Short Story Preview: Orphan Alley – Josie Arden
‘Looks like you’ve drawn the short straw!’ my fiancé, Jack, laughed. I groaned.
I was telling him about the resident’s meeting at which we’d been given jobs to ensure no more children were killed after poor little Dean Smith’s death in Market Street. Its dead end had been opened to allow through rush-hour city traffic. One side was flanked by Edwardian houses downgraded to bedsitter land. Despite the traffic, the road outside remained a playground for children who, strangely, avoided the expanse of wasteland opposite.
‘One fatality is one too many. We must find ways of getting those kids off the street,’ I said.
Among the many ideas offered were lessons in boxing, art, sewing, cookery, drama, table tennis – and more. The worst job fell to me: finding a venue and funding it. My short straw!
I rang churches with lettable halls. None free for a year. As for cost? Ouch! A Council grant? ‘Sorry! We’re already over budget.’
Deflated, I wandered back, after dinner, to Market Street as if pulled magnetically. My council house in New Street might have been on the moon. So different to Market Street after its post war face lift with neat front gardens and proper pedestrian pavements.
I was in for a shock. A shivering boy of about ten was lying under a bench wrapped in newspaper! Nearby, a toddler had pulled a rotten banana from a dustbin and was biting into it. Then, on the wasteland, a girl, sheltered by a shrub, leaning against an old army-site hut, was holding a sleeping baby! All still out at ten o’clock?
‘Don’t eat that,’ I said to the little one, ‘stay with me and I’ll get you something nicer.’
I asked the boy under the bench, ‘What is your name, why are you out so late and where’s your home?’