Jessie Down and Out
Jessie has been pronounced well enough
not to be a drain on NHS resources any more
and turned out onto the streets, even though
she has nowhere to go. She hitches a ride
with an HGV driver in exchange for a fuck,
hoping she has given him some vicious STD,
as he dumps her off like a sack of coal
outside the cathedral, as cold night draws in.
Jessie wanders round sticking out her hand to
passing strangers begging spare change. Tugs
at the coats of some. “I’m just out of the nut-
house,” she pleads. “Give us a break.” They shrug
her off and walk on. Jessie stuffs some garbage
up her dress to keep herself warm and make her
look like she’s up the duff again. That way the pigs
are less likely to kick the shit out of her during the night,
she reasons, and beds down on bubble wrap
in an empty cardboard refrigerator box.
Jessie is woken by a pile of newspapers being dumped down
beside her. She has slept surprisingly well. It must be the hospital
meds that haven’t yet quite worn off, she thinks. Rips out a copy
of the morning rag and reads the headlines. It is all about Yu.
She shuffles round the corner into a Starbucks. “Out!” the barista
immediately roars. MacDonald’s are less fussy, although
the early morning Eastern European worker sighs angrily as Jess
dumps a pile of low denomination coins from dirty hands
onto the counter in exchange for a prefabricated breakfast
of hash browns and sausage and scrambled egg and a plastic
cup of scalding hot instant coffee tottering on a tray. She watches
folk go by off to work through the window as she eats and reads.
I know that place, she thinks, looking at the pictures of the police raid.
It’s not that far from here. Maybe I’ll leg it there. Snoop around. See
what I see.
Jessie Out and Down
The close is ringed off by police like an atomic bomb
has just gone off. Jessie slips round the back, taking care not to cross
the blue and yellow crime-scene perimeter tape, down along
the muddy banks of the brook where lazy folk dump their trash,
slipping, cursing, picking up knick-knacks that might have some
monetary value somewhere down the line. You’d be surprised
what rich folk toss out. A still corked bottle of Babycham;
a bauble box, shards of willow-pattern crockery, a baby’s diaper,
talcum powder, an intact bottle of French perfume still wrapped
in the fancy packaging of the franchise from which it came. Jess
scoops them all up in her skirt and wades on along the brook, enjoying
the feel of the cold water and stones on her booted feet,
the weeds lapping against her thighs. A UFO appears in the sky
tracking her. They want her clues, she thinks. Or maybe her meds
are just wearing off. She reaches a point where the brook runs
out through a rusted metal pipe into the sewage treatment plant.
The UFO—or is it a police helicopter—is still hovering around.
She panics. ‘Better get rid of these,’ she thinks, and ditches her treasure
under some rotting leaves. Sheds her clothes. Tiptoes
over the corrugated ruddy tube and dives, like a diving bird or an Olympic
athlete, in an arc into the fetid waters below and disappears.