Gravy Monster update

Gravy Monster update

It’s a bed he thought not the best bed but still a bed. First time he’d woke up in a bed in a long time. Granted the circumstances were far from ideal but it was a comfortable sleep. It definitely beats a cold cell and a thin blue jizz stained sleeping mat. Or, a kick from a drunken lout whilst lying on freezing cardboard, sleeping bag soaked in kebab and piss in a shop doorway.

He had a window, noticed no curtain rail for obvious reasons but the crisp autumn sun cracked the sullen darkness of the room and he returned his head to the pillow. His mouth and neck still raw from the piping hot gravy and beans he had lathered them in. A dressing and antiseptic cream treating the wound, again he thought it could be worse, it could always be worse. The room was neutral, hazard free and naked walls surrounded him. He was content. He couldn’t remember the last time he was content and well rested having eaten the previous day. Someone was definitely looking down on him, looking down on him favourably. Superman was a more realistic answer than god he thought.

There were voices down the hall outside his bedroom door, they sounded real. The door was about three metres from his bed, a wooden door, heavy duty with a circular strengthened window through which the nurses could see inside. As he listened to what sounded like the rattling of a trolley being driven down the narrow corridor he drifted off again.

When he woke the bed sheets were damp from his sweat, it had started. The cravings for the brown, the thoughts of how he ended up here started being clouded and swallowed by the thirst. He started fantasising about holding a cup of gravy granules, access to a kettle. Roast beef. Yorkshire puddings. Pie. Chips. All smothered in sweet sweet gravy. The transformation was underway, the calm figure snoozing solemnly under the white sheets. He was being replaced again. Nervous energy charged through his limbs like greyhounds released from their traps, a frenzy of activity in pursuit of the bunny. Could he put a muzzle on it? Could he bollocks. Swinging his feet out of the iron framed bed he made a line for the door in his pyjama bottoms and white t shirt, both two sizes too big for him.

He could smell burnt toast as he opened the door to the corridor and followed his nose. If there was going to be any gravy here it was going to be in the vicinity of the kitchen. As he approached the kitchen door he could see two shadows extinguishing themselves from the entrance. This was going to have to done the hard way and interact to some extent with others. Walking with the brisk staccato steps of someone carrying a piano he tried impossibly to peer through the walls as he approached the kitchen to count those that might stand between him and a tub of the brown stuff. He was threadbare physically but fearless and ready to fight to get his fix. His tracks suddenly stopped by a voice from behind him,

“Graham, slow down there’s plenty for everyone.”

He turned to see a psychiatric nurse smiling at him. He hadn’t heard his name in what felt like a decade.

“Who told you that?”

“What? Your name?”

“Yeah.”

“We got it from one of the police officers who brought you in last night.”

“Who knows me? Who warrit?”

“Try and stay calm you’re safe in here, the officer’s name was PC Fletcher he said he had met you before when you used to live in Doncaster town centre.”

“Never heard o’him sounds like a rate cock socket.”

“Would you like some breakfast? Some toast maybe?”

“Shove your toast up‘yer arse you daft slag, am after some gravy.”

With this reply he turned and continued on his mission to the cupboards of the kitchen. In the kitchen he wasn’t able to forage for the gravy. Instead the storage was through in a smaller room where the food and cups of tea were being prepared visible through a small open window. The cupboard hole in the wall separated the other patients all sat solemnly eating their toast and jam from the two ladies toasting and stirring. He approached the hole.

“Morning son, what can I get you? Nice cuppa?”

“I want gravy.”

“Can’t help you there love, you can have a cup of tea and some toast if you want though instead?”

He wasn’t o be deterred by the friendly nurses offer, instead of taking her up he climbed into an opening in the wall. The nurse a little alarmed but clearly not seeing this type of behaviour for the first time hit the mobile alarm all staff carried with them. Within thirty seconds two more nurses arrived at the locked door of the kitchen were let in. Graham meanwhile had picked up a blunt bread knife and began wielding it whilst screaming and demanding gravy from the two women in the kitchen. They were used to erratic behaviour but this was a new one for the two of them. As the first nurse opened the main door to the kitchen Graham had started ransacking the contents of two cupboards that were unlocked. As he was in full gravy mode two male nurses burst on to the scene to restore some order. The sun never sets on a psychiatric unit.

