Dog Biscuits And Gravy
He stooped low over the small fire
stirring the old paint tin
he was using as a cooking pot
with a hungry but satisfied grimace.
He was warm and dry
in a long disused brick railway shed
a mile and a half out of the city.
It was Benefits Day again tomorrow
and he smiled at the thought of it.
He had been living on one meal
of dog biscuits and gravy
for the last 5 days and was due a change.
It had taken him almost 12 months
of sleeping rough to learn this trick
and he had come upon it by accident.
Back in those notorious UK 2014
Winter rain storms and floods
he had broken into a garden shed
in the county of Somerset
to wait out the severe weather
and was stuck in there nigh on a week.
In the corner by the hibernating BBQ
was a sack of dried dog food,
at first he timidly tried a handful,
trying to pretend it was prison muesli
but without any of the milk.
To his surprize he actually liked it
and has been buying a sack of it
with a tub of gravy granules
every Benefits Day that’s come since.
Carrying them on his shoulder back here
and hiding them around the side
under some rusty old tin sheets.
Why, it’s cheaper than human food,
lasts much longer and he swears blind
that it cleans and has reversed
the rotting of his long suffering teeth.
Even his hair and beard have taken on
a new youthful and healthy sheen.
Staying away from the gangs of drunks
in the parks will stop him getting stabbed
and bottled and his new diet has put
another 5 years on his life at least.
That’s more time for a possible solution
to his homeless predicament to be found.
Tomorrow he will stroll into town,
go to The Salvation Army paying a pound
for his weekly bacon and eggs breakfast.
In the afternoon he’ll sit on the grass
behind the cathedral and eat his favourite
sausage in batter, chips and mushy peas.
Then maybe a flagon or 2 of cider
to help him walk back with his new load
of dog biscuits and gravy granules.
But until then he is happy to be left alone
with this steaming hot feast before him.
“Hiya, my name’s Jan, pleased to meet you.
Seeing as we’re cuffed together and bus seat partners
I thought we could break apart the 20 minute drive
to the prison with a little light conversation.
Is this your first time inside? your face gives it away,
my dear, try not to let the other girls see that
if you can help it or they’ll be ‘round you like vultures!”
“Hi, my name’s Emily, I’m 18 years old
and I was caught shoplifting, I was homeless and hungry.”
“Well, my dear, you don’t need to tell people
so much of your business but seeing as you are at it.
I’m in for crack rocks and street prostitution,
oh don’t blush you daft wee lassie, it’s all old hat to me.
This is my 10th prison sentence for it and much of the same.
Everyone knows me in there, you just watch when we arrive.
Ok, so this is what to expect when we get off the prison bus;
We’ll go in and after filling out boring admittance forms
they’ll strip you and bath, de-flea and de-lice you.
Then it’s time for a quick ‘Pucklechurch Twirl’
then a word with the doctor, prison clothes on,
sign your civvies in, pillowcase of prison kit, some scran
and then you’re taken in and shown to your pad.(cell)
“But what’s a ‘Pucklechurch Twirl?”
“It’s fingers in your ‘hoo-ah’ that’s what it is,
your lady bits, honey, they search them for contraband,
don’t look so worried, they do it to everyone, it’s nothing.
Anyway, you seem like a nice quiet girl and I like that.
And you certainly need a bit of looking after, that’s for sure.
I’ll go through Reception much faster than you,
they like to process the regulars first, they’re quicker to do.
I’ll ask them if they can 2 us up together if you want?
I’ll tell them that you’re a distant cousin or something.”
“Thank you, I would like that very much!”
“Right, well I suggest you enjoy the view out of the window,
it’ll be the last of the outside you’ll see for awhile, my dear.”
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.