The Rat by Paul Tristram

I was living in a greasy 3 storey block of bedsits, on the middle floor facing the backyard, behind the Old Swansea Crown Courts, with its giant white clock pillar reaching up into the sky, a practical monument placed absurdly upon a building known for stopping time.
I had no watch or clock so when in view it was the only time I knew what time it was,
I would run down the stairs, open the front door just to see if it was pub o’clock yet? (The bars still shut between 3 and 7pm back then)
They had sent me down at age 17 in that Crown Court, to the hardest Borstal in Britain, on the desolate grey, cold island of Portland off the Southern coast of England, so living directly opposite was a constant reminder and didn’t help my moods much and they were of a dark, neurotic persuasion without the need of influence.
To make matters worse, they had moved the courtrooms to a new building up the road and on the other side a bit further up, turning the old building into the Council Offices, part of which being the ‘Housing Benefit Department’ and of course, being on the rock n’ roll myself, I had to keep going in there to fill out forms and sort out problems with my claim.
Which is why I was up before noon and in there today but lucky for me it was only a forgotten signature at the arse-end of a form which I quickly put right on the spot.
I got caught short walking up one of the giant hallways carpeted in that lush, green, lawn like, expensive looking floor fabric with the beer shits as I was trying to leave and ran into some toilets there, very posh I must say, plush as fuck, these Bureaucrat’s and Civil Servants like to squat in warmth and luxury, I can tell thee.
I was tempted to visit them every day and enjoy preforming my bowel movements in warmth and comfort but I couldn’t this building still reeked of jail to me. So instead I contented myself with writing ‘SCUM’ in shit on the orange-blossom off white wall with my fingers and after pissing over every seat I exited the Ladies toilet and walked across to the Gentlemen’s across the hallway. Where I opened the door with my still shit covered fingers, caressing the handle lovingly for a second or two, then washing my hands with squeezy, apricot scented soap in the warm jet stream as the soothing sounds of Bach seeped in through the little wall speaker.
Then after pissing over the 3 bog seats, I put the 4 loose rolls of paper into my shoplifting coat, it was a big old school parker that I had stolen from a charity shop in the city centre.
I’d ripped the insides out of both chest pockets so I could shove shoplifted items into the flaps and they would fall down into the coats lining, I could fit loads of stuff in there, I used to put my special brew can down in there if I was out and about and saw any filth approaching, the garment had become quite indispensable.
I stood looking in one of the wall mirrors for awhile, it had a nice clean polished surface unlike the one in my bedsit covered in shit and puss and grime, splashes of vomit and other dried up liquid and most of it other peoples too. I’d only lived there for 3 weeks, Jesus I could feel myself start to fall inside of myself again, I was going to have a seizure or fit.
I grabbed onto the sink besides me and clenched my entire body, turning my face down and to the left and rode the stomach churning waves until they had finished.
I splashed some cold water onto my face and realized I needed alcohol, I had only had half a warm flat can this morning to break my fast upon and my body was physically rebelling, soon my mind would be swarming and infected with the horrors, but this was a good day for I had a crumpled £10 in my jeans pocket.
I half smiled and without even thinking about it head-butted the mirror in front of myself, the suddenness made me chuckle out loud, it didn’t bang or smash or make much noise at all, it was like a dull thud, almost like (I imagine?) smashing the bottom of a boiled ostrich egg with a really big spoon.
7 years bad luck is it, you cannot give 7 years bad luck to someone with nothing but bad luck!
It didn’t fall to pieces either, there was just a spider web like pattern of cracks where my forehead had been, I laughed out loud and did a mock imitation of my mothers voice “Put it down you don’t know where his fucking forehead’s been?”
The screw of insanity was turning tighter, I needed alcohol, I turned to leave, then spotted the litter bin, it was made of metal, I swung it high above my head and brought it down upon the nearest sink, the porcelain broke in half, I looked down at the piece on the floor disappointed, that was just too easy it snapped off like the handle off a very large tea cup.
I let the metal bin clatter to the floor and walked on out of there, smashing in the glass of the fire alarm directly next to the door in the corridor with my elbow in one fluid motion as I passed, I headed towards the doorway at the back of the building.
Well, that was that well and truly fucked now, I’d have to keep shitting in the stinking public ones across the road with the dirty old men and tramps wanking and crying pathetically in the cubicles next door, fucking nonce low life’s hanging about in toilets, they should bring back hanging.
I made it out without any further incident, walked through the car park, across to the next street and into the closest off-licence.
Fuck it, the blonde twat was in here again, he was about my age and he knew me from a YTS scheme and he was living 3 or 4 streets away in the Sandfields area but always used this shop, maybe he was banned from his local? I dunno, what I do know is the cunt wouldn’t leave me alone every time he saw me.
