It was 9.15 Am when 7 year old Jane went into the large concrete shed at the end of her long garden. She grabbed her bike and was suddenly shocked to see George, a homeless man who was fast asleep in his sleeping bag.
Jane ran back into the house and said to Grace, “Mummy, Mummy, There’s a man in our shed.”
Grace who was a 32 year old, attractive, slim blond, suddenly stopped the breakfast washing up and said, “What you talking about darling?”
“There’s a man in our shed.”
“What do you mean a man in our shed?”
“Our shed,” Jane continued starting to get exasperated, “He’s asleep.”
Grace suddenly felt frightened and grabbed a rolling pin from the draining board, “Wait in the house.”
Grace then apprehensively walked down the garden and walked into her shed and when she saw her daughter had been telling the truth she felt very fearful.
“Excuse me,” Grace said, then said a bit louder, “Excuse me…Hello…Can you wake up please.”
George slowly opened one eye, then the other, then suddenly sat up.
“What are you doing in my shed?” Grace asked.
George looked just as nervous as Grace, who was still clutching the rolling pin. He then rubbed his eyes feeling slightly groggy from being awoken and said, “I’m sorry. I’m homeless. It was raining last night, an’ I just wanted to sleep somewhere dry. I went for a piss in the alley at the back an’ noticed your shed.”
They just stared at each other a moment. George had cropped hair, was short and stocky and had a rough beard, and Grace was surprised to find herself thinking that George was quite handsome, in a rough edgy way.
Suddenly Jane appeared in the shed and stood next to her mum sheepishly as Grace looked at her still a bit frightened and said, “I told you to stay in the house.”
Jane suddenly looked at her bike and touched the back tyre and then said tearfully, “Mummy, my bikes got a puncture.”
“Don’t worry about that now darling,” Grace said starting to feel like everything was surreal.
“But mummy I won’t be able to ride my bike,” said Jane with tears in her eyes.
“I can fix it,” George suddenly blurted.
“What?” said Grace.
“The puncture,” George continued, “I can fix the puncture. I used to work in a bike shop when I was younger. If you’ve got some spanners and a puncture kit I can do it.”
“I’ve got a socket set in the house, and I think we’ve got a puncture kit in one of the kitchen drawers.”
George suddenly smiled slightly and Grace was surprised to her herself ask, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
George smiled again , “I’d love one, thanks.”
Grace felt the atmosphere suddenly change and she didn’t feel so frightened and she asked, “Do you take sugar?”
George started fixing the puncture and Grace brought him a cup of tea, then she asked, “Would you like any breakfast? A bacon sandwich or something?”
“No, it’s ok. I don’t usually eat till I’ve been up a few hours cos I usually feel sick in the mornings.”
“Oh. Ok then.”
Within ten minutes George had fixed the puncture and put the wheel back on. Moments later Grace and Jane came back into the shed and Jane said ecstatic, “He’s fixed it mummy.”
Grace and George smiled, then Grace asked, “What you doing for the rest of the day?”
George suddenly looked a bit shifty again and said evasively, “I just gotta do a few things.”
There was an awkward pause then Grace was surprised to her herself say, “If you want to sleep in our shed again tonight your welcome.”
George raised his eyebrows surprised, “Thanks. I might.”
There was another awkward pause again then Jane said excitedly, “Can we go now to the park mum on my bike?”
Grace and George suddenly smiled and Grace said, “Ok darling,” then added, “Thank the man for fixing your puncture.”
Jane smiled and said, “Thank you man.”
Grace and George chuckled, “My names George.”
Grace then said, “How rude of me, I didn’t introduce us. I’m Grace and this is my daughter Jane.”
George smiled, “Nice to meet you both.”
George sat in the underground tunnel in a busy shopping area in Croydon. As people passed him he repeated again and again, “Got any spare change?”
Most people ignored him, but occasionally people dropped change onto the sleeping bag he was sitting on.
It was a good day for George, as within an hour he’d earned over ten pounds. By now he was starting to feel very sick and ill and he walked for half an hour to a council estate and got the lift to the 14th floor of a tower block and he knocked on the door that had a barred security gate in front of it.
The door opened and Jake, a white guy with dreadlocks looked through the barred gate and smiled showing several gold teeth, then he opened the gate also. In the living room of the flat George nodded at a couple of people who were smoking crack or chasing heroin on tin foil.
“whad’ ya want?” Jake asked George.
