Using my history

I don’t write autobiographically, I write from my imagination; however sometimes a tiny little memory of something triggers a thought which develops into a plot-line or maybe just a scene. Thomas and his brother and friends have been in a pub quiz, and are ready to go home:

We stood around chatting, laughing and waiting for the taxi and there was a blast of a car horn and we stumbled from the pub, into the freezing night to find our transport to take us home.

Out of the whirling blizzard a figure jumped at me; it was Kylie, grabbing my arm and pulling at me, shouting that I had to help, I tried to ask her what the matter was as the taxi driver honked his horn, Leo and John were already inside.

“Please Thomas, I’m begging you!” she shouted. “There’s an old man, I can’t help him!”

I waved at the taxi to drive on but John bobbed out asking if I was OK. I told him to go, I’d get another taxi, and they zoomed off into the night as Kylie pulled me along.

She was saying something about a tramp and as we turned off the High Street and went over the bridge towards Mill Lane she shouted above the wind that there was an old tramp, collapsed in the snow. I would have gone straight past him; he was huddled against the curving wall of the bridge where it went down to the River Hope. He was just a snow-covered lump; I squatted down beside him and was enveloped in the stink of urine, cheap booze and old clothes, and considering how cold he was he must be powerfully filthy.

“Hey, old chap, what are you doing here?” I asked, stupidly, shining the torch from my phone on him. Kylie crouched beside him and wiped his face with her bare hand and that simple gesture made me suddenly feel a huge lurch of affection for her. She had so little herself and yet she had so much compassion. “Are you ill? Do you feel alright?”

He opened an eye and squinted at me from under his snow encrusted brows. He mumbled that he was going home but just needed a little rest.

“Where are you going?” I asked. He couldn’t stay here. “Come on, old man, tell us where you live and we’ll get you home.”

He began to sing ‘I was born under a wandering star’, in a quavery drunken voice.

This scene from my story about the Radwinter family was triggered by the memory of something which happened when we were students. We had walked from our flat to the pub one winter’s night and were on the way back home again when we found an elderly man lying in the snow. This was before the days of mobile phones so one of us ran back to the flat and returned with his car, ready to take the man to hospital, as we thought he’d had a heart attack or collapsed. However, it soon became apparent that he was just very drunk, but even so, we bundled him into the car and he was taken home. The man we rescued wasn’t a smelly old tramp, just a drunken old fellow… but the memory of coming across the prone body in the snow set off the thought which created this scene.

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