“Graham put the knife down; we don’t want to have to get the police involved do we?” Said Tom an avid Wednesday fan, the ink owl on his upper arm sneaking a peak at the latest trouble maker,

“Tell us where you keep it an’a will?” Implored Graham.

“Graham we don’t have any gravy, listen are you going to put the knife down?” With this second request Graham erupted.

“Me names Gravy you bastards!”

He had turned from the cupboard and was facing the two male nurses with the other two female nurses stood beside them – reinforcements. Graham crossed the line and lunged towards one of the female nurses and was quickly tackled and restrained face down on the kitchen floor. It hurts having your face pressed into the tiled floor.

What happened next was text book following a violent outburst. Graham was removed from the voluntary wing of the psychiatric hospital and rehoused in the newly built arm of the centre where those experiencing the more acute episodes resided temporarily. First he made a visit to the safe room with a complimentary injection into his leg to calm him down. What was in the syringe was anyone’s guess but considering he’d only been up an hour he dosed for a good 6 more laid on yet another blue plastic mat, sticky.

After stirring away from a rather pleasant dream he acclimatised to his surroundings. A nurse had to keep guard, monitoring movement and ensuring the patient didn’t swallow their tongue after receiving their latest cocktail of drugs. I guess the nursing equivalent of data entry. Graham stood up swaying a little, a 6 pint sway. He clocked the nurse straight away; she was young having only recently started at St Cath’s and Graham was the first person she had seen sedated, it made her feel a little uneasy but she was assured it was in their best interests.

“Nah then love, you gonna lerruz out am busting for a piss?”

“You’ll be out soon please try and be patient.”

“Patient, av bin in’ere all fucking day wi nowt to do am gonna piss me sen.”

“Graham there is a bottle in the corner if you need to go to the toilet, please use that.”

“Am not a fuckin animal, I wanna piss in a bog, lerruz out you stupid rug muncher!”

This wasn’t the first insult Emily had heard in her first three months, tame by comparison to most of them. The first time she received a tirade of abuse had her questioning her career choice but already her skin was thickening like a cooling pan of gravy. Her boyfriend was concerned when she mentioned she wanted to go into nursing specifically psychiatric nursing. To help others who had been through something similar to her sister. The nurses and doctors saved Frankie and she wanted to do something positive having nearly lost her to anorexia.

It didn’t mean he shouldn’t be concerned just because she had a good reason. He knew what an emotional and mental examination every shift was going to be working with the vulnerable, the catatonic, the schizophrenic, the manic and the psychotic. How does any person cope with that without being affected? Selfishly he didn’t want her to change; he fell in love with her when they met at university in Sheffield back in 2012. Version 1.0. He didn’t like the constant revisions.

He never voiced his concern at the pathetic remuneration package for all this personality re-aligning either. Instead he made her a cup of tea when she arrived back after her night shift on that Sunday morning, three hours late, no overtime. Yet another depressed patient had figured out how to get out without their consultants consent. The police statements, the questions the lack of sleep the heart wrenching image burned on to her conscience…another beautiful person hanging, lifeless. The thought of his mother finding out later that day just before she was due to come in and visit him made her feel sick. He listened. Tea wouldn’t do it. Nor would a 1% pay rise. Christ you could double her salary without making this worth it. He knew she was doing it for the right reasons but that didn’t change the fact that he was losing her one shift at a time.

“Graham please be patient, Dr Alikhan will be with you shortly.”

“Yeah I heard you, you daft cow. Please be patient waaa waaa waa. Am the gate keeper waaa waaa waa. Piss in me bottle waaa waaa waaa. Suck me tits Gravy waaa waaa waaa” He mimicked Emily making himself smile, she also struggled to keep a straight face as he continued his childish yet entertaining caged performance. The drugs had definitely worn off.