We weren’t friends, we never were, I never remember speaking to him at that YTS scheme either, but he wanted to be pally and he wouldn’t take no for an answer, the last time I saw him in here was about a week ago and he had waited for me outside.
“I’ve invited you round our gaff to drink with us but you haven’t been round, you think your better than us you cunt, don’t you?” he had accused.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble, I just like drinking on my own…my head’s going a bit, like, you know?” I had tried to wriggle out of it by again telling people too much, it was a fault of mine telling people too much, my business was my business alone.
“Well your head will be fucking gone if we don’t see you soon, it’ll be fucking stamped in!”
he spat angrily.
“Ok, I’ll try and make it later!” I lied.
The bastard lived with 5 drunks from town, always hanging around the Quadrant shopping mall, drinking and begging change, I’d broken one of thems jaw a couple of years ago, it was Carty the big cunt, back before the gang split up and I had loads of friends and was happy and not the fucking ruin I was now.
I knew it would only take the once for it to come up in conversation and I’d have the fucking lot of them on me, fuck that for a game of soldiers, I’m a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them, Ok well I’ll rephrase it, not that fucking stupid, anyway.
And here I was stood behind him again, I’d clocked none of his mates outside on the way in, this made me feel easier, I was pretty sure I could do him if it came to it, if I didn’t have a fit halfway through it, I’d just have to be quick if it went off, I decided sagely.
I moved my hand to my bottom pocket and felt for my steel friend, it was still there, a 6 inch metal spring with a steel ball bearing about the size of a dislodged eyeball on either end, I smiled.
He finished paying and turned around, looked me full in the face for a second blankly then turned and left the shop, how weird.
Fucking result I thought as I stepped up and asked for two 2 litres of Stonehouse cider, winking and smiling at the new girl behind the counter and inquiring
“How much, love?” almost as an after thought.
“To you my friend, £2:49 but only to you my friend, I like you don’t you be telling anyone about this, yes £2:49 to you my friend!” spoke the Paki overseer, over to the far right-hand side, who was breaking the new girl in, aye in more fucking ways than one I thought.
I smiled back at him and nodded, thinking fuck me but my luck might be changing, then I looked at the girl pulling the bottles off the shelf and saw a brightly coloured orange cardboard star with £2:49 on it, I chuckled to myself, he’s a fucking player him, isn’t he just.
She smiled shyly at me as she handed me my change and carrier-bag with my plastic flagons in, she had one of those greasy dirty blonde scraped back ponytails with flecks of dandruff in just like your typical lazy council estate white trash girl.
Only slightly pretty but only in a youthful way, once she’s had 3 or 4 kids and a few years of debt and misery and beatings she’ll have lost that and be fucking minging, I thought as I turned and left the shop.
I walked to the end of the road to the little grass area by the phone boxes and benches and made a roll-up and took a few good pulls on one of the bottles whilst smoking it then I went in one of the phone boxes and reversed the charges to the hostel in Gloucester, England and Sally answered in her warm friendly voice.
“Hello, I’ve been waiting for you to call back for a few days, you been on a bender?
“Sally, I’m going insane, I’m blacking out on beer and cider now, I can’t eat, it’s like chewing cardboard or something, I’m drinking a tin of cold soup straight from the can every other day.
I’m hearing strange music playing in my head, I’m hallucinating, stray dogs are fucking with me at night when I walk down the street and I’m getting vertigo walking on pavements, I’m losing my fucking mind!”
“Sssh, listen to me, everything you just said, apart from the dog part, all comes under the umbrella of chronic alcoholism, your body and brain are poisoned with toxins, you just need help to withdraw and get sober and healthy.
Now, that’s it explained easy but you know there’s a lot of hard work involved, you’ve been here before.
I’m glad you phoned, I have some good news, we have a bed free for you in two weeks time this Wednesday, because you are on bail for that D&D we can get public funding for you even though it’s not a prison-able offence, we can wangle it, so you just have to keep it together for a couple of weeks more and then we’ll have you.” I could hear her smiling as she said this.
“Thank fuck for that, I don’t think I could have held out much longer!” I almost yelled into the phone.
“Ok, your probation officer is still in Neath, you haven’t changed it over to Swansea yet so we’ll send a cheque for £45 out to Neath tomorrow morning, that will cover train fare for you to get here and some lunch, it will be there in a day or two, try and get some rest and stay safe, we’ll be seeing you very soon!” she explained.
I walked back to my pad feeling a little more hopeful but swinging the carrier from one hand to the other, I had scabs on my knuckles again and they were fresh and sore, I always had them in varying degrees of healing, sometimes from fighting, sometimes from punching walls in anger and drunken madness and sometimes from just falling over on the cold, hard Swansea pavements.
I opened the front door and there was another taxi card on the floor, I picked it up and smiled as I read it ‘I’ll Be Back Again For The £2:50 You Bastard!’
