Jubilee Street

In Jubilee Street, where the post box stands like an iron sarsen from another planet, and the launderette's grimy windows glisten with the snotty slug trails of a hundred faded scotch-taped fliers, there's a frenzied feeding pool around the fish bar. Caught up in the cascades of neon-lit proclamations, cavorting on the gum-flecked pavement before the glassy black stare of a smiling plastic haddock, a smouldering society of sixth-form fledglings, freshly forsaken by academia, celebrates liberty by noisily glubbing down hot chips as if they're choking on the regurgitated table leavings of generations gone before. Caged by the greasy yellow bars of light that filter out between glossy full-colour special offers, cheap photocopied handbills for gigs that have been and gone, and the over-enthusiastically punctuated notice, proclaiming in purple ink 'Driver's Needed - Enquire Within', they jostle and fight and curse and scream.

Shadows pitched into the cluttered gutter daub prophetic pictures of the future and drain their ambition. So let them laugh loud and kick long and hard while they can, for there's damn all to check any of them from being swept away by the storm.

As breaths of oily steam balloon out into the shivering air, the poster boys for abandoned youth wipe their fatty faces on the fatty paper and are siphoned off towards the amber and ruby illuminated slot machines of the electric fun palace. Passing them on an opposite heading, tottering on broken heels, the girl with the lazy eye from the convenience store leaves the nine-to-five behind her in the seven-eleven, a day's work discarded amongst the hand baskets, and the tatty receipts, and the dirty copper coins and grubby fivers. Tomorrow she's going to do it all over again, blunt her hopes against the damp cardboard packages and the dusty shelves, and let desire fall upon the torn linoleum, to founder amongst the sweepings and the silvery grey grit scrubbed from a thousand useless scratch cards.

She stops to light a cigarette, scrapes the heel of her thumb against the stubby metal wheel, coaxes the flame to life and cups her hand around it to defend it against the elements. The wind raises up abandoned fliers and wrappers and plastic bags as spectral mementoes of weekday industry; a sheet of newspaper briefly clings to her legs before she dispatches it and it cartwheels down the road to deliver its headlines to some other straggler.

The cigarette glows brightly then dies away, and she laments that she will never burn as brightly as she coughs, moves on, and pulls her coat a little tighter around her shoulders.

A clatter of spokes and clacking of gears fractures her thoughts as a youth bumps his bicycle up the kerb to cut across her course. Obscenities are exchanged, staccato bursts of belligerence that ricochet like gunfire from the surrounding buildings - then, these social conventions having been properly observed, the woman turns away and heads home to a microwave dinner and an evening of boil-in-the-bag TV. The cyclist meanders his way down the street, slaloming his dinky little bike between lampposts and litter bins, leaning back nonchalantly in the saddle. The pose is calculated to impress, just like the smudge of his bum fluff moustache, the knocked-off designer trainers from the market, and the counterfeit sneer from MTV. But as there's no one around to watch him, he kicks out at an A-frame sign as he rattles past the newsagent's, and it folds up like a startled oyster and skitters along the pavement. Then he spins round, raises a middle digit in feeble salute to the newsagent emerging from his doorway, and heads towards the park - going the long way round to avoid the memorial, and the lads who used to bully him at school.

The newsagent breathlessly serenades him with a symphony of meaningless menaces, then waddles off wheezing to retrieve his sign. He moves awkwardly, toilsomely, a mighty oak normally found firmly planted behind his worm-riddled counter, and resentful of anything thing that might wrench him away from his grotto of pornographic magazines and out-of-date chocolate bars. He's sweating as he reaches down for the sign, his blotchy forehead wet with cold sweat which collects in the furrowed gutters of his brow and is channelled down his hot cheeks. Then, crimson faced and with his property gripped tightly in one podgy hand, he shambles back to his shop where he resolves to comfort himself with a pork pie, and several more crusty savouries from the shelves.

At the window above, framed by peeling paintwork, pressed behind dusty warped glass that twists his features and makes him shimmer and fade as he moves, the lodger looks down from his rented rooms as this tiny drama is played out. And when the players have left the stage he observes the amber sky and the setting sun which takes its bow as the curtain of night begins to fall. He sees the tiny sparks that fizz and glimmer on distant windscreens and polished chrome; the ripples of rainbows that briefly play over rooftops before the darkness gobbles up all detail and texture, and the pinkly glowing streetlights flare into fury and paint the street in flat and fulvid hues with puddles of shadow.

Clutching at these scattered atoms of inspiration, he returns to his easel and rearranges the colours to paint away the drab streaks that stain the endless intervals. But the bristles scratch the canvas like desperate fingernails on a coffin lid. Tonight he is buried beneath the weight of too many worries, burdened by too many distractions. He has no energy, no faith and the hunger has gone, so he puts down his brush, sits on the bed and he waits and he waits and he waits for something else to happen.

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