Mark had seen the highlife, lived the highlife. His banking job in the city had been the highlife; then the crash came. His bank had gone before the crash; his bank had been the reason for the crash. Greedy traders, greedy investors all looking for that extra percentage point. It was a great life.

Now Mark lived in an east end basement flat, one room that served as living area and bedroom, a kitchenette and a shower cum toilet room was his entire world. First his girlfriend had left him taking most of the expensive furniture with her as she flounced out of his life. A few weeks later the bailiffs where at the door taking everything else including his beloved Porsche 911 that he had bought with his first ever bonus. Handing over the apartment keys to the bailiffs as they laughed in his face; entering the lift to go down to the ground floor where his life had descended to this one roomed basement flat.

He had phoned his father from the payphone at the base of his old apartment block informing his father how his world had crashed around his ears. His father reminding him of how he had treated family and friends on his way up had told him to get on with it; no one wanted him back in the family home anymore. How he wished he still had his mobile, all his numbers were on that phone but the bailiffs had spotted it in his pocket, demanding he hand it over.

The pallid sunlight of a winters day crept into his dull and dank world through the small dirty barred windows. He had found this room whilst he walked the streets. He had walked for two days, hardly stopping; not eating. His only possessions were a plastic carrier bag with a few old clothes that the bailiffs let him keep and his wallet. His wallet he had thought, it still had a credit card tucked way inside. He found a cash till and pushed his card in expecting it to be chewed up; instead it offered him £300 which he took gladly, not caring what happened afterwards.

He had seen the sign “Room For Rent” written by hand in black marker pen on a piece of tattered cardboard in the window of an old low and scruffy block of flats earlier in the day. He had gone back and gladly handed over the £160 deposit plus £80 week in advance rent asked for by the shabbily dressed, gap toothed old man who was the landlord.

That was two days ago. He had gone back to the cash till each morning, still finding he could withdraw his daily maximum allowance of £300. He had put all of the cash in an old writing desk that had been the only furniture when he first entered the room, apart from a small amount that he kept in his pockets. He had walked the area spotting several skips that contained old furniture; he now had a mattress on the floor and a battered armchair in which to sit. An old battery powered radio, covered in paint had also been salvaged; it worked without the need for new batteries and now sat atop the writing desk.

His only purchases other than food had been a thick and warm sleeping bag, a couple of towels and some cheap toiletries. The radiators in the room did come on and almost got warm but that seemed to be the extent of any heating in the block. Today he would be looking for some warmer clothes, or at least more clothes. He would again walk the streets looking for skips, trawling through their contents looking for anything useful but first he would try the cash till once again. Perhaps a different one today, he had used the other one three times now; he had been leaving a trail that anyone could follow. He wanted to disappear until his life turned in his favour again, which it surely must.

His credit card disappeared into the slot; he entered his pin code and heard the dreaded crunching as his card was reclaimed by the credit card provider. Mark found a warm café, ordered tea and toast and then reflected on his situation. He had four weeks rent, maybe six weeks if he starved a little; ate little more than one meal a day; he had to find work. He stared out of the café window, seeing his reflection in the dirty glass he didn’t recognise the tired young blonde haired, green eyed man looking back at him. Just six months ago that young man had the world at his feet, banks chasing his money, now, well now he had managed to get a roof over his head and something warm to sleep in and was safe from the twilight world lived by others on the outside.

He did the calculations in his head again, six weeks rent left him little more than £150 to survive on; he had to earn some money. He asked the café owner if he knew of anyone looking for workers; anything would do. The burly café owner looked Mark up and down; he could see that Mark had never worked an ‘honest’ job, his hands though grubby looked soft like a desk workers hands.
“Can you was dishes?”
Mark confirmed that he could do anything if shown where to do it.
“Come back tomorrow, six in the morning when I open up”.
Mark smiled at the owner
“Don’t you go smiling, you aint done a day yet!”
Mark finished his now cold tea, he had to get an alarm clock; more unnecessary spending but he had a job. He just hoped the café owner paid him cash.

Mark walked the streets looking for a charity shop which had a used alarm clock for sale. He ended up having to buy a new one which he hated doing but it was a necessity. Back in the room he set the clock and placed it on the floor near the mattress. His life was already looking better; he would look for more clothes tomorrow.
©2010 Trevor Litchfield
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