I was locked out of my flat again because an urban fox ran away with my keys and the locksmith refuses to answer my calls. I’m sure that’s illegal, but I can’t go to the police; they’ve stopped answering my calls as well. I wandered around Finsbury Park for hours and hours thinking about soup. It made me hungry, so I found the nearest Tesco Metro and bought the cheapest food stuff I could find. It happened to be advent calendars. The chocolate tasted hollow and watery, leaving my stomach growling for something else.
I usually bring my trolley to the bins behind Marks and Spencer, but it has since lost its front wheels. That’ll teach me for joy riding through Hampstead Heath. Something clattered down the alleyway as I dove for food. I poked my head up and out of the bin like a meerkat, ready to run. The hunched form of an elderly lady, decorated like a Christmas tree with pots and pans hanging from her mouldy tartan shawl, ambled towards the bins. The evening sun ignited her grizzly grey and ginger hair. Wrinkles crept from her eyes like spider’s webs. She was beautiful, delving into the bin next to mine as if I wasn’t even there. Her stubby little hands grappled with miniature pots of jam and egg sandwiches. Of course, when she left, I had to follow her.
She stopped for a nap in my favourite bus stop, her shapeless mass expanding and retracting as she snored like shifting continents, until she was rudely awoken by a city official. Screaming beautiful obscenities at him in her rusty voice, she hobbled awkwardly towards the park while I sauntered behind, at a distance. I couldn’t help but notice that she was miaowing softly to herself, perhaps as a form of comfort. I was entranced. People parted in the street for her, like Moses and the red sea; everyone was under her spell as she clanked towards them.
Eventually she stopped to rest again on a park bench, huffing and heaving, causing a well-dressed business man to ruffle his copy of The Telegraph in complaint. With one hand she delved into the folds of her shawl and produced a tiny, mewing kitten. Holding the creature by the scruff of the neck, she used her other hand to rummage amongst her pots and pans for an open tin of tuna. The kitten clawed at the air with its little paws. My new found love fed the little thing straight from her hand. The kindness and motherly nature of this act nearly made me weep. I could no longer stand in concealment, all my fiery nerve-endings fizzed with anticipation to talk to her. Strolling straight up to her, without a moment to think, I looked into her glazed eyes and began to speak.
“Hello there, my name is Arthur Switherington the third.” I doffed my trilby and offered her my hand.
With eyes grey as concrete she focussed on me; her lips were shrivelled and thin like wilting peppers. She opened her mouth and my organs tightened against my rib cage.
“WHO’S GOT THE ANSWERS? WHO’S GOT THE ANSWERS?”
She threw the tin of tuna at me, scooped up the kitten and loped away, hunched and clanking, shouting obscenities at the top of her lungs. I have now resigned myself to celibacy until I find her again. I will only love one and she is gone. All I have left is a tin of tuna coveted by an urban fox that refuses to leave my bathtub.
Writer: Susannah Pope
Illustrator: Laura Armstrong