Graham calmed down and sat back on his mat on the floor. The door opened and in walked Dr Alikhan. His wait was over so was Dr Alikhan’s, a short stout Asian man with dark rings below his eyes. Emily thought either a keen drinking hobby or insomnia or both, she didn’t like him. He didn’t care, years of this had desensitised him. Made him unresponsive to the mental torture endured by many of his patients. He spoke briefly with Emily before cautiously opening the safe room and walking through the doorway before placing a NHS standard issue blue chair in front of Graham. Another nurse had joined Emily and they stood at the door.

“Hi Graham, I’m Dr Alikhan I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Fucksake av bin in ere all day can’t you just lerruz tek a piss?” Graham replied quickly.

“It will only take a couple of moments can you do that for me?”

“You’ve done well for your sen swimming over ere and that mekkin them believe youra quack but ur just a daft paki, now get out of me way am off for a piss.”

Graham stood up and started walking towards the door Emily and her colleague Ian stepped into the room. Graham stopped abruptly.

“Look you bunch of cunts a need a piss what dunt you get? Fine fuck yer!”

He turned away from the nurses with Dr Alikhan’s back to him on the sterile chair and quickly started to relieve himself on the worn suit jacket of the psychiatric consultant. Before long he realised what was going on and shot up out of his chair like he had been given a jab with a cattle prod. Disgusted. He walked towards the door and ushered the nurses out of the entrance and closed the door behind him. Graham continued to piss on the chair and screamed,

“Bring me some fucking brown an all you twats!”

Emily looked forward to her tea break and updating the rest of the overworked and underpaid.

The Gravy Monster

gravy-monster

I was on one of my longer runs down the lanes on the outskirts of my hometown. Run faster you fat bastard my inner voice screamed. I was approaching yet another spot where some selfish twat had decided it was a perfect place to tip their kitchen waste. Now it would be perverse of me to jump to the conclusion that this was the work of the travelling community (as is so often the case when you see a pile of litter beside a farmer’s field). I didn’t. I let the pikey’s get off with this one, there was reasonable doubt. LIES.

As I closed in on the dumping site, I thought I could see the outline of Quasimodo. I dismissed this. I got back to my running. Could I beat Monday’s time? I averted my gaze back to the potholed tarmac underfoot. I was about 10 yards away, when again I found myself glancing up to see the outline of something human. This time I was convinced there was someone trawling through the sea of kitchen debris. I slowed down a little apprehensive and turned my music off. Walking closer.

Now only a few feet away from the litter I could see there was a young lad maybe only twenty years old. Rifling through the piles of unwanted waste like he was trying to complete a room in the Aztec Zone, sand timer close to empty. He was so engrossed in his task he hadn’t noticed me approaching. I have to note this was the first time in two weeks I had come across another soul on one of my runs. Here was this silly bugger out in the wilderness on his jays looking for a new pair of trainers for all I knew, sifting through someone else’s filth. I dismissed the temptation to ignore him and continue down the road instead deciding on engaging him in some form of convo.

“Ay up pal, you lost something?”

I was a little surprised when he didn’t stir this was hardly Electric Avenue on a Saturday morning. I raised my voice a little and moved closer.

“I said pal, you alright, what you lost?”

No response. If anything my presence had increased the speed at which his hands were filtering through the punctured plastic bags, pilfering what he could. I started to wonder if the good intentions I had were misplaced, the road to hell and all that.

I stepped on to the grass verge lent over and nudged him, he shrugged my hand away and I could now hear mumbling. At first it sounded like he was saying ‘save me’ ‘save me’ my mind started to unravel with the thought of what I had to save him from then abruptly he stopped. My eyes widened. I leant in a little closer without as much as a warning he exploded in to a frenzy of screams and squeals. What I thought was ‘save me’ was actually ‘Gravy’. I was only a yard away from him when he turned to me and grabbed my sweat soaked shoulders laughing hysterically.

“Gravy!!! GRAAAAAAAAVEEEEEEY!!! I’ve got some. Fuckin idiots loads in here!!!”

Now I had a chance to see this delicate beast away from the decaying detritus. I tried to step back a little but he held my shoulders and for a lad so thin was alarmingly strong. It allowed me to get a whiff of him. If I was 9 kilometres in to a run then this lad had been running since last April, without as much as a passing shower to relieve him of the rancid stench emanating from his pores. His breath and teeth bear no resemblance to anything I have either seen or in fact smelt on a living organism. Almost inhuman.