“Just a tenners worth of brown.”
Jake reached into his bum bag and pulled out a small postage stamp sized wrap of heroin and in return George gave him ten pounds in coins.
George then cooked up the heroin on a spoon, then drew it into a syringe and injected himself in the arm. Within moments the sick, shakiness he’d been feeling went and he felt well and blissfully at peace. He’d had his first fix of the day.
“Good shit, yeah?” Jake asked smiling.
“Yeah,” George replied, “Pucker.”
Jake continued still smiling, “I’ve had to tell a few people who inject to be careful. This shits really strong, its hardly been cut.”
George went back to his begging pitch for another few hours until he’d earned another tenner. He’d also been giving a sandwich by a member of the public, and a sausage roll by someone else, and two other people each bought him a cup of coffee.
A lot of people knew that most homeless beggars spent the money they earned on drink or drugs, so many people gave them food instead of money. And it was a real blessing to people like George, as if they had a choice between buying food or drugs or drink, they would buy drugs or drink, and if they weren’t eating properly, they would be in an even worse physical and mental state.
George went back to Jakes flat and bought another ten pound bag of heroin and injected it. He then went back to his begging pitch for another few hours and when he had another tenner he went back to Jakes for the third time that day and bought another ten pound bag. He didn’t inject it there though as he’d save it for later.
George decided to go back to Graces concrete shed. It was 7 Pm and it was just starting to get dark. He let himself in through the back gate in the alley behind Graces garden, and then went into the shed through the unlocked door.
When George got into the shed he was stunned for a moment, then pleasantly surprised. There was a single mattress on the floor, a pillow and a thick duvet. There was also a small lamp, a radio plugged in and it was the first time George noticed that the shed had electricity.
George turned on the radio and was again pleased that it was tuned to Heart Fm, and the first song that came on was ‘It must be love’, by Madness. He also switched the lamp on, and within ten minutes it was dark outside.
George then cooked up the heroin he’d purchased earlier, using a metal spoon, a tiny bit of water from a bottle he’d bought earlier, and his lighter. He drew the liquidised heroin into a syringe and for the third time that day, he injected himself in a vein in his arm. A minute later though before he’d even pulled the syring out of his arm, he felt like something was wrong. The last thing he remembered was Jake having earlier told him to be careful with the drug as it was very strong and had hardly been cut. George then slipped into unconsciousness.
In Grace’s house, her seven year old daughter Jane looked out of the kitchen window. She was in her Pyjamas almost ready for bed. Jane suddenly said excitedly, “He came back mum. The lights on in the shed.”
Grace looked out of the window and smiled slightly, “Its your bed time young lady.”
“Can we just go and say hello to him?” Jane asked still excited.
“No darling, its your bed time.”
“Ol please mummy. I want to see if he liked the mattress and the radio.”
Grace paused In thought for a moment, then said, “I’ll tell you what, we’re just go and ask him if he wants a cup of tea or something.”
“As soon as we’ve done that though darling, your straight to bed. You’ve got school tomorrow.”
Grace tapped on the door to the shed a couple of times whilst she waited with Jane. There was no answer. Grace tapped the door again and said, “George,” but still there was no answer. Grace suddenly felt a bit nervous and then opened the door fully and her and Jane stepped in. They were both immediately shocked. George was just laying there unconscious with the syringe still in his arm, and his complexion was deathly pale.
“Get back in the house darling,” Grace said to Jane.
But Jane wasn’t listening and she just stared at George wide eyed and confused.
“Back in the house darling,” Grace said again and she quickly grabbed Jane’s hand and started walking her back through the garden.
“Is he alright mum?” Jane asked, still confused.
Grace didn’t answer and when they got back in the kitchen Grace said, “I need to make a phone call. Go and wait in your bedroom.”
“Is George alright mum?”
“No. I think he’s overdosed.”
“What does that mean?”
“look darling. You’re too young to understand,” Grace said picking up her mobile, “Just go up to bed. I’ll be with you soon.”
Jane just stared at her still confused.
“Go on. Up you go. Before mummy gets cross.”
Jane started walking up the stairs and Grace dialled 999 and asked for an ambulance and said a homeless man had overdosed on drugs in her garden shed.
The ambulance came and rushed George to hospital. Grace sat on Jane’s bed to get her ready for sleep. Grace felt extremely tense and worried and her daughter felt the same.
