Un-Home.

Sun-stabbed newspaper on blistering sidewalk. Starched heat upon Hannah. She likes camping out. She is a bum. Homeless. Beggar. Tramp. Archaic scum in sleeping bags in the summer. She’s at the bus depot, eating bread rolls she stole from outside a delicatessen this morning. She’d seen the delivery truck drop them off in a plastic crate. She decided to steal first, talk about it afterwards. Scooping bread rolls into her coat, she left the sidewalk to the plastic crate and ran to the bus depot. There’s another homeless guy at the bus depot. He hangs around the ticket desk, scratching his index finger against the door.

“Faith doesn’t want any help,” he grizzles.

Hannah’s not sure if he’s talking religion or someone’s first name. Hannah stares at him. She chomps on the last bread roll. The taste of flour and all its furriness. A bus pulls into the depot. Pulls up opposite a big stone wall. Passengers alight. Some have big prices on their heads. No bargains in that milling lot. Into the street, blue skies of impossibility. Time for Hannah to hustle. Her father was once a night-watchman in a place similar to this. Silently into retirement, sweeping dreary ash and cellophane wrappers. Where did he hide his gold?

A station agent comes out to the homeless guy. They hang around the ticket desk. The homeless guy shuffles his feet … backward … in an instant. The station agent says something, but Hannah has difficulty distinguishing the words. From hand gesture she thinks there’s a problem, something about money being made dishonestly. The conversation is getting fiery. An argument based around the ruin of other lives. Station agent pulls the homeless man’s shirt sleeves. Hannah thinks there’s no cause for alarm. Speculation on the station agent’s behalf, talk of jail, but that’s questionable.

“The two dollars I was telling you about,” mentions the homeless guy.

It turns out the homeless man had found two dollars, lost it, the station agent had found it, the homeless man had seen him pick it up, and now the argument was upon them. Here they were, springing back on misfortune, on better luck and bad, quarreling about two bucks. Hannah watches these men, then opens her newspaper, reading newsprint. The report unlimited the word past the limit of the word. The charity of the poor in their misery. The homeless guy storms out of the bus depot, little grimaces, gripping one hand with the other, lustily pained. Hannah drops the newspaper. It turns loose from her ankles. Wind pushes it against her shoes. She leaps up. She follows the homeless guy. Through train junctions, traffic intersections she bowls after him … looking inconspicuous to a person she assumes looks highly suspicious.

He might make trouble, a natural question to ask herself. He walks into the lobby of a building, more a skyscraper actually. Hannah looks up at it, a solid edifice. She loiters, haggard-eyed and piteous. Hannah enters the building. There’s a sequence of anterooms for bankers. A warehouse for badly fitting garments, silk over precious bodies. The homeless guy presses the elevator button, going up. There’s no down button. No basement floor suggests itself. Hannah leaves, walks out onto the street, looks up and sees a stadium on top of the tiered car park across the street.

There it sits, football grandstands all interlocking, terraces, standing room only, atop the tiered car park opposite. Hooligans, men in broad shorts, some in overalls are all piling in through the turnstiles at street level. As opposed to the bus depot clients, there’s nothing itinerant about this lot. They smell like horse sweat, draught beer, nose-pinching deodorant, and they look as white as hospital detergent. The ground buckles. The concrete sidewalk bubbles in dispensed heat. A tiny cyclone whips up around the street corner. Infantile roars and chanting comes from the stadium, football liturgy and subhuman lurgy all combined as one pallid idol.

A crack appears in the stadium. A whole culture blows up. End Times. Football is the culprit. Hannah hesitates for three seconds, then her emotions give way to an almighty quiver. The crack seams apart. Men, sweaty men in team scarves and underwear pour out of the stadium onto the street below. Many of them tumbling to their end sighing. Scout Leaders with First Aid kits run to their side, pulling out bandages and antiseptic. The Chief Inspector starts rounding up the wounded. He sets up air landing beacons for helicopters to find their way to the disaster zone.

Hannah stands there, ingratiating herself to no one, smiling in a cold fashion, assisting no sports supporter. Women in hats, dresses, are running around finding their husbands eliminated. Ministers stand on packing crates, delivering half-muttered soliloquies. Impish hierophants set up tents to produce a black market for blood transfusions. Shrines with gold-leafed photographs of the injured pop up in teenage bedrooms the city over. Survivors who lose partial limbs rent houseboats, selling off their neat black brogues (for they have no use for them again), and entangle their families in hazardous adventures in far-off South Seas. And still men pour endlessly from the crack in the stadium.

“Plenty more where they came from,” Hannah thinks.

Men tumble out, happy in their life’s labours, pouring upon the asphalt like chlorinated water from a hotel spa. The bratwurst and soggy bun sellers are hastily evacuated from the building. Firemen walk into the hardware store to buy batteries for their torches. The bookies count off the days until National Derby Day. They won’t be taking bets on this catastrophe. Ambulance clerks with white throats urge onlookers to move on, yet Hannah retains her ground.

She pauses momentarily, then looks at something fly overhead, a robotic gadget that flutters like a bird. The robotic gadget parachutes down an armload of books, paratroopers in well-fitted reefer jackets, sailor coats with front pockets that have little gold snuff-boxes in them, some other antique curios. And as the men tumble out of the stadium and upon the footpath, the lids of caskets are opened and their plush interiors revealed. Helplessness and satin oddly blended in a fashionable funeral display. Stadium of Babel. The venomous sheen of emeralds on the Lord Mayor’s operating smock. Hannah turns around. The homeless guy has been watching this. Summertime in the city, under the stadium.

About Shane Jesse Christmass

Shane Jesse Christmass is the author of Acid Shottas. He can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

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