He got up
and looked out of the window; it was cold,
grey and drizzling. Behind him in bed lay
his schizophrenic wife. She practically
lived in that bed.
He went to the bottom of the stairs,
pulled open the door and shouted from the
street up the stairs: 'Are you ever going
to get up?' No response.
He got himself ready wondering what to do.
He couldn't go for a ride on his motorbike
in this. He had no job because he was
getting Invalid Care Allowance to look
after his wife. So today as usual would
just be the same as so many others. He
wandered round the town, just passing the
Even the bus was crammed full of
spluttering pensioners. But he had bought
a bus pass and he might as well use it. He
hoped he wouldn't bump into his sister or
his ex-wife. He hated them both. But his
sister only used the bus infrequently. He
couldn't wait to get off the bus. He
filled his lungs full of cold fresh air
and let it out with a sigh. Then he began
wondering what to do. The library?
Possibly, for a quarter of an hour. Then
what? Already the Christmas lights were
being put up, adding cheer to the
otherwise cheerless sky. He just has to do
something different, something
exciting. What was he doing, but just
waiting to die?
He looked around him at all the people
shopping away, oblivious to this thought.
So it was just another Christmas. And then
another, and then another. And then
At the far end of the town was a depiction
of Santa and his reindeers racing across
the sky. It was made up with yellow light
bulbs on the side of a large building.
'Christmas is for the rich,' he thought as
he saw in the shop windows more and more
of what he couldn't afford. When would he
have a bigger motorbike? Why couldn't he
have a normal wife? Why was his previous
wife just ignoring him? He had seen her on
the bus a few times and they had just
behaved like complete strangers. How could
she, after all the time they had spent
together? He remembered lying in bed
stroking her back and how she would make
him such lovely dinners when he came in
from work. He was working in the shipyards
then, of course and he was bringing
in the money. Now all that was gone. 'When
money stops coming in the door, love flies
out the window,' he reminded himself with.
She was now living with some old dosser.
He saw them through the blinds and
wondered whether she did it on purpose.
And then there was his son. What was he
now but a stuck-up prig? He had a flashy
sports' car and did not want to know his
father. He had sent a friend to knock on
the door of the house he used to live in
before his wife had thrown him out. It was
last Christmas. The friend had reported
back that his own son had disowned him. He
had just wanted to see his son to wish him
a happy Christmas. But his son had
referred to him as his 'previous' father
and had told him to get on with his own
life and leave them alone. That was the
son he had so often played football with
on the field. He had even let him beat him
once or twice. Now he was the loser
He wandered about the store chewing all
this over, going into shops now and again.
He was surprised to find it was getting
dark. It was only half past three but the
weather was overcast and the days were
A feeling of desolation swept over him
when he realised he had wasted another
dreary day and that all he had to look
forward to was his mentally-ill wife. He
just couldn't interest her in anything.
She sat watching the television but, when
he was in hysterics at something, she
would just sit there impassively.
What was more, a few days' ago he had been strolling round the town as today when he saw a young girl being pushed round in a wheelchair. It was his own daughter. She had been mentally backward from birth and did not even recognize her own father. He had been to see her in hospital now and then but had finally given up. He suspected one possible cause of her disability was that her mother had punched herself repeatedly in the stomach during pregnancy. They had been arguing and she had shouted: 'I don't want this baby!' over and over again. Now he watched his own daughter being pushed round the town by strangers, though he questioned the benefit she would get from this, if any. Everything must be a blank to her. He watched them take her into a café and saw her making silly faces, putting her fingers in the corners of her eyes. She was twenty-two or twenty-three.
He felt restless, and felt he had to achieve something. Just going home after wandering about the town was not enough. What could he do? He couldn't afford to buy anything. Well, maybe he would go shoplifting. It would provide him at least with a little excitement and a sense of achievement. After all, he would just be getting his own back on the system.
The adrenaline began to course through him. Now he felt like he was living. He had to make critical decisions. What would he steal and where would he steal it from? It was not his first time and he had been caught and fined several times before. The last time it was for stealing a battery; the time before that, a pie. But he had been feeling confident lately. He had gotten away with a few small tins of red salmon and several cloves of garlic. Small items like that were easy to fit in his hand.
He drifted towards the supermarket where he did the shopping. He knew where everything was there. It would not be busy at this time of day. He thought that was a good thing. He could see where everyone was and he knew when to pick his moment. If the store was too full, he couldn't tell who was a store detective and who wasn't, if the store was heaving. One might be standing beside him, watching him.
He had butterflies and palpitations as he walked up the first isle. There were a couple of old women in it. That was where the red salmon was. Maybe he would give it a miss. There were sausages in the freezer at the end of the isle.
