Gary Hewitt
and Lisa Kilhefner

Lisa Kilhefner
Inspiration piece

By Gary Hewitt

Shoes are never the best of pillows. Graham straightens and rubs the back of his neck. His head throbs from dehydration. He manages to stand and empties the contents of his stomach into the gutter.

He’s grateful it’s summer. He wipes grit from his eyes and lurches through shattered streets. An ancient diner still stands. He hopes he can find water and perhaps food. He curses again the alcohol he discovered last night. He should have saved it for bargaining.

He pushes into the diner and several bottles of sealed water lay nearby. He shouts a greeting yet no-one responds. He rips the lid off of the nearest drink and downs it in two gulps.

He leaps over the counter and finds a few bars of chocolate and tins. Graham seizes a can of corned beef and prises open the lid. The taste is far better than the junk he’s been feasting on the last few days. Even after all these years the contents are good.

He searches the interior. He finds a butcher’s knife, a stained apron and a baseball cap welcoming you to Joey’s Place. He takes the knife and dons the cap. There’s nothing else of note. His stomach rumbles yet it keeps his meal down. He needs his strength.

Outside, the sun chars the dusty streets. He is grateful for Joey’s hat. Graham trudges back to his steel shopping trolley and tosses the knife inside along with a collection of cans and bottles. He decides to head to the river. He is caked with grime and mud.

He fingers his hair with a fork. He should be blonde yet these days he finds a constant scum of brown. He pats down his tracksuit bottoms and knows he’ll need some new threads. Graham spots a place called Ottaker’s Casuals and makes his way towards the derelict shop. Old signs telling him it’ll cost fifty bucks for a pair of denims are ignored. He shoves his shoulder against the door and despite resistance it gives way.

He puts on a pair of dusty jeans. He rips off his shirt and claims a yellow polo. He quails from the stench of his own sweat. He stops when a voice asks him what he is doing.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. My name’s Graham.”

“I don’t care what your goddamn name is. What are you doing in Mum’s shop?”

A girl of no more than fourteen descends a flight of stairs. She aims a pistol at Graham’s head.

“I need some new clothes. Listen, I’m no threat to you so please put the gun away.”

“Yeah, so you can molest me, enslave me or maybe you’ll even fucking eat me. You think I haven’t heard about what they do out West.”

Her eyes are feral. Her black hair flaps across her shoulders and Graham winces when he hears the click of her gun.

“Look, I’m only looking to survive. I’m on my own and don’t belong to any outfit. What about you? Are you alone?”

Her eyes fill and her throat trembles. He feels her strength waning at bad memories.

“Mum and Dad were murdered. I hid in the back and saw it all. I know what men and women can do Mr and I don’t trust you.”

Graham remembers the chocolate he’s just stowed in his new trouser pocket. He offers the girl a Hershey Bar.

“If you’re all alone, why don’t you team up with me? I promise I’ll do my best to look after you and maybe we can look out for each other. I could sure as hell do with a pair of extra eyes and some company. “

The girl looks doubtful yet the brown gold is too tempting. She snatches the wrapper. Graham nods his approval.

“I’ll think about it. My name is Gina.”

Her small fingers grab hold of Graham’s hand. He draws her by his side.

“I’ll come with you.”

They step outside. Gina shields her eyes and Graham gives her his hat. He can tell she hasn’t seen the sun for a very long time.

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