Davy was aware of the spade, flying towards his head from the right, just a split second before it cracked into his skull. He went down like a sack of potatoes and felt the hard toe cap of a working man’s boot connect with his thigh, then his back. The old man was red in the face and shouting, kicking out again and again. All Davy could hear though was the clanging in his head. He scrambled to his feet and ran down the path as best he could, bouncing off the wall and the fence, disorientated and stumbling like a drunk. The old man did not follow him.
Back at the squat Davy struggled to ascend the cold stairway, clinging to the banister, before collapsing onto his filthy mattress. Kev was sitting in the corner rolling a cigarette and eyed him suspiciously. They did not speak.
The old man must have been in the shed. Davy had briefly scanned the small garden before trying the back door, which had been locked. Who locks their back door when they are working in their garden? A few more minutes and he would have been in through the window. He felt aggrieved.
If he was to eat today he would need to get himself into town and beg at the bridge, perhaps the lunchtime crowd would take pity on him. Who was he kidding? If he was lucky then he might be tossed a few coins, a generous soul may slip him a fiver. He was filthy and bloody too now thanks to that spade.
The smell of the burning cigarette made him crave nicotine. He was a lousy thief, was there anything he couldn’t fail at? The thought reminded him of his mother and her mocking when he had proudly declared that he had a place at the university.
Those three years had given him hope, a degree would be his ticket to a better life. Then he had returned to the reality of unemployment and homelessness. His mother had a new man and closed the door in his face. All he had to show for his hard won qualification was debt.
Andrew heard his name being called and looked around. The face was familiar but it took him a moment to place it. He had last seen Davy in a local pub, perhaps as much as a year ago. The spectacle he now presented horrified Andrew. He couldn’t risk his work colleagues connecting him with a hobo, who moments before had been nothing but an irritating blight on the high street.
‘Good to see you mate, you can buy me a coffee’
‘Um, no, in a hurry, work you know’
‘Nah, buy me a coffee and tell me how you’re doing’
Davy took Andrew by the arm and steered him towards Starbucks. Flustered, Andrew shook him off and pulled his wallet from his pocket, offering Davy the first note he could extract without looking at it.
‘Look, I really can’t. Buy yourself one though, here’
Davy stopped and looked at his former student house mate, his drinking buddy. The smart suit, the clean shaven face, the wallet full of cash, that was where he should be. That was where he might have been if an uncle had offered him a job on graduation.
He took the twenty from Andrew’s hand and watched his erstwhile friend walk quickly away, frantically wiping the imagined dirt from the arm that Davy had held.