He quickly made his way along and felt the cold air from it soothing his flushed face. He looked around. Nobody was in sight. He could not be seen by people in the isles from this position. Good. He reached forward and his hand clutched a packet of pork and beef. Then he slipped them into his leather jacket.
He was sure he had not been seen, but just then someone strolled past the next isle. He was a young assistant who seemed to glance in his direction. But he just carried on. Should he put them back? No. It would be just as obvious if he took them out again. He walked at a measured pace towards the check-outs. There were only a couple on and not many people queuing. He passed through a vacant one. It seemed like miles from the tills to the exit, though only a few strides. This was the critical time. He almost had his hand on the door, when he heard muttering behind him. He could not stop himself from looking round and he saw the young man talking away volubly to a check-out assistant, who was shaking her head. They were both looking pointedly in his direction. The man shouted, 'Excuse me, sir!' That was it. There was nothing left now but to run for it. He clumsily burst out the door and spun round in the pedestrian precinct. He heard a commotion behind him and heard the man shouting more raucously: 'Oi!' He ran along to the far end of the precinct, desperately avoiding obstacles and people. The man was now not far behind him. As he turned into the High Street, he glimpsed a figure in a white shirt with tie flapping, hot at his heels. He shot across the High Street, throwing the sausages into a shop doorway, hoping it would stop him from being chased. But it did not. He was about twenty years older than his pursuer and he was sure to be caught unless he could think of something.
He dashed into a back lane, looking for hiding-places. There was none. And it was a blind alley! But he saw halfway along, his only hope of escape: the metal staircase of a fire escape. He jumped up and swung onto it. He clattered to the top where there was a door. It was locked. But just above his head was a ledge. He could just reach it. He hauled himself up as he heard the man below following him up. He pulled his body, and then his trailing leg up just in time.
He was on some kind of flat roof. He bolted across it and halted at the other end. There was another ledge and looking over it, he saw the High Street. It was a long way down. Directly below him on the wall were a lot of yellow light bulbs. Santa and his reindeers flying across the sky! He looked round. The man was scrambling onto the roof. Why was he doing this? He couldn't have been very well paid. It certainly wasn't worth all this. Maybe he was hoping to get promotion through it.
He reached forward and grabbed a bulb. It was part of Santa's hat. He pulled it out easily. They were just household light bulbs. He let it fly at the young man before he had righted himself on the roof.
'Get back,' he yelled as the bulb crashed well short of him. He had not meant to hit him. The other man stood with a shocked expression on his face. He was flushed and breathless, but did not look nearly so affected by the exercise as himself.
He pulled another from its socket and shouted: 'The next one will hit you! Now get lost!' But he just stood there, imperturbed.
'I'll jump!' He perched himself on the ledge. It was a long way down. From the ground it had not seemed nearly so high.
'The police will be here soon,' said the young man.
He wondered whether to throw the other bulb. He looked over the edge. Below him a crowd was gathering. He waved. Someone waved back. Below him he saw the police arrive in a white van.
Two men got out, looked up and one made his way round the back. The other stayed where he was, looking up. He knew now it was either death or give himself up. With pleasure he threw the bulb he was holding over the edge. He did not look to see where it landed but he heard a distant crash a few seconds later.
'Okay, I'll give myself up.'
He was taken to the police station, his belongings taken from him and he was put into a cell. On the way they had tried to recover the sausages, but they could not be found.
He was grilled at the police station, by a burly sergeant and another fair-haired man.
'Stand to attention!' shouted the sergeant. 'So, it's the "Pie Man" again. What is it this time? Sausages?'
'Sausages, sausages,' the fair-haired man kept muttering behind him. Then he added, 'Well, the man's got to eat, you know. He needs his grub.'
At least somebody found it funny. But they gave him his charge sheet and released him. He was to appear in court in a month. He could be locked up. He had been given plenty of warnings. Well, he would just have to wait and see.
On the way home, he felt it had all been a bit of a let-down. He had had an exciting day, all right, but he could go to jail for it. Go to jail for a packet of sausages? Surely not! It wasnÕt his first offence but his last one had only been to steal a battery! Big deal. When he thought of all the corruption that went on, and they were taking him to court for a battery, or a packet of sausages. He would have to steal a whole power station to commit an offence big enough to match it.
He wearily put the key in the door. His wife was sitting in front of the television.
'What are you watching?' he asked.
'I don't know,' she replied. It was a children's programme.
'What's for tea?' She still made the tea, albeit sometimes she burnt it. He was supposed to be looking after her, but he still threw the plate on the floor if it was not quite to his liking.
'Eggs, beans, chips - and sausages,' she replied.