Making Friends With Tramps

He was our ET.

Like Billy and Gizmo, we kept him a secret from the government.

Like Chunk and Sloth, we cared for him when no one else did.

Like The Henderson’s Big Foot, he was hairy and smelled of pish.

Children’s movies of the 80’s were responsible for inspiring children all over the world to befriend monsters. An alien from outer-space, a magic robot, the scary old man who lived across the street or a misunderstood drifter with a heart of gold. According to 80’s kids movies, if an adult said you should stay away from said social cast-out, then gosh, that just meant there was a super fun adventure ahead!

“Perhaps the misunderstood drifter will turn out to be a friendly Werewolf who will protect me from bullies. Or that shifty old man from across the road will teach me how to wax his… car and magically become good at Karate.”

Like the old man me and my friend Paul used to offer to go shopping for, until he started answering the door with his penis out.

At the far end of Burgh Hall Street, between the back of Partick’s former Woolworths store and the train track was a void hidden behind a 8ft wall, not supposed to exist in society. The result of poor planning during construction preparation.

“I wonder what’s over that wall,” said Tom, as I lit another genie matchbox*. “Give me a puggy*- up Alessio, and I’ll look.”

“Aww!! It’s amazin’ man! You need to come up here,” enthused Tom as he clambered onto the wall looking over.

“Pull me up,” I said.

I dropped down on the other side of the wall to meet Tom, safely landing on a pile of mushy newspapers discarded by generations of paperboys with bigger fish to fry. Ahead of us, a narrow damp path that snaked out of view. “You go first,” I said. Tom rolled his eyes, called me a fanny and ventured forward with me following closely behind, peering over his shoulder like his body was my shield. “If anything bad happens, it happens to him first,” I reasoned.

The walls damp with dripping water, narrowed and then widened again. The path ended at a moderately open area, sheltered from rain and daylight by the overhanging train track. A mess of litter and broken glass ran from our feet and into the darkness that waited under the train track. Soon, the unmistakable stench of warm pish invaded our nostrils. We smelled him before we saw him.

And then we heard him.

“Awright?”

In a knee-jerk reaction, Tom and I immediately pivoted and bolted back down the twisted soggy path. It was moments like this I found that I could maneuver with the speed and precision of an abused 16 year old Chinese female gymnast. At school, I was the tubby kid who couldn’t climb a rope or stop a goal. But when I was being chased by railway workers that time I got caught smashing windows in the abandoned Partick train-station. You better believe I did a triple twist dismount over a barbwire fence.

Once we reached the wall back to safety, we realised we were not being chased. And like total dicks, we curiously treaded back to the voice in the darkness.

“How ye doin?”

“No bad, like,” said Tom in his best tough guy impression.

“Whit ye doin?”

“Getting a bit of rest.”

“Are you a homeless?”

“…Eh.. Aye.”

Our eyes adjusted to the darkness and we saw him more clearly. A young Billy Connoly was my first impression. Matted long brown hair and beard, a long thin frame hidden behind a green suit jacket and trousers. Looking back, I’m guessing he was in his mid 20’s.

He was sat on an old mattress covered in dirty blankets, his head rested against a concrete wall.

“What’re you two up to? Runnin’ aboot?” He smiled as he put his mouth around plastic bag and inhaled.

I remained quiet, but Tom, who has an uncanny ability to adapt his personality to that of the stranger he is talking to (or to what he assumes is their personality) carried on.

“Just fuckin’ aboot, knowhatamean? So, whit’s yer name, mucker?”

“Steve.”

“Steve aye? Ma names Tom and he’s Al.” Al, says Tom. Usually Tom calls me Alessio, but to Tom’s new personality? He can call me ‘Al.’

“Aye? Nice to meet yous.”

“Aye. So do ye have any friend? …Like.”

Confused by the sudden interrogation, Steve takes another puff of the white stuff. “Aye, there’s a bunch of us. We’ve got places like this to meet up an sleep aw over Scotland.” Steve giggles.

“Aye? Aye it’s a crackin’ den like. Av built a few dens maself, nothin’ as big as this though ………Ken?”

The conversation continues slowly like this, with the lulls filled in with the sounds of Tom and I stomping on empty vials.

Eventually Steve looses consciousness, we lose interest and leave.

Back on the streets of Partick we immediately reminisce of our encounter with a real life homeless.

“That was cool, man” Says Tom in his normal voice.

Agreed. “We should get him some food and stuff!”

Agreed! “Let’s both go home, get some bits of food and meet up in 10 minutes.” Off we ran.

12 minutes later (had to poop) we met on the corner of Hayburn Street and Dumbarton Road, each with a plastic Safeway bag of homeless treats.

“What did you get!?” I enthused, like it was christmas.

Toms items:

  1. 1 Tin of beans (hobo delicacy).
  2. 1 Tin of macaroni and cheese.
  3. A watch he got with a box of Sugarpuffs.”

My items:

  1. 1 Tin of beans (hobotastic).
  2.  1 Strawberry fruit corner.
  3.  1 Suede decorative cushions (sorry mum).
  4. 1 Sherbet Dip-Dab.

“A sherbet dip-dab!? I’ve no had one of those in ages!” Said Steve as he sat up wiping the slabber from his chin and enthusiastically fingered through the gifts from his new best pals.

“Here, you didnay have to dae this lads. A suede cushion!? Your maw will boot yer baws, haha!”

“No it’s alright,” I said. “She said you could have it.”

“Aye right.”

It was a while after that I saw Steve again. Now and then me and Tom would check up on our brother from another mother, but he was either not there, but there and at the same time not there.

The first time I saw him away from his Batcave I was with my mother, going to or coming from Woolworths. Just like the first encounter, I smelled him before I saw him. The familiar piss mist stung my eyes and saturated my nostrils. I could just make out his thin frame through the yellow haze. “It’s ma old pal Steve!” I thought.

“Hello Steve!” I shouted excitedly. My mother confused as to who I was talking to, ‘surely not the mental pishy tramp who was mumbling to himself and rushing down the street on a mission to get smacked oot his tits.’

Yes mum, your son has a friend that everyone else has turned their backs on because he was different, not accepted by society. Chunk loves Sloth, mum! Elliot will help ET phone home!

But the fucker ignored me. Walked right past, no high-five or nothin’. Totally rubbered and once again brought back to the harsh realization that films are bullshit.

“Fuck Steve!

…Tom just got a Mega Drive anyway.

…To be honest, I’m more into Ninja Turtles than ET.

…Yeah, maybe I could get my Mum to buy me a turtle.

…Make it watch some Bruce Lee videos and accidentally spill some Domestos in its tank, just like the movie.

…That could work, right?”

————————————————

 

 

*A genie matchbox is where you light one match and put it back in the box with the rest of the matches and watch the whole box light up in blue flames. – Add some bangers (twisted paper wraps of gunpowder) for greater effect.

*- To lift someone up by way of them standing on your crossed hands.

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