Home – a new short story by J.J.Anderson

It’s obscene, a bag like that. Our Moira showed me, in one of her magazines, thousands of pounds those handbags cost. Pink leather, punched shapes, tassels and gold – I bet the gold’s real. The women who make them are all over the gossip columns, called Lulu or Anya, women who’ve had things cushy all their lives, making stupidly expensive things. To sell to other pampered women, with more money than sense.

Like that one, with the bag, going up the steps ahead of me, out of the tube. Hair down to her waist, nose in the air, flouncy skirt up to her arse. How does she walk in those heels? Six inches. Must be. Legs going right up, glossy. I bet you could see her knickers if you was right behind her.

Not that I wouldn’t, mind. I mean, if I was asked….She looks like she could do with a good seeing to. And she’s walked right past that homeless old girl by the railings, without so much as a glance.

‘Here y’are love.’

The fifty pence coin clinked into the small pile of coppers in the knitted hat.

‘Ta, love.’

Blimey, ‘e looks in a rage. Agg-re-ssion. A builder, by the look of ‘im, working round ‘ere, I’d say. There’s always lots of building going on round ‘ere.

Another chink.

‘Ta, love.’

A pound this time and it’s not even rush hour, when all them city types come back to their newly built a-part-ments. At this rate I’ll be able to go shopping, get some food and some tins for Jonjo.

They won’t let him come ‘ere now, after his accident. That young lad from London Underground helped me clean it up, he didn’t mind. But it was when that kid started bawling fit to bust, as if he’d been savaged or something. And the nanny couldn’t control ‘im. My Jonjo wouldn’t hurt a fly. But now, if I wants this pitch, Jonjo has to be somewhere else. Paddy’s taken him on the Common. I’ll have to get some tinnies for Paddy for that.


Another pound.

‘Ta, love.’

A smartly dressed woman. About forty, I’d say, lugging a bag. Oooh, I want a bag like that. An e-normous, check, plastic shopping bag, it’s a foot wide. Rect-ang-u-lar. I could keep all my worldlies in that. And it’d be a pillow. For me and Jonjo, curled up under the blankets.

She’ll have a job getting it down them stairs.

Bloody heavy. I’m never going to manage this. I should have called a cab. It’s much too full, but that’s what she said she wanted, her things. Not that she would have thought I’d be carrying them on the tube. I didn’t either. Why Gerald wouldn’t drop me off there, I don’t know. It’s practically on his way. It’s only Finsbury Park.

That’s what she said.

‘It’s only Finsbury Park, Mum. Just up the Victoria Line.’

A basement flat, with Tim and damp, probably. That’s why Gerald won’t go there. He doesn’t want to have to see it. His daughter living in a basement flat in Finsbury Park with Tim. Well, there’s nothing he can do about it, his dead body or not.

‘Here. Allow me….’ A be-suited young man, neat haircut, rimless glasses, leather satchel-briefcase slung on his shoulder.

‘Oh, thank you. That’s very kind of you.’

Hmm, it’s heavier than he expected. But he looks fit. He looks like he can cope with it. If he’ll carry it through the luggage ticket barrier to the top of the escalator I’ll be able to manage afterwards, maybe.

‘Thanks, if you could just…?’

‘There. Will you be all right now?’

‘Yes, thank you. Thank you very much.’

What had she got in there? It didn’t seem like the sort of bag a woman like her would be carrying. Still, nothing to me. Sit-ups and power-weights three times a week. Why can’t people stand on the right, the instruction’s clear enough?

One minute to a Bank train. I’ll drop these documents at the office, then go on to the gym. It’s all signed and sealed. Old Mrs Callender wanted a quick sale and she got one, even if I had to go all over town to make it happen. Like the lackey that I am. But the fee’ll be worth it – it fetched a tidy sum, even for SW4. Old Mrs C can retire to the coast, or Spain, or both if she wants. And I’ll be able to pay my own mortgage instalments, at least for a while.

The metal doors open with a swish. The carriage is almost empty.

I’m going against the flow. I’ll just check these over one more time, now I can sit down. Put my briefcase on my lap. The developers want everything tied up. And the best of luck to them, the neighbours aren’t going to like it. They’ll fight. There’s a judge lives along there too. Lots of legals, more work for yours truly.  What the…?

Papers everywhere.

‘Sorry mate.’ A tall guy, long faced with a pony tail, wearing a giant rucksack and knocking it into everybody. One of those with tubular steel frames. ‘Here, let me help you.’

He gathers my papers up from the carriage floor, swaying with the movement of the train.

It’s luggage really, that rucksack, not suitable for wearing on the tube. He’s taking it off now. Good. It’s covered in stickers. I wonder if he’s really been to all those places?

You’d have to be pretty fit to carry that around on your back, it’d pull on the shoulders, the deltoids. Wouldn’t be a problem for me of course, but it’s out of place here. Those small backpack things are better, though not better than a briefcase.

There’s one in the corner – a backpack –with padded shoulder straps. Who does it belong to?

Who does it belong to? There’s been no-one sitting there since I got on. Just the bag. Maybe someone forgot it, though I don’t know how, it’s not something you’re likely to forget, a backpack, is it?  With the weight of it on your shoulders.

Pony-tail guy is wondering too.

Maybe someone should report it?

Hang on, pony-tail’s got up. He’s going to look.

‘Hey!’ He looks at me. ‘I wouldn’t mate….you never know…’

His eyes meet mine. He understands. He remembers too. That grainy, black and white CCTV footage of the young men going through the ticket barriers. They had a bag like that…..