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Trouble abounded. It rattled the door handle, rang the bell, banged on windows, shouted through the letterbox and disturbed customers in the makeshift first-floor salon. 'Keep your mucky hands off my clean glass,' Polly screamed as she ran downstairs. The cafe windows had been washed just a couple of hours ago, and some loony was messing them up. She had a perm almost done, an ongoing deep conditioning and one dry cut to complete. There was no time to be messing about if she was to save Carla's hair from the ravages of bleach.
Trouble had a name. Its name was Frank Charleson and it was with some other people. 'We're closed,' she shouted. 'Breakfasts and dinners only - you should know that by now. Go away and let me get on with what I'm trying to do upstairs.' She turned to walk away.
'Let us in, Polly, or I'll use my key.' He banged on the door yet again.
She opened it and he fell in, left hand cradling the right. 'I think I broke my hand,' he said. 'It hurts like buggery.'
'Broken it on what?' she asked as three other people tumbled in untidily behind him. Two were women, one was a man, and all three looked vaguely familiar. 'Not on my windows, I hope.'
'No, I was banging with my left hand, clever clogs. I cracked the right one on the face of a plug-ugly, raving mad bastard,' he snapped. 'Lock the door and close the blinds. I need time to think about what's happened.'
She folded her arms and tapped a foot.
'Polly, find some patience,' he begged. She wasn't good at patience, but she was terrific in the nude.
'I'm working, Frank.'
'So go and bloody work. We need asylum for an hour or two, and we're house-trained.'
Polly drew herself up. 'If you want asylum, go to church. They do asylum, even for fools like you.'
He sat down. Slowly and painstakingly, he spoke. 'I can't start crawling into church, because I just half-killed a flaming priest. Oh, sharpen your scissors on somebody else, will you?'
LAMENT OF A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD
I lived here till last Wednesday
With Mam and Dad and Auntie May
Cos Uncle Tommy died at sea
So she slept in my bed with me.
Nancy Byrne at number four's
Shut in, has bolted both her doors.
She's old and doesn't understand
That houses here have all been damned.
(That's a bad word. I don't care.)
Miles I walked to come back home
And on my step I write my poem.
The Kennedys and Shaws are gone
And Mrs Byrne's the only one
Who shouted GO AWAY, I'M STOPPING
I've come to see if she needs shopping.
Far away is where we are.
To get to work you'd need a car.
They're not too worried about us
We haven't even got a bus.
From my bedroom I can see
The dockers coming home for tea.
Like ants they crawl until they grow
And I see faces that I know.
We have a garden, path and gate
But my dad always comes home late.
And we don't want to live out there
Cos Dad's too tired and sad to care
About three bedrooms, lovely house.
He's different, quiet as a mouse.
I want my dad back, want him here
Where town and docks are all so near.
I want my school and my best friend.
A new beginning? NO. An end.