I’d jumped a taxi back from Dirty Dora’s nightclub a week or so ago and told the driver I’d left my wallet in the house and that I’d just run in and get it (Who the fuck goes to a nightclub and leaves his wallet at home, right? but anyways!) the soft cunt only lets me go, so I’m straight in the front door, up to my room on the bed and nighty night.
I vaguely remember him forcing the unstable front door and yelling from the downstairs hallway but it’s a block of bedsits not a house, he doesn’t know which fucking one I’m in.
I heard that the poet Dylan Thomas died still owing taxi fare in Swansea, well so will I and fucking all, I’m out of this shit hole in a couple of weeks anyway.
As I walk up to my room I remember that time 3 or 4 years ago when me and this bird jumped a taxi in Neath down to the Melyn, I’m drunk as fuck but she’s only half-cut.
I get the driver to stop by the chest high walls on Murderers Row, so we can jump over and make our escape through the gardens but I’ve misjudged it and we’re up the wrong end of the street, the gardens slope lower as the street goes on and the drop gets higher.
As soon as the car halts, I whisper ‘Follow me’ to the girl, jumps out of the car so fast I get giddy, trip sideways and fall 12ft over the wall into 10ft of brambles, I’m all tangled up at the bottom of them, they’re stuck in my fucking lips and pulling my ears and everything.
I try calling for help but the girl’s too busy trying to give the driver her gold rings off her fingers for the fare, to keep until giro day when she can pay him.
“Fuck it, don’t worry about it, it was worth it just to see the cunt preform that stunt!” laughs the driver as he gets back in his cab and fucks off.
The girl stands up there looking down at me, then drinks the remainder of the bottle, I can see her in the streetlight, then she throws the empty bottle down at me, hitting me in the stomach and winding me before she walks off shouting the word “Wanker!”
It took me about 3 hours to untangle myself and get out, there were milkmen coming up the road by the time I got home.
In my room I got my only pint glass (previously stolen from a beer garden) and poured a good drink of cider, after a long taste of it, I decided to change my t-shirt, I’d been sleeping in it for days and it was noticeably smelling of beer sweat.
The bedsit came equipped with a single bed, an old 4 drawer unit and a sink, I went to the 2nd drawer from the top where my few t-shirts lived and leapt backwards as a large brown and white hooded rat squealed and leapt out from inside the drawer in my direction as I leapt backwards up onto the wobbling bed in horror to see it scurrying across the floor to the sink where it squeezed through the gap in the wall where the pipe went through, the fuckers had cut it too wide and that’s where this rodent lived.
It must have climbed in the back of the chest of drawers and was using my clothes to sleep on the dirty little squatting cunt! I though aloud in disgust.
It was my own fault I suppose, I had been coming in the other day when the guy who lives next to the front door and who likes to stand outside the building in the sun all day (when ever there is any sun in Swansea, that is?) collared me and invited me into his room to have a drink with some acquaintances.
Now, I don’t normally do this but I reasoned to myself, if by chance they’re twats, I can go visit the toilet which is on the second floor and disappear back to my room, nay problem.
Bad mistake, fuck politeness you should always go with your gut instincts, never second guess yourself and never piss downstream if you’re actually standing downstream but I digress.
Besides himself, there were 3 other lonely people there, his cousin who was thin, wore glasses, looked pretty intelligent, was soft spoken and who had a very serious obsession with Kylie Minogue and two beggars who begged outside 2 of the 4 entrances to Swansea market every day.
The guy whose room it was worked at the Vetch Field the home of Swansea City Football Club, showing people to their seats and that’s all he talked about, that and being lonely, yawn!
I was more interested in the 2 beggars, I smoked a mull or two when the bong came round and asked them shit, they were quite open and friendly when they could see I meant them no danger.
They told me that they could get £20 a day begging sometimes but in a month it would be Christmas and then they would get £150 to £200 a day each and get given sandwiches and crisps and pasties.
On Sunday evenings they went around the churches and told them that they were homeless and had just arrived in town and were starving, they never got money but they got food every time, there must be around 200 churches in Swansea and they’d hit 30 odd so far.
The rest of the time they lived on waste ground down by the docks in tents.
They had quite a little system going there, they were making more than me on benefits, but I wasn’t bothered only interested besides I was off to Gloucester soon.
Then one of them pulled the afore mentioned rat out from his coat and explained that he had bought it from a pet shop for a couple of pound that morning hoping that it would help with the begging, that people might feel sorry for it and open up their purses a bit wider.
But the opposite had happened, a few more men stopped to ask questions about the rat but men weren’t big money givers, it was the women that gave money especially the old religious ones and most of them shrieked when they saw the fucking rat and did one away on their toes, leaving him with little takings.
He was looking for a home for it and daft cunt here with a belly full of cider & lager and a head full of bong smoke stepped up to the occasion like a right fucking idiot.
