Mates To The End - Poem by George Howard
Jimmy sat on ‘his’ public bench, a smile on his face.
The sun shone down now, of the cold, no longer a trace.
The faces passed by, some taking him in, some full of scorn.
Many passing judgement, without knowing, a few torn,
Between pity and derision, none understanding, his torment and pain.
Jimmy looked around, an agitated look on his face, in strain.
Wherever was Malcolm? He was never this late.
Malcolm was his best friend, his bosom buddy, his mate.
They’d been together just yesterday, drinking away the gloom.
Jimmy had said goodbye, outside his flat and staggered to his room.
His anxiety was growing now, Malcolm was seldom on time.
But to be as delayed as this, didn’t make reason nor rhyme.
He paced up and down, now really getting in a mess.
Chewing at his fingernails, and filling up with stress.
Then all of a sudden Jimmy spotted Malcolm’s face through the crowd.
All the tension flooded away, he was so grateful, he almost bowed
To his knees, in prayer, “Thank you God up on high! ”
Instead he let out a yell of laughter, and ended with a sigh.
“Hi mate! ” He cried “You’re late, where have you been? ”
Malcolm looked at him puzzled, “No sweat man, I was just feeling green! ”
They hugged each other, cajoling and thumping with glee.
Caring not about the faces, not concerned whether they would see.
They broke open the ‘champagne’, which Jimmy had brought.
Their ‘Elixir of Life’, passed from lip to lip, numbing senses, as sought.
Their main aim now to ‘dumb out’ the cruel senseless world all around,
So they may speak, without interruption, of things important and profound.
They jabbered about nothing, putting their own personal world to rights;
The price of Cider, the Community Patrollers, last night’s arguments and fights.
They never watch the TV, neither, to the radio do they listen.
No concern for Tsunamis, or volcanoes, even if a new Messiah has risen.
All they worry about is their meagre funds at present,
Whether to get more Cider, or buy some food, which they resent.
They plump for the cider, “Get the cheapest you can, three bottles, don’t forget! ”
Off shuffles Malcolm, on his daily chore, checks out shops, for the cheapest one yet.
Jimmy now feeling conscious, of the state he is in, looks down at his feet.
“Those trainers need replacing”, he’ll cadge some tomorrow, beg in the street,
And into a Charity shop, looking for the cheapest he can possibly buy,
Pointless wasting money, in fact sometimes he can blag them, if he really does try.
The lovely women in the shops understand, and will try and help out.
They won’t give him money, but they don’t make a fuss or shout.
“There but for the grace…” He often hears them remark.
They know what life is about, that the reality is stark.
It ain’t no bed of roses, you don’t get a hand up the ladder.
You very rarely get a friendly handshake, which is so much sadder.
Jimmy sees Malcolm returning, loaded up with ‘promise’.
“Sorry I was so long mate I was hearing about Old Doris! ”
Old Doris had a trolley, and she shoved it about town.
Apparently well off, at one time, but then, life had got her down,
Into the gutter, collecting odds and ends, nothing of value, to be seen.
Some say she still had money, “Nearly as much as a Queen! ”
Just hadn’t the sense now to claim it, and didn’t really care.
Would go to the Park bench she loved, and just sit and stare,
At the children and mothers who played there on hot summer days.
She would tarry a while and watch, saying “They never cease to amaze! ”
Doris hadn’t married, had looked after her parents all her life.
They had been sick, she, no time for men, alone, no chance to be a wife.
An only child, left all the money and the house, in the will.
Life had passed her by, and often the tears fell still.
But no longer, for Doris, who had been found in a heap,
Two minutes from her house, apparently she just fell asleep.
She didn’t awaken, carried on to her journeys end, it did seem.
Her pain no more, now left to the police and a forensic team.
Jimmy and Malcolm hit the bottle in earnest, no lunch nor tea.
Downing the cheap cider, so much, they could hardly see.
Laughing and chattering with their slurry chat,
Sporting glazed expressions, Jimmy grinning like a Cheshire cat,
At everyone who passed by, not seeing the looks of disgust.
Malcolm saying “Count up, have we enough for another? Only just! ”
Off he goes, to the shop once more, leaving Jimmy alone,
Who tries to stand, falls over, hits his head, loses consciousness, with a moan.
As Malcolm comes back, sees the blue flashing light,
“What’s happened now, something to make his life bright? ”
He stares in disbelief when he sees his best pal prone,
On the pavement, blood running free, letting out a moan.
“Jimmy! You okay mate? ” he shouts already confused.
His pal carried off on a stretcher, as he stands in shock, bemused.
Malcolm plucks up the courage after two bottles of grog,
His shakes now taken care of, his mind now in a fog.
He calls at the hospital reception, pretty girl on the counter.
Malcolm thinking, “I’ll ask her, she’ll know, she’s bound to”.
Pretty girl says, “Jimmy who please sir, are you a relation? ”
He stood in a haze, motionless in confused hesitation.
“Er.. I’m afraid I don’t know that, I’ve forgotten his name”
He stood there alone, frightened and in abject shame.
“He’s a ‘street’ guy, my buddy, my friend. You know what I mean! ”
“Just take a seat over there Sir, I’ll see if you can be seen! ”
Malcolm sat in the corner away from them all.
Slipping into withdrawal, when all of a sudden, a call.
“Malcolm Smith please! ” It seemed strange hearing his name.
Standing up too quickly, falling over, “The chair was to blame! ”
“Come this way please Sir” said the doctor, taking his arm.
“I’ve some very bad news! ” Malcolm now stared in alarm.
He, now all of a sudden sober, after a long time in his life.
His blood now racing, adrenalin rush, head already full of strife.
He ran out as fast as he could, not wanting to hear more.
Running as far as he could until his muscles were sore.
Malcolm sat down and wept for his loss and his pain.
Never would he drink with his best buddy Jimmy again.
He was weeping for himself as well as for his friend.
What would he do with his life now? On him he did depend.
Malcolm sat on ‘his’ public bench, a smile on his face,
Wherever was Pete? Probably still drunk back at his place!
If he didn’t turn up soon, he would give him the sack!
Malcolm suddenly winced, put his hand on the awful pain, in his lower back.
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