Stumbling through the peak hour
traffic in the Swanston Walk, the derelict ,was a conspicuous
sight. He was dressed in baggy, tattered trousers, a dirty grey
flannel shirt, and unmatched footwear -- an ancient brown suede
shoe on his left foot, a near new Nike gym shoe, which he had
stolen from a display stand, on his right. On his head he wore
a tatty Collingwood Balaclava. From the left hand pocket of his
filthy burlap greatcoat protruded the uncorked snout of a nearly
empty bottle of third-rate claret -- January, a bad month for
wine. Occasionally people would shake their heads in passing;
point and stare at the funny, stooped little man, who looked as
old as Methuselah, although only in his early forties.
Not that it worried the
derelict how much people laughed at him. Just so long as they
continued to throw out perfectly good food for him to find, or
occasionally throw a stray coin or two in his direction. Even
though more often than not they did so from contempt, to watch
him grovel, rather than from any genuine compassion.
Normally the derelict was a
cheerful enough soul. Yet for some reason he was in a foul mood
that day, though even he could not say why. He'd had a good
morning, having managed to cadge two large handfuls of coins;
enough to buy two bottles of cheap red wine. The first bottle
had been emptied and discarded long ago. The second bottle was
well on the way also. Perhaps that was the reason for his bad
mood, the disappearance of his wine. He was heard to say later
someone had stolen his wine, although no one had gone near enough
to him from the time he had purchased the two bottles in the
South Melbourne market, until the time the last of the wine had
trickled down his ever thirsty throat, in the Swanston
Staggering past the display
front of a shop in the Walk, the derelict collided heavily with a
tall, lanky, deathly-pale skinned youth, whose long, stringy,
blond hair seemed strangely out of place against the flashy,
up-to-the-minute dress suit he wore.
Knocked off his feet the
derelict landed heavily on his backside.
Climbing slowly to his feet
again, without assistance, the derelict began abusing the youth:
"Hey you young bastard, think you own the footpath or something?
Think you've got your name etched on it or something? Think
you can get away with knocking a bloke down, do you? Well who
the hell do you think you are anyway, the Prime Minister or
The lanky youth was unmoved by
the outburst, which he met with silence.
The derelict was furious: "Well
what's the matter with you anyway? The cat got your tongue or
something? Don't you even have the decency to say you're
Clearly there was no apology
forthcoming, so the derelict continued, "I don't know what's
wrong with young people today. They go around bashing a poor
bloke about, then don't even have the decency to help him back to
his feet again. Let alone offer up a word of apology. It
couldn't hurt to say you're sorry, you know. Why when I was a
boy your age, we looked up to our elders, treated them with the
respect they deserved. We didn't go round beating them up
mercilessly every time the poor bastards had the bad luck to
cross our paths."
Still the tall, blond youth
"Well then, what have you got
to say for yourself? Gonna try and make amends?
"Look all you gotta say is,
'Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry for not looking where I was
going.' That's all. I'm not asking you to humble yourself, or
go down on your knees and beg for forgiveness. Just say you're
Nothing, not a word from the
youth. Not even a shake of the head, or a bat of the eyelid to
even show he was alive.
"So Mr. Smarty Pants, think
you're too good to say sorry to a bloke after flattening him, do
you? Think you're special, do you? A red hot ladies' man by the
looks of your fancy duds. Or at least you think you
"Hey Mr. Ladies' Man, is that
your racket is it: beating up on blokes then strutting round in
front of the chicks like you're real hot stuff?"
Still only silence. The older
man might just as well have not even been there, for all the
attention he received from the younger man.
"I wonder what the little
ladies would think, if they could see the way you spend your
spare time? Hey Mr. Hot Stuff, do the sheilas know you spend
half your time punching blokes up?"
The continuing silence was
beginning to really have an effect on the derelict.
"Listen here you young
hooligan, either I hear the word 'sorry' in the next few seconds,
or else I'll knock your bloody block off! I don't care if you are
as tall as a bloody lamppost, you're such a weedy looking bugger,
I reckon I could tear you limb from limb!"
The derelict did just that.
First he grabbed the youth in a half-nelson and ripped his head
clean away from his shoulders. Then he tore off both the
youth's arms, before finally pulling both of his legs straight
out of their sockets.
That was how the store manager
found the derelict, sitting on the pavement, with his head in his
hands, muttering between sobs, "I didn't mean to kill him, I only
wanted to teach the bastard some manners." Around him lay the
mangled remains of the menswear store dummy.
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