch.  He pushed himself up off of the ground, his hands now sodden with blood and his trousers wet through.  He turned to see where he had fallen.  Lying motionless was the carcass of an adult fox.  Tears stung his eyes like red hot pokers and an acid taste hit the back of his throat.

Speechless, he turned to Jac.

“I killed it” Jac smirked “The beast was going to eat my burger”

“You killed it because it wanted your burger?” Nick yelled

“Yes and him.  He tried to tell me I couldn’t have no more drugs!”

Nick was confused.  “The fox said you couldn’t have drugs?”

“No you tosser! I ain’t a fookin loon.  Him…” he pointed to the back gate with the knife.

There lying in a helpless bundle were the hippy couple, in a pool of blood and matter.

“No-one stops me from being me!” Jac screamed.

Realising he was now in the middle of a murder scene and covered in police evidence, Nick edged towards the kitchen window.  Jac was still intoxicated enough not to be able to stand for a few more minutes at least.

Nick climbed through the window and tied it shut with an old TV ariel.  He scooped up the fox cub and his jumper and put them at the top of his bag with his other belongings.  He climbed out of the small toilet window at the side of the house and ran. 

By the time he had got to the street corner, the shriek of sirens began to fill the air.  He reached inside the rucksack and tapped the top of the fox’s head.  A contrast to an infamous IT girl, with matching attire and a Chihuahua in their handbag, Nick’s scruffy jeans and tattered hikers rucksack had a dishevelled fox cub, occasionally popping its head out for air. 

“Its ok Clinton,” Nick panted, tapping the cub’s head gently, “We’ll be ok… if we believe so!”

  1. Marisa Birns says:

    Well, Nick certainly lives in one of the circles of Hell! Great use of description throughout the story. And hopeful last sentence is a very good bookend to beginning paragraph.

  2. Laura Eno says:

    I liked the hopeful ending to this. Being a big softy, I’m glad he rescued the cub too. 🙂

  3. yearzerowriters says:

    The image of the IT girl pointed all this up wonderfully by way of contrast and context.

    marc nash

  4. Penny Goring says:

    Really gripping but I hated the git who killed the fox & wish you’d choked him!! Really felt for that fox : (

  5. Wow; drugs, murder, and a poor fox cub. Nice ending with the safe cub.

  6. The upbeat ending was quite something. Now if only Nick can avoid being picked up by the police because he’s blood soaked — or having the fox cub rip his face off when it’s hungry and older — he’ll be just fine.

    A well-written bit and I loved the sort of head-spinny feel to it all. I wanted to hold onto my desktop while reading it to keep from falling over.

    Well done!

  7. Good story! Quite an adventure, but I have a feeling it’s just starting for Nick and Clinton.

  8. John Wiswell says:

    Excellent at being a screw up and saving cubs. That’s progress.

  9. “He truanted regularly from school…” Now there was a word you don’t hear anymore… But seriously, Brian, a cool piece you have here. Dug your ending.

  10. Sam says:

    Crikey, what a scene to come home to! Wonderful descriptions throughout, and I really enjoyed the hopeful ending. I’ve always has a soft spot for fox cubs, probably because I haven’t met any.

  11. I too am glad he saved the cub 🙂
    Good unfolding of the scene of carnage!

  12. Joely says:

    You could definitely make a series out of this! Great character development here and a nice final sentence.

  13. Clive Martyn says:

    Some great imagery, solid descriptions and a hopeful ending – what’s not to like? 🙂

  14. Really unique and awesome piece. And the fox cub? Awwww… superb detail.

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