I took the rat back to my room inside a cardboard box with the promise that the beggar would be around with a cage the following evening, which he would buy from the next days takings.
He was true to his word on this count, unfortunately, I needed a piss in the middle of the night and tread on the cardboard box whilst trying to find the sink to piss in whilst in complete darkness and the fucker escaped and I could not catch him.
The cage the beggar brought around is on the floor open with some crumbs in it but the rat merely eats them while I’m out and then fucks off back behind the sink, it’s driving me crazy.
I get back down from off the bed and pour myself another big drink and start to think about the hostel in Gloucester again, it’s a bail/rehab hostel and I was sent there a few years ago by the courts, Cardiff Crown Court actually for a spate of off-licence and pub burglaries and smash and grabs.
I had two choices; get remanded and await sentencing in Swansea or Cardiff Prisons or go to the hostel where I had in-house therapy sessions, I could leave the building at 9 in the morning and go up town getting back for dinner and therapy, then back out again and you had to be in by 10 at night.
I had to attend 3 AA or NA outside meetings a week, and I also had my own room.
The only other condition was to not enter licenced premises or drink or use drugs whilst you were there otherwise ‘straight to jail, if you pass Go do not collect £200’
I chose the hostel didn’t I, I mean who wants to sit in jail, really? It wasn’t a fucking choice at all.
I was soon halfway through the second bottle and my memory of the previous night was coming back in dribs and drabs, a flash here and there, I saw myself hanging out of someone’s living room window on a main street, feet up on the windowsill and my hands holding on to the open little top window.
Then there was a shout of ‘Oi!’ somewhere off up the street to my left and I fell down into the garden, tumbled over a small garden wall, around the corner and into a lane where I lay down behind some rubbish bins, then it went blank.
What the fuck was I doing last night? I don’t rob houses, I’m not a drainpipe monkey?
Who’s house was it, did I know someone who lived there, had I been invited back there and ended up outside, I just couldn’t remember and it scared the shit out of me.
Then another memory slide into view, it was me punching Carty square in the face, it looked to be the same lane that I was hiding behind the bins earlier, then I’ve got hold of that blonde cunt by the throat and I’m strangling him, there’s another guy shouting for me to stop behind him.
Then it all goes blank again, well that must be why he never acknowledged me in the shop earlier, I knew that fucker just needed scaring and I’m not sorry either, I mean there ain’t no police involvement but it’s all just so fucking unnecessary, stupid, violent, ugly and horrible.
I could have been killed there were 3 of them for fuck sake!
This is why I need to get away I repeat to myself, luckily there’s a bed for me in 2 weeks, I’m leaving this country for good, it’s my fresh start, clean slate, new life, no more living like an animal.
I finished the 2nd bottle and lay back on the bed and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke slowly to a strange, unusual sensation, there was a tingling and pulling on the fingers of my right hand, I looked down but the room was in complete darkness, I smiled in my half awakenness and a thought came to me that angels were healing my busted hands.
But then I felt a slight pinch, which pulled me out of my reverie and I put my left hand into my jeans pocket, pulled out my lighter and struck the wheel, there to my horror was the rat pulling at the scabs on my right knuckles and eating them.
I fucking leapt ceiling-wards screaming, I took 3 strides towards the wall with the light switch on in mid-air, smashing the switch on with the side of my head in my eagerness.
I spun around and there it was still on the bed, it looked shocked, I’ll give it fucking shocked in a minute, I thought. On the floor were the only 3 things that I possessed, a holdall for my few clothes, a small tape recorder and a little square coffee table that I had made in that Llansamlet workshop the last time that I had community service hours and the guy who had taught us was so impressed with my craftsmanship that he had let me keep it.
I grabbed for it, lifting it up above my head by one leg, twisting it and swinging it like a club, I leapt at the bed, missed the rat but the impact trampolined the cunt up into the air, I turned and try to hit him with a tennis swing but missed and he hit the floor.
I brought the table down to the floor where it split in half but the rat ran scurrying back behind the sink.
In frustration, I picked up the both pieces of broken table and threw them together straight through the fucking window and howled like a rabid dog, that was it, breaking point, I had well and truly had a fucking ‘nough.
I doubt I’ll ever get that image out of my head I repeated to myself as I grabbed my holdall of clothes and left the building, never to return to it and that dirty, stinking fucking rat.
I went back in the shop and bought 2 more 2 litres of Stonehouse, which was still only £2:49 because I was still his fucking friend and then I jumped the 10 pm train over to Neath, were I slept on park benches and stayed in old world war air-raid shelters until the days ticked away and I fucked off to Gloucester.

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight, this too may pass, yet. You can read his poems and stories here!

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight, this too may pass, yet.
You can read his poems and stories here!



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