My laptop is full of old writing files, mostly fragments of half forgotten stories and single line ideas that never went anywhere. Very occasionally I come across a completed piece from back in the mists of time, and this is one of them. Written when I was the impossibly young age of 19, it’s a glimpse into my teenage mind. I’d write this differently now – it would likely be longer for a start – but there’s something about it that I’ve always liked. I’ve cleaned it up very slightly, mostly to add in missing words and correct spelling mistakes, but otherwise it’s as it was back when I originally wrote it. So, with that in mind, come back in time to the heady days of 1998, when people still used walkmen and said witty things like ‘duh’.
Non-smokers. I really hate non-smokers. Not People Who Don’t Smoke, but non-smokers. The ones who tell me how smoking’s going to kill me, give me lung cancer, and, even worse, give them cancer through passive smoking.
Like I care. I read the government health warnings. I know that they could kill me. But so could the 10.15 bus to Duke Street. I know I really should try to care about other people’s health, but as far as I’m concerned they should take care of it themselves. If they’re so bothered about passive smoking they shouldn’t stand near someone who’s smoking. Duh.
Anyway, I was minding my own business, standing outside the bus shelter, smoking. Note I was outside the bus shelter. The time was 10.10, and I was waiting for the bus to take me to Duke Street. Inside the shelter was the usual gathering of art students, old age pensioners and young mothers with small children.
I was standing outside, smoking happily. There was a brisk wind, blowing the smoke away from the shelter. I’d guess that it was around 15 degrees. Not bad for a slightly overcast November day. I dragged on the cigarette, watching the oncoming traffic for signs of the bus. I watched carefully, seeing cyclists and Ford Fiestas with lowered suspension and blacked out windows, hearing the bass beat as they passed, feeling the music resonate in my bones.
I glanced in the bus shelter. An elderly woman was watching me intently, a disdainful look on her face. I shrugged at her and kicked idly at a discarded drinks can, sending it spinning off towards the bus shelter, where it struck one of the support posts. It veered off out of control, narrowly missing a passing dog.
The dog yelped, and ran off. It was one of those Yorkshire Terrier things. The old woman in the bus shelter rose to her feet, left the shelter, walking in the way that old people do, hunched over slightly, leaning on her shopping bag.
She came up to me, this hunchbacked old crone. She barely came up to my shoulders, and she had excessive facial hair. I could see her saying something to me, her mouth moving but no sound reaching my ears.
I switched off my Walkman and removed my headphones. I could now hear what the hunchback was saying. She launched into a tirade about the youth of today, how we have no respect, and did I know what I’d done to that poor dog?
Then she started preaching about my smoking, how it was going to kill me and could I put it out as she was an old woman and shouldn’t be breathing in my exhalations. I said no, why should I, after all she was the one who had chosen to come and harass me.
She waved her umbrella in a threatening manner. I heard the bus approaching, and threw the rest of my cigarette to the floor, where I ground it out with my heel. I started to move closer too the kerb so I could catch the bus. The old woman stood in my way though.
I asked her to move, but she wouldn’t, not until I apologised for the dog and for exposing her to my carcinogenic fumes.
I guess I saw red, what with all her whinging. I gave her a push, and she went sprawling into the road, under the wheels of the bus. I watched her fall in slow motion, landing in front of the bus. I heard the crunch as she rolled under the wheels reverberating in my head.
I turned and walked away.
The detective read the statement, and looked at the young man brushing his hair out of his eyes in front of him.
‘Do you have anything to add?’ He asked, feeling sick in the presence of someone who had killed an old, defenceless woman.
The young man nodded.
‘Any chance of a cigarette?