|Look Out! Cooper & Joy Are About.|
The train to Lewisham was free of tourists, but as the two middle-aged women talked amongst themselves, I had spotted a perfect opportunity.
Crashing down beside them, I engaged Tony in conversation, as he stood before me, preferring to stand, instead of dirtying his t-shirt on the seat's soiled upholstery. The conversation coming from the women was incredibly dull, and as one of them spoke about her son-in-law, the other woman gave the best advice she possibly could.
Opposite us was a black youth, who stared at the women, as he listened to the music filling his ears. The din of the music hissed above the noise of the train, and although Tony was annoyed by having listen to such a sound, he managed to refrain from telling the youth to turn the volume down.
At the next stop a few other passengers filled the carriage, and when the black youth saw a face that he recognised, he gestured for his friend to come and join him. A few moments later he was in deep conversation with a black girl. Tony glanced at the girl. I knew what he was thinking, but even if he had only hatred for the girl, I told myself that she was someone's daughter, and that being made of flesh and bones, she was just like the rest of us. I then chuckled and looked at Tony. For one moment I had shown no animosity towards a black person. Tony – if he could have read my mind – would have been horrified. Perhaps I was too weak to hate people.
At Lewisham station we stepped from the carriage and headed towards the exit. The women were still talking about marital problems and the previous night's television programmes. The more attractive of the two hadn't seen me take her handbag, as I had stood up to leave.
There wasn't much cash in the woman's purse – forty pounds – but Tony agreed that forty pounds is forty pounds, and to two poor men like us, forty pounds is enough to buy a few hours of pleasure in the pub. There was, however, a mobile telephone in the bag, which Tony reckoned, as he fingered it with his chubby fingers, would probably make twenty or thirty pounds.
I tossed the handbag into a bin, and laughing out loud, I told Tony that I was really beginning to enjoy myself.
I can speak a little French, and trying hard to listen to what the girl with the glasses was saying, above the noise of the rattling carriage, I understood that they wanted to visit Harrods, which she referred to as chez 'Arrods. I laughed to myself, with the reason for my good humour stemming from the girl's inability to pronounce the name of the shop correctly. I wasn't quite sure what the group was doing between Lewisham and Crayford, but because I saw it as my duty to help my French friends, I approached the girl and asked her if she was lost.
Looking at the girl, I found myself falling in love. Her face was naturally beautiful, and with the smell of her perfume filling the carriage, I wondered if I really wanted to pick her pockets. A boy then spoke, and talking at the girl as though she was a dog, he asked her to ask me how they could get to Harrods. I assumed that she was the only one who could speak a little English, and that she was the group's unofficial leader. I looked at the boy and saw before me a very disagreeable young man, who, unbeknown to him, was being relieved of the contents of his jacket pockets, by a very over-friendly and helpful Tony.
I looked at the girl's map, and realising that there was now no place in my life for sentiment, I baffled her with directions, instructions and the names of places which she had never heard of. She then smiled, as I suggested that if she followed my advice, she and her friends would soon find themselves at chez Harrods. I think she liked the fact that I threw the occasional French word into the conversation, and whilst she and her friends listened to the advice I was giving, Tony was picking pockets like he had never picked pockets before.
Extract taken from "The Londoners" trilogy - an ebook about two bastards who enjoy ruining lives.