“Do you think he’ll be alright mum? He won’t die will he?”
“No darling. I’m sure he’ll be ok.”
But Grace still weren’t sure that was the truth and she felt disturbed.
About an hour later when Jane was sleeping, Grace phoned the hospital to check on George. It took a while to get through to the right ward, as she didn’t know what Georges surname was.
“He’s regained consciousness,” said one of the nurse who was looking after George, “He’ll be kept in overnight and he’ll see a doctor tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you,” Grace said relieved, “I’m so glad he’s ok.”
“No worries luv. Try and get a good nights sleep. I’m sure he’ll be alright. We’re looking after him now.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
When Grace got off the phone she felt slightly better. She then poured herself a glass of wine and sat in her living room and put Heart Fm on.
In the morning the first thing that Jane asked was, “Do you think George is ok mummy?”
“He’s ok darling. I phoned the hospital last night and they said he’d regained consciousness.”
Jane smiled, then after a pause asked, “Will you let him stay in our shed again mummy?”
Jane’s face dropped, “Why mummy?”
“He’s a drug addict darling. I didn’t know he was on drugs when I let him stay.”
“What’s a drug addict mummy? Jane asked looking confused.
Grace didn’t know how to explain, “Your too young to understand darling.”
Grace drove Jane to school in her Mini, then she drove to her local hospital as she didn’t need to be in work till 10 Am, and she worked as a bank cashier there between 10 and 2.30 Pm each weekday. At the hospital she found the ward George was on and he was pleasantly surprised to see her.
“I just came to see if your alright,” Grace said, “And to say goodbye.”
“Oh,” George said slightly taken aback, “Ok.”
“Why didn’t you tell me your were on drugs?”
“I just met you. Its not something you go broadcasting, is it?”
“You should have told me. Me and my daughter trusted you.”
“But you probably wouldn’t have if I told you.”
“No your right, I wouldn’t have.”
There was an awkward pause, then Grace asked, “How much heroin do you take each day? I guess it is heroin you take is it?”
“Yeah…I take anything from thirty to fifty quids worth a day.”
“Do you take any other drugs?”
“Yeah, sometimes I take crack…Depending on how much money I’ve earned.”
“Crack as well. Its just gets worse don’t it. How do you get money? Do you steal?”
“No I beg.”
Again there is an awkward pause, then Grace asked, “Can’t you get off it?”
“Well I suppose I could stop smoking crack. That’s just an occasional treat. As for heroin though, I’m addicted. I could take Methadone which is a heroin substitute and get gradually weaned off. But I can’t get a prescription of Methadone unless I’ve got a doctor. And I can’t get registered with a doctor because I’m homeless and ain’t got an address.”
“So if you were on Methadone you’d stop taking heroin?”
“Yeah, the Methadone would stop me clucking.”
“Withdrawal symptoms and craving.”
“So it would stop you being ill?”
Again, there was an awkward silence, then Jane said, “We’ll listen. I really hope you get your life sorted out. It was nice to meet you. I just came today to see if you’re alright and as I say to say goodbye. I really wish I could help you, but I’ve got my daughter to think about.”
“Don’t worry. I understand…And thanks for letting me stay in your shed. That was really kind of you.”
Grace suddenly stood up and said, “I gotta go.”
“Ok,” George said sadly.
Grace walked out of the ward and out of the hospital. When she got into her car she sat there a few moments then said to herself, “I must be going mad.”
She got out of the car and went back to the ward that George was on. George looked pleasantly surprised when Grace appeared in front of him again and said, “You can stay in my shed again for a while, and you can use my address to register with a doctor and then you can start taking Methadone.”
George raised his eyebrows, “You serious?”
“Yeah…If you want me to help you that is?”
“I do. Thanks. That’s really kind of you.”
“When your on Methadone you won’t need to take drugs anymore, so you won’t need to beg anymore. And you can stay in the shed till you find somewhere to live…And who knows, maybe you can find a job or something.”
“Cool. I’m a painter and decorator by trade.”
“Yeah. I’ve got a City and Guilds qualification in painting and decorating.”
Grace raised her eyebrows, “Maybe you can decorate my house for me. My husband walked out on me a year ago. Ever since then I’ve wanted to get the house decorated. Get rid of some of the memories. A fresh start if you know what I mean?”
George smiled, “Yeah I do.”
“Great then. Looks like we can help each other.”
“Yeah,” said George.
They both smiled.