Scars We Don’t See

Thank you to MasticadoresIndia for publishing one of my short stories Original post here

Morning ma’am what can I offer you today? I paused, you looked familiar. I recognised the scar across your forehead and the missing front tooth when you squeezed out a smile.

You don’t recognise me? Cindy! My name is Cindy. The Neighbourhood Centre found us a unit and I scrubbed up.

Oh Cin! O-M-G! I couldn’t recognise you. You… you look good Cin. It daunted on me that you were the homeless lady hung around my cafe with two kids, a boy and a girl.

Let me make you a coffee. What would you like? My shout to celebrate, you got a home now. That’s a big deal.

Oh no Patricia, thanks for the offer. I won’t take up your time. Just wanna see do you need a helper in the kitchen? Like unloading deliveries, washing dishes, taking the trash out? I, ah, I can’t do the front house duties cos my tooth… My kids are going to school now just around the corner. They can walk to school by themselves. I got free time to work, and I can do with some money to get some stuff for the unit.

Uhm, look Cin, I don’t really need any helper cos my older boy is doing the kitchen hand stuff. But he got into uni, it’s starting soon. How about you come in tomorrow at noon to do a work trial, and I’ll cut him a bit slack. I’m sure he’d be happy to hang out with his mates.

Oh, sure sure…thank you sooo much. I’ll be here before twelve tomorrow. You’re an angel Patricia. You cupped your hands to your face and almost shouting.

That’s alright Cin…and call me Trish. Patricia is just a bit troubling…you know, I laughed and winked.

Ok, ok Trish, boss lady! You chuckled with your hand covering your mouth to hide the missing tooth.

You came almost half an hour before midday in the same white shirt and black pants you wore yesterday. The cafe was quite busy with almost all tables needed clearing from the mid-morning rush. You had dived straight in taking empty plates, cups and cutleries to the kitchen and came back with an apron on to spray and wipe down the tables. You kept your head down avoiding eye contact with the customers leaving the cafe. You worked pretty swiftly, and I was thankful that you turned up early.

First day of work trial, you did good, only with a moment or two spacing out. I attributed it to that you had been out of work for a long time, it might take some time to readjust. I asked you to come back the next day but not promising a job. Being a small business owner and a single mother, I had learned to put my little family first and not making promises that I couldn’t keep.

That day was the third day of the work trial. In reality, I needed someone who can do the front and the back of the cafe. But I knew what this job would mean to you as a mother, and to your finance. I was contemplating to offer you 11am to 2pm shifts on weekdays. That would cover some food prep and cleaning up for the lunch rush which would free up me and the two girls for customer service and the till. I was going to tell you at the end of the day.

Then that happened. I saw you spacing out in the middle of slicing mushrooms, then you were pacing around the kitchen while the chef had to stop in the middle of cooking some sauce to ask if you were ok. It took you a while to snap back into reality. You walked back to the bench and kept slicing mushrooms. I was taken by what I saw. Call it a woman’s instinct, I knew something was wrong with you neurologically.

I took you outside to have some fresh air. I wasn’t going to give you some lame excuse for not offering you a job. I told you straight about my concerns. I figured I owed you that decency. You opened up to me and told me drugs and alcohol abuse damaged your brain. Even you had been drug and alcohol free for a while, but the damage was done from teenage years and it’s irrevocable.

I hugged you and cried. The scar you carried on your forehead, or the missing tooth were just damages people saw, the damage inside was a lot more profound.

Sydney Homelessness

I am reposting this as the Sydney street count is fast approaching this month (August 2019).

 

373 people sleeping rough around the inner city on the night of February 19.

I was there counting…

Their faces rushing to me like the dying souls swallowing by the swamp
Their stories I had heard playing like vinyl records

I ain’t got mama ain’t got nothing, papa’ s punches driving me scatty…
If you licked it and you liked it, a couple pearly dewdrops will get you high and die in ecstasy…
I was raised crooked in a dungeon, the city street lights are bright and shiny, it’s so much safer…
Not going back that sty, slave to two pigs from a mode. God I hate them sweet Jesus…
I am a failure as the financial crisis. I have sold my soul to the grog, 10 seconds sober to see my princess walking in school…
When Mama died she prayed God would take me. Now I am here and I don’t know why. Where is my Mommy…
My Dad needs help, he is all schizoed out. My mates can’t help, the weed can’t help…

I was there counting…

One by one the forgotten in our city
The stories were told
None has changed

373 people sleeping rough around the inner city on the night of February 19.

Homelessness

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Mr Scribble came with his blue staffy
He hadn’t eaten for two days
Bluey was well fed though

I told him I missed his devil’s horns tatts along his temples
He grinned and said he would ban his children having tatts
cos the laser removal hurt like hell

Mr Scribble would be homeless for the night
Mrs kicked them out cos coming down from a bad trip
They escaped before taking her punches for the 26th times this year
and it’s only April

He knew I offered them no shelter
He knew I offered them the staff shower facilities
so he would be clean and human again after a day’s work
and back again the next day to demolish more buildings
He called that going to anger management therapy

They stayed for a bit
He told me some more tales of his 5 brothers
except the one visited his room too often

He told me God bless me and my family
like every time before they left my office
I watched their backs to see them off like every time
I prayed for a safe and cosy corner on the street for the night

Mr Scribble and his blue staffy
He was hungry and Bluey was happy

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