Nick Bryan Dot Com

Friday short story time: "Vagrancy"

Today, a short ode to waking up, being confused and just kinda stumbling around. This exact story never happened to me, but I like to think it has basically happened to everyone. A genuine attempt to connect with the universal human experience on Nick Bryan Dot Com today.

And, on a less pretentious note, tonight I see Avengers!


By Nick Bryan

Phil woke up on a bench in Leicester Square, wondering what that sticky mass on his left hand was. Wondering why he was there, or indeed how he’d managed to sleep in the first place. Because, much to his aggravation, it wasn’t even morning yet.

No chirping birds, no light gently bursting through the clouds, or even starting to peep over them. It wasn’t morning, it was night. Late, it felt like midnight had been and gone, the kind of night that he rarely saw. Because, as ever, he had left the pub at eleven and tried to get towards the station.

And then, apparently, fallen asleep on a bench. And then, he thought, poking his hand into his pocket, some idiot had stolen his phone. It had been a good phone too. The slats of the bench had pressed their shape into his back.

All around him, people were still wandering from place to place, with gaits from run to stagger, or the even more impressive stagger-whilst-vomiting. Phil shook his head to try and get it clear; at the moment, the whole square looked like a photograph post-Photoshop to him.

Plumes of light snaked from end to end, from one neon sign and on to another, as if they were bleeding into some central pool, and beneath it, people were running. That rickshaw driver was just circling the drain.

It was only five minutes to Charing Cross, he told himself, if that. He could make it, and if nothing else, there would be a roof or some reassuring sober grumpy people, and less shouting. They weren’t all speaking English, and he didn’t have a racist bone in his body, but the foreign languages were louder than any of the others and it was just making his disorientation worse.

He tried to make his way to the corner exit, only for his way to be blocked by a group of police grabbing a kid in a hood, almost elbowing Phil to the ground in their enthusiasm to dispense justice. No apology, either, just the rickshaw driver racing round for another lap, then finally turning off the square at the corner after his. He figured he’d wait until he’d made it home before reporting his phone, then. At least he still had his wallet.

Phil kept making his way down the side, muttering bitterly about why the damn police weren’t doing anything about the rickshaw that wasn’t even on a road, not to mention why they hadn’t woken him up hours ago. As he found his way onto the way that led down to Charing Cross, it was as if he’d shoved his way into some kind of feeder pipe.

This appeared to be the drunken pilgrimage of choice. Evidently, whatever time it was, it was kicking-out time. The entire of London, it seemed, were making their way down here, their Friday night finery in varying states of disarray. Phil’s good shirt wasn’t ripped, but that brown stain didn’t seem like it was ever coming out.

People were shouting and hugging each other, Phil hoped he looked grizzled and wide-eyed enough to keep everyone away. If someone were to go in for a hug now, he couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t cry on them.

So instead of going for a hug, one of the passers-by, perhaps thinking Phil was so out of it he wouldn’t notice, decided to reach into his trousers for his wallet. And, even though he was awake, the temptation was there to just let it go. He didn’t feel in any state to get in a fight with a healthy, opportunistic criminal.

Fortunately, even a well-build pick-pocket didn’t stand much of a chance against the rickshaw, which swerved around the end of the road, managed to weave past a few pedestrians, before finally losing control and smacking straight into Phil’s robber with a satisfying crunch.

True, Phil himself was knocked sideways, losing his balance and barely keeping his footing, but at least he wasn’t going to hospital to have his bones put back in. That arm was in at least four pieces. Feeling better about everything, Phil decided to walk purposefully down towards Charing Cross before the police made it down here to question anyone.

He would’ve called an ambulance for the guy, but damn, no phone.

Copyright me 2012, no stealing innit, email if you like. Thank you for reading. This story almost took place on a night bus, but that would’ve been too autobiographical. I once got approached at a night bus stop and asked where the local dogging spot was, y’know.


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