'Flash!' Winter 2017

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium


A short story written by Imaginarium House member, Hullabaloo22.

Chapter 33 (v.1) - Without Harry

Submitted: December 19, 2017

Reads: 92

Comments: 2

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Submitted: December 19, 2017

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Without Harry

 

I hate this time of year. Not because of the cold because, let’s face it, December used to seem much colder a few years ago. Although even now it is bad enough when you have to make your bed in a shop doorway or something, with just the sleeping bag you carry around with you to climb into. And I’m one of the lucky ones. Most of us that are homeless don’t even have that.

 

And it’s not because of the decorations. I can spend hours of my long days just walking around and looking at all the different window displays. Some of the stores really go to town with their festive showcases that are really just a way to try to entice customers to come inside and spend. I can’t linger at any for too long though or the shop staff get suspicious of my intentions and tell me to clear off. A homeless waif does tend to put people off of approaching. I can see their point of view but it’s a shame as it’s a free way of breaking up the total monotony of life on the streets.

 

No, what I hate most of all are the people. They become so much busier than normal, bustling from shop to shop, impatiently making their way along the pavements as they go, to spend a bit more here, a bit more there. It seems there is nowhere for me to go to get out of their way. They look at me, the ones that don’t pretend that I’m not there, as though it is my fault that I am a hindrance. It wouldn’t enter their minds that it could so easily happen to them – that they could end up with nothing apart from what they can carry, and with nowhere to go.

 

I find myself getting pushed and shoved far more often in the week before Christmas; jostled here, trod on there. And people are less likely to spare a dollar, wanting to spend every cent they can on making their own Christmas special. If it wasn’t for Mark and Annie and their wholefood cafe, I probably would have starved by now.

 

Mark hands me a cup of steaming soup which I gratefully take a sip from. Annie has a bag with some kind of wholegrain rolls for me. I am grateful, for I know it is a feast compared to what lots of us exist on. If I have any money I will hand over my couple of dollars gladly, but they always give me the same whether I can pay or not.

 

Feeling slightly warmer from the soup, I ask, “Have you seen him?”

 

I’m sorry Amy, but no,” says Mark, while Annie just shakes her head.

 

Two weeks now since Harry left me. I try to fight back the tears but it’s hard. “Please keep looking. And if you see him, tell him to find me. Thanks for the food.” I start to walk away but stop, turn back and say, “Happy Christmas!”, although happy is the last thing I feel.

 

We’d been together for a while, Harry and I. We’d keep each other company, keep each other warm when it was cold, seek shelter together when it was wet. We’d watch out for each other, keep each other safe as we walked along the pavements. Somehow it was so much more bearable with Harry by my side.

 

Then about two weeks ago I went to sleep with Harry by my side but in the morning when I woke up he was gone. I couldn’t and can’t understand it. Why did he leave? I have checked all our normal haunts over and over again but there has been no sign of him. The few acquaintances I’ve made say they have not seen any sign of him.

 

Perhaps he took it into his head to go home, but why so suddenly? I’m afraid that something has happened to him but I can’t even admit to the possibility that he is dead. I am sure I would be able to sense it if he were – we were that close.

 

Last Christmas we were together. We’d saved up a few dollars and had bought ourselves a bit of a feast specially for that one day. At least we could feel like we were doing what everyone else was – having a treat. This year I will be alone and I don’t know if I can bear it. I’ve got nothing put aside, no money, no treats. It’ll be just another in a series of long and lonely days.

 

Already it is getting quieter on the streets as people hurry home. They have done all they can now; it’s too late for them to do any more. I’ll have quite a choice of doorways tonight as everywhere will close early and will not re-open for two whole days. All I have to do is keep out of the way for a short time longer.

 

Taking my sleeping bag from the straps that hold it to my backpack, I pick a nice wide doorway. The overhanging roof and the deep sides will offer me some shelter from the elements and hopefully stop me from being spotted and moved on. The ground is hard, uncomfortable, but I don’t really notice it now. At first I used to find it impossible to sleep without a mattress beneath me and a pillow for my head. Now, I’m just glad to be able to lay down and take the weight off my feet.

 

I don’t want to think of Harry tonight. I try really hard to banish those thoughts but they just keep worming their way back and I can’t be bothered to hold the tears back any longer. I don’t know how long it takes but eventually I cry myself to sleep.

 

The cold wetness on my checks wakes me but I am too groggy, too confused, to make sense of it. Only when that tongue licks my nose do I realise what is happening.

 

Harry,” I almost shout, throwing my arms around the dogs neck. “Where have you been? Why did you go?” I’m crying again but this time from happiness. I’d thought that I would never see him again, and here he is wagging his tail, acting as though he has never been away.

 

Happy Christmas, Harry,” I say, burying my face in his fur. “But I’m sorry, boy, no treats this year.”

 

I drag myself up onto my feet, roll up my sleeping bag and attach it to my backpack. “Come on, then. Let’s go for a walk. There’s not going to be anyone around yet so the streets will be all ours.”

 

Harry wags his tail and trots along beside me. It is as though the loneliness of the last two weeks has all been in my mind.

 

And, you know, maybe there is a Santa Claus. As we near the grocery store we can see the bin is packed full of Christmas goodies that had been left unwanted on the shelves. All packed nicely as if we’d gone in and bought them ourselves. I walk over to that bin and help myself to as much as I can possibly carry.

 

Forget what I said, Harry. There’s treats galore. We are going to have ourselves one hell of a Christmas feast!”


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