Friday, 2 October 2009

Wordsmiths Challenge #5: Changes

“Ready Bill, time to go.“

Bill looked up at the prison warden, feeling a little uncertain. It was true and not something made up, his twenty-five year prison sentence was now finished. For good behaviour five years had been deducted.

“Not bad” thought Bill “I now have it behind me.”

Bill was not really totally happy about leaving the place that had been his home for many years, but he knew that Her Majesty would one day let him go. He thought back to the beginning of it all. Admittedly he had got his just deserts, he did strangle his wife and it was murder. At the time his lawyer pleaded manslaughter, Bill convincing the lawyer that it was not intended but an accident. The jury did not believe this and neither did public opinion. Bill was not really surprised, but at least they tried. He did decide to strangle his wife after finding that she had been having an affair with his brother. He was a young man at the time, just twenty-five years old, and his feelings were hurt. His nerves just ran away with him. His family naturally disowned him for the crime and he never got one visitor in the twenty-five years of prison life.

Prison life needed some getting used to. Arising every morning at the same time, breakfast, dinner and tea at certain times and doing the same jobs in the workshop. It was all organised and so boring, but with time Bill accepted his fate. He even made a few friends, but most of them were criminals also “doing time” for murder; perhaps a robbery that went wrong, or just killing because there was no other way to do things.

He did not paint a picture of being put into prison under false pretences. Oh yes, he was guilty and now after so many years was again a free man. He was surprised that it happened so quickly, but it seems that a lawyer who had just completed her examinations decided to make a name for herself (yes, it was a lady) and was digging up some old cases with the intention of finding whether things were settled in a proper way. She decided that although Bill had killed his wife, he certainly had a reason for doing it, and it was probably one of those short circuit actions, that he had regretted since. Convinced that here a criminal had suffered enough she brought up his case for revision. Times had changed and the court decided that leniency would be appropriate and Bill was given an early release.

Not only had the law changed, but a lot of other things as well.

Bill left the prison dressed in new clothes given to him for his new start in life. He was surprised to receive blue jeans and a t-shirt, but it seemed that this was now the general fashion. He was even given an address of somewhere he could stay for the first months until he was standing on his own feet again. It was a large building in an area of the town near to a shopping centre. There was a cinema showing the latest films near bye and a few restaurants with the usual fast food. Some of it was familiar to Bill, but not all.

At first he was overwhelmed by the people on the street. There were so many, and he was confronted by people from all countries. Smells wafted in the air of food that he really did not recognise. Where were the places where you could order a plate of fish and chips, or a meat pie? They were gone and replaced with the Curry house, or Mario’s Pizza parlour.

He lived in a tall building and had a small apartment, which was being paid for by the state, until he found work and could pay himself. Just a bedroom, living room and kitchen with shower, but that was enough for Bill. It was sufficient and he was glad to have his own four walls at last. He was somewhat taken aback to find that his rooms were on the twelfth floor of a building which seemed to have another ten floors above. He was surprised by the height of everything he saw on the streets. When he went in (to the prison) houses were houses, two or three floors at the most.

He even had a television, in colour. He switched it on, but soon gave up. There were so many channels and switches to operate; he left that one for the time being. He now had his first evening in front of him and decided to visit the cinema which was just around the corner not really caring what the film was, but being able to move amongst normal people again.

His first shock was paying the entrance fee which to his twenty-five years ago thinking was exorbitant. He eventually found an empty seat, lit up a cigarette, and relaxed. He was confronted with a torch light shining into his eyes.

“Excuse me sir, but here you cannot smoke.”

Bill thought he had probably chosen a wrong seat and there were now no smoking areas.

“Sorry, Miss; can you show me where the seats are for smokers?”

“We have none sir, cinemas are a non smoking area. You must either extinguish your cigarette or leave.”

No, things were really not like they used to be, so Bill left. He walked along the road looking for a place for a bite to eat. It was then he saw a familiar restaurant where they always sold hamburgers and still did. He walked in and went to the counter to place an order. At least this was still working as normal, although it seemed to him that the food just did not have the same taste as it used to. He felt tired and left the restaurant deciding to go home.

It was now dark and there were few people on the street. He was just passing a dark turning when he was confronted by three young men.

“Now, what have we got here. Looks like he might be worth it. What do you think boys?”

Bill was startled “are you talking to me?”

“Don’t see anyone else here, perhaps the gentleman would like to accompany us down this street here.”

“I don’t think......”

Before Bill could answer he felt a strong push and landed on the ground in the dark alley.

“So now let’s see what we have” said one of the boys and they started to search through his pockets.

“Looks like he only has a purse with a few notes in it.”

“Can’t be Fred, look a bit close, he must have a mobile somewhere.”

“OK Mister, where is it?”

Bill still felt sore from fall on the concrete, but decided it was better to give an answer to this pack.

“What mobile, what is a mobile?”

“Hey Fred he is acting stupid, he says he hasn’t got one and don’t know what it is.”

“You mean he has been having us on. Well no-one gets away with that” and the boys decided to teach Bill a lesson for not having something most people would have and even being so stupid as to pretend he did not know what it was supposed to be.

They were not very nice and Bill soon knew what it was like to be beaten up feeling the thuds of heavy boots against his ribs. He eventually lost consciousness. He woke up some time later, no longer in the dark street, but in a hospital.

“How are you feeling” asked the nurse.

“Like I have been run over by a lawn mower” was Bill’s answer.

“Looks like you have been beaten up from one of our street gangs. Did you recognise anyone or anything” asked a policeman who was also in the room.

“It all went so quick officer” Bill said “No, I didn’t recognise anyone. They seemed to have wanted something called a mobile.”

“And you didn’t give it to them. That was a mistake” said the policeman. “It is better to give them what they want; otherwise they can get a bit rough.”

Well Bill was a little surprised, even shocked. What was this world coming to? He had a bad conscience for killing his wife twenty-five years long, although it was partly her fault, he was still sure. Today you get nearly killed by a few teenagers still wet behind the ears because you don’t have something they want and the law tell you that he was wrong and should have given it to them.

After a week Bill was able to leave the hospital. His broken arm was healing slowly and it no longer hurt so much, although he had to visit the doctor once a week to see how it was progressing.

Bill now sat in his room night for night, frightened to go out to a world that he no longer recognised.

He then had an idea. The next day he paid a visit to the office of records to look up details of the proceedings which allowed his release. He found the information he wanted.

“Felicity Chambers, 4 The Rise, Belgravia”; just what I needed. At last he had the name and address of the young lady that was the reason for him being today a free man. A thought crossed his mind “Felicity?” they don’t even give their kids normal names these days.

That evening he spent the remainder of the money donated by Her Majesty’s prison for his fresh start in life on a taxi to Belgravia. He was sure he had no need for money any more. This time he did not strangle the lady that opened the door and invited him in. She thought he had come to thank her. He would have strangled her, but her boyfriend was in the kitchen and heard the commotion, so she was rescued. Actually Bill did not really want to strangle her, he just wanted to return to his nice cosy cell in Her Majesty’s Prison where every day you had the same routine, got three full meals and knew that a walk through the prison exercise yard was less dangerous than walking the streets of London.

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