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Bad day

It was a lousy ending to the day. George was dusty and somewhat muddy. He paced around his living room, flinging sweat onto his furniture, as he cursed the bureaucrats who had shut off the water supply. It really wasn’t the Utility Board’s fault. They had informed him via posted mail. He remembered belatedly the contents of the letter.

“Dear Occupant,
We are sorry to inform you that your water supply would be cut from 8pm, August 08 2006 to 8am, August 09 2006 for the purpose of upgrading existing blah bleah up yours, worthless slave blah bleah blah …

We apologise for the inconvenience caused.
The Utility Board
Providing for the Nation’s Needs”

It didn’t help George one whit. He was faced with spending the night picking grey dirtballs from his armpits and smelling his own stench. All he needed was a quick shower somewhere. At this thought, his eyes widened as he remembered a 24-hour swimming pool with shower facilities. It was merely 15 minutes away.  

Hurriedly, he crammed his shower essentials into an old travelling bag, threw open the front door and slammed it shut behind him.

George squeezed through a path between a gaping canal and the backyards of murky houses. He heard occasional cars whoosh from place to place in the distance. “Drunks and losers.” He thought. George laughed at himself: they weren’t the ones who were heading to a public shower in the middle of the night. Immediately, he felt self-conscious. “If anyone looked out now, they’ll see a homeless tramp.” George thought he looked the part too, a grubby man who carried his only possessions in a ratty bag.

He made a left turn out of the path and jogged up a flight of cracked steps. An old big tree overshadowed his ascent. He kept his head down to avoid the long ropey tendrils that swayed from the shadowy branches. George rounded the tree, tip-toeing over thick twisted roots that haphazardly radiated outwards, and scurried for the streetlights ahead.

The pool and its showers were just down the street and past the bend. There weren’t any houses here, just a road dotted with streetlights and cordoned by bent wire fences running in parallel to the road. George, intent on getting his shower, did not notice the police car slide up next to him. 

He stopped. So did the car.

A tinted window rolled downwards to reveal the ugliest face that George had ever seen. Thick, cracked lips bordered around a half-gaping mouth while the rest of the face was squashed upwards into a perpetual squint. George wanted to slap the face back into the car. It had no place in this world.

“Evening” Ugly intoned. He was a tuneful baritone “Where are you going to?” Every word was enunciated perfectly. 

“It’s going to sound strange, officer.” He gave a tiny laugh. “I’m going to the swimming pool to take a shower.” George stole a glance at the driver. All he could see were massive hocks of meat on the steering wheel.

“Really?” Ugly snorted disbelievingly. It even sounded good. “Step back please”

George followed orders.  

The door clicked and swung open. Ugly stepped out. His uniform sagged sadly on his frame and flapped whenever a breeze blew. Idly, George wondered if living skeletons were possible. The policeman’s utility belt hung impossibly huge around his waist.

“Well then. What’s in the bag? Could you open it for us?”

The other door opened and revealed Meat Hocks. The resemblance to the Incredible Hulk on steroids was uncanny. The big man rested his elbows on the car roof. It dented slightly. George gulped in a deep breath as he cowed under the other’s stare.

Slowly, George unzipped the bag and held it open by the handles. He turned the bag towards them and showed off its interior.

“Freeze! Don’t move!” Ugly and Meat Hocks had pulled out their service revolvers. They looked ridiculous. Meat Hock handled the gun like a squirt pistol while Ugly trembled under the weight of the revolver. Still, George froze. His eyelid twitched under their stares.

Ugly snarled “I said. Don’t move!”

George’s mind was whirling. “What’s wrong with these guys?! What’s in my bag?”

“I’m not moving.” He shivered. “Look, I’m not doing anything.”

“Don’t move!” Ugly roared.

George shouted back “I’m not moving!”

Meat Hocks squeezed his squirt pistol. It bellowed.

“Such a loud sound from so small an object” thought George. He sat down heavily, flooding the pavement with urine. His bag tumbled to the ground; vomiting toiletries, towel and clean clothes around him. Abstractly, he wondered where he was hurt and how large was the exit wound.

He waited for pain. Tears scoured his cheeks, leaving clean tracks behind. He was going to die unwashed and smelly on a dirty pavement. He waited for pain. Where was it? It was late in coming.

George haltingly looked down at himself, expecting to find ripped gulfs in him. There weren’t any. He smelled gunpowder but it wasn’t on him. Meat Hocks smiled. It was full of cavities. The brute squeezed into his side of the car.

George tried to reach for Ugly but his legs were locked into place. Ugly saw what he was doing and laughed. He jabbered gibberish to Meat Hocks. And they roared raucously. George blushed and tried to reach for Ugly once more.

He missed. Ugly stepped into the car. He winked at George as if they were in together on some big secret. They drove away with the windows wound down. George could hear their mean laughter and gibberish floating back to him. He couldn’t understand them at all but he remembered that he could once upon a time. He couldn’t remember why he was here.

George sat there for a long time, his hand still reaching out to an absent assailant. His dirty face streaked clean by tears. It was a lousy ending to the day.

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