ask in shops if they’ve got any work.
Some shake their heads, some smirk
he’s getting tired, his feet are hot
and achy. This isn’t the way to do it.
By one o’clock, all he’s tasted
is a cup of tea and slice of toast;
there’s a lad and dog on a blanket
with a cardboard sign – Thanx!
He’s got dreadlocks
the dog’s got a red bandanna round his neck.
They look pathetic – Frankie decides there and then
he’s not going to be like them.
He’s never been in one before
there’s queues of men at the door
Frankie thinks a few look like they’ve slept in
their clothes. The staff look weary.
The lass behind the counter asks:
Er, I’m hangin. At me mates.
You can’t register without an address,
take this away and fill it in,
we’ll make an appointment.
One man in the queue stares
he’s tall and his suit’s threadbare.
The others all ignore Frankie – tragedy
is nothing new to them.
He wakes at five, thinks – still alive then –
but he can hardly move.
It hurts to stretch his legs
knees and ankles crack,
his back wont bend.
Frankie hobbles into town again
can’t think further
than a cup of tea. He’s pleased
with himself in a small way.
This is a start of a new day.
He sits on a bench,
watches the town wake up.
Deliveries to shops
suits off to work
shutters rattling open.
He sees a lass with a stall
and hangs around, she’s setting
an urn to boil:
Any chance of a free tea?
This’ll not be ready for awhile
then she smiles
Aye, gan on. She gives him
one pound fifty,
Greggs is open across the street.
He dozes on the bus
half watches the passengers
getting on and off.
As they nash down the A19
the sun turns blood red
in the sky. The lights
of Teesside spread out
like jewels in an inky pool.
He gets off and shivers, the air’s colder;
he’s in the centre of shops and roads,
everyone knows where they’re going
except him. He thinks:
I should’ve had a plan,
money, been prepared,
but somehow he doesn’t care.
He heads for the nearest pub
and spend his last few coins
on pop and crisps.
There’s talk and music and fruit
machines. No-one bothers him.
At closing, Frankie’s mashed with tiredness.
He heads off to the nearest
motorway intersection, scrubby land
bushes, rubbish. Sits with his back
against a concrete strut, pulls
his knees up, hugging them –
falls asleep to the sound of cars.
He jogs into town
drop his swimming gear in a skip
down a back lane in Summerhill Square
The leaves are turning tobacco brown
and gold, there’s a smell of smoke.
He stops in a kebab shop
buys a burger and sits on a high stool
staring at the bus station.
People with bags and tickets
going places, on the move.
Autumn’s in the air –
that restless breeze
blowing somewhere new.
That’s what I’ll do, he thinks.
I’ve not got much, but
I’ll head down south: Middlesbrough
Darlo, get away. Doesn’t matter
sleep rough or mebbes
get a job, a squat.
I’m like a bird, free and flying
off, leaving it all behind
the nest, the mess.
Bev gets pissed off when Frankie misses training
I need to know I can rely on the team
Frank says Promise I’ll be there
for the gala
but in his head he knows he won’t
as he lies in the bath, writing
on the steamy window.
he leaves the house with his swimming gear
texting Corinne not to wait
I’ll be late,
but at the end of the street
he keeps walking
down the hill away from Jubilee Estate
past Elswick Park and Pool
down to the river;
the water’s high and brown
a gull cadges a ride
on a log floating downstream
He leans on the rails and watches it.
There’s a lone fisherman
sitting there – how does he do it?
What does it take
to wait so long with no hope?
He yanks open the back door
and grabs the green towel out of Paddy’s hands
What ye deein with that ? It’s my swimmin towel!
Dad slides out from under the car
What the hell..?
Frankie’s pushing Paddy Dirty little bastard
Paddy pushes back Watch yer mooth!
Dad stands, puts his hand on Frankie’s chest
Frankie’s reaching round him
to get at Paddy, who’s grinning – It’s just a towel
Yeah but it’s my towel, with my badges on.
It’s old says Paddy
Dad takes the towel Act yer age – stop gettin in a radge,
he turns it, noticing the oily streaks, the faded colour
Swimmin badges are fer kids.
Hot tears of rage spurt from Frankie’s eyes
You take his side every time!
Frankie kicks the car tyres, he knows he cannot win
Stop that! Dad cuffs him
Paddy mouths Freak
Frankie flies at Paddy Fuck you
fist and feet hit out: Yer Bastard!
HOY Dad catches a kick on the shin
he grabs Frank’s shirt in both his hands
and pulls him close to shout,
Frank feels Dad’s spit fleck his cheek:
Pull yersel together, Frank.
It’s just a bloody towel.
Ne wonder lads are calling ye. Divvent be a jessy.
Frank turns and runs upstairs, he hears Paddy’s laugh
and Dad’s sharp tone:
Ye can shut it an all. Leave the lad alone,
Mr Stringer’s been on aboot ye.
Frankie throws himself down on the bed, and turns up the music.
Dad finally said something to Paddy.
But it’s all too late.