Billy Parker is out. The last time I saw him his skin was grey and his eyes were ringed with shadows. He’s been out for some time now, moved to another part of town, got himself a tidy flat and a job, flipping burgers, and his trousers don’t hang off him anymore. I reckon he must have found God while his was inside—many lags do climb into bed with the God Botherer’s during a long stretch. Usually it doesn’t last long after release— and within days, sometimes a few hours, The White Church; not far from the prison, welcomes back another of its congregation.
I was on my way there when I thought I’d pay Billy a visit— thought it might save me the extra ten minutes or so—but he tells me he’s done with all that madness and when I ask him if he’s gone and found religion guess what he says?
‘Religion! Get a grip. It’s because Dawkins proved God don’t exist we got ourselves in this mess in the first place.’
‘Well, what happened to turn you into a bloody pleb then?’ I say.
‘Funny you should ask. I was coming out of White Chapel post office. I’d just got me benefits and was about to cross the road and it started snowing.’
‘Yep, that happens a lot in December.’ I interrupted.
‘This gonna take much longer Billy? Gotta be somewhere soon you know.’
Billy tries to speed up and get to the point and says, ‘don’t know why, but she stepped out in front of me and splat gets hit by a London bus.’
‘Dead was she?’ I say wiping my nose on my sleeve.
‘That’s what I thought,’ Billy answered, wide eyed like he’s had a good snort ten minutes earlier, ‘especially when I heard the bang!’
‘Bit like that exploding pigeon outside the cop shop was it? Feather’s everywhere that time, there was. Remember?’
‘Yes exactly like that. Except when I could bring myself to look, she wasn’t there. Neither was the Bus, just a bloke on the other side of the road looking at me as if I’d gone mad.’
‘Ha!’ I said ‘reckon you was still tripping from the night before. But still funny though.’
‘But, that’s just it. I’d touched nothing. I was on me way to the church to score and bang, out she steps.’
‘And?’ I said, still as much in the dark as I was five minutes before this load of baloney kicked off.
‘Me, I went to the N.H.S walk-in centre. I think she was trying to tell me it was my last chance to put things right. Or maybe, I was responsible for her death.’
‘Know what I think Billy? I think I best be pushing off. Cheers for Vic’s number though; good to have in case the heat’s sniffing around at church.’
‘Okay,’ Billy said, ‘Tell Vic, no hard feelings. Taking the rap for him last time around wasn’t such a big deal. I might have to thank him for it someday.’
When I get outside, I dial Vic’s number. It’s dead. No tone. Nothing. So, pulling up my collar and shoving my hands into my pockets, I set off towards the church. Then something well strange happened at the zebra crossing. I’d been following me feet, the wind was strong you see, and when I looked up to check for traffic there she was in front of me, one foot on a black stripe and one on a white. I stopped for one second on the curb and this rubbish truck mows her down and keeps going. She is dead in the road for sure and no one seems to notice, except me. And, get this; snow is falling from the sky like white feathers. I mean like, it’s bloody April. Me? I spewed my guts up and, people are still going by as if I’m not there. But then the sight of someone puking in the street ain’t nothing. Then I think of Billy, all smug and loved up with the woman he’s living with and think, just maybe, I should do like he did and get me head sorted. But first I’ve got to get help for the woman dead in the road.
‘S’cuse me mate,’ I say to the next bloke coming towards me ‘Can you phone an ambulance’
This guy looks at me and says ‘What’s the matter, you feeling ill?’
‘No, it’s for her,’ I say pointing to the crumpled grey heap on the crossing.
‘But, there’s no one there.’ He says, his eyes darting out to the road and back to me and, then dodging around me and walking away.
And you know what? He’s spot on. She’s not there no more. It ain’t snowing either, and all I can hear is water running down the gutter and the bells of St Jude’s striking eleven.