I was convinced that the local police must know of this unique specimen, I mean how often is it in 2016 that you see a lad with a battered Adidas Gazelle on one foot and an oversized welly on the other? His jeans were covered in dark brown stains, rips and other marks. A T Shirt donned his torso, barely. It was at least three sizes big for him and had the bold text “My other ride is a…” with a picture of a ewe emblazoned across his chest. He didn’t look healthy. I dismissed the shirt, his reaction to the half empty pot of Bisto had me engaging with him again as he pulled his hands away, he turned back to the pot.

“What have you got there? Some Bisto?”

Approaching him like you would a small child lost in a supermarket. It was painfully obvious from this lad’s reaction he did in fact have a container of gravy granules in his hand, I could see that. His reaction was akin to it being filled with priceless diamonds. I didn’t understand his ninety-fourth-minute cup final winning goal celebration?

“Fuck is it to you? Piss off silly cunt!” He snarled, holding the pot of granules close to his ridiculous t-shirt. Golem fingering his ring.

I paused, somewhat surprised. When I had left the house for my run following a much needed banana I hadn’t given any thought to meeting someone whilst I was out running never mind a rude, pungent young lad with the restraint of a cocker spaniel on speed! As is always the case when caught off guard in a social confrontation I resorted to a playground retort.

“You piss off you scruffy little cunt, I was just seeing if you were alright?”

He looked up from the gravy pot and his eyes softened. His frown eased. Christ he was thin he looked like an extra from Schindler’s List. My initial anger dissipated a little and I started again.

“Are you? Alright, that is?”

“Sorry mate, I dint mean that. Am sound. Better now I’ve got some brown.”

The absurdity of the situation didn’t escape me, hell for a second I considered the notion that one of the lads had broke into the house in the night and slipped a tab of acid into my banana. Was it just starting to kick in? I had promised myself I wouldn’t put myself through that again. I looked to my left and right and took a deep breath. No this was very real, this was happening.

A conundrum. Do I accept the reaction of this young lad as a bit peculiar and go about my day, continue my run and return home? Have some carrot and coriander soup as planned and spend the afternoon listening to Radcliffe and Maconie drinking tea? Is this what Laura would do? I knew straight away what she would do. Try again.

“Have you got somewhere to go mate?”

His eyes wouldn’t leave the surface of the gravy granules container. He replied,

“Like a house or summet?”

“Yeah something like that, do you live near here?”

“Used to. From Moorends me.”

Ah Moorends, the end of the Moors as it were, still is I guess. Bandit country. If ‘bandits’ are benefit cheats with a penchant for quads and scramblers. ‘Country’ being a wasteland of council houses and burned out cars. Not the nicest place on the face of our beautiful planet but there’s worse out there. Now you have to try really hard at this point to imagine a town with fewer economic or social prospects. Let’s give it a go. Start with a pile of dog shit. Steamy, revolting and sat right under your nose. Now imagine it blended until it has a lovely sticky consistency, like chocolate ice cream left in the summer sunshine for a few minutes. Finally imagine it carefully pasted evenly over the surface of every walkway in a small mining village. Holding that image think of the same town and imagine it is night, you are walking through the centre. The smell of dog shit is everywhere, palpable and all over your shoes.

You like shoes almost as much as you like the fresh air.

You want to think about running as fast as you can out of this town to safety. For unlike Moorends: scally wags, pikeys, degenerates, delinquents or scrubbers don’t walk around, oh no on the contrary. People don’t roam the streets. In their place a pack of rabid hyenas with an appetite only for human flesh. And there you have it. Something worse. A whole town paved in dog shit overrun by insatiable flesh eating rabid animals. Forgive me I may have indulged a little.

“Moorends, do you still live there?” I asked.

“Nah haven’t lived there for a few few year naa, stepdad kicked me art when I got kicked art’ school.”

“So do you have somewhere to go?”

“You mean like somewhere to kip, get me head darn an’that?”

“Yeah, you got anywhere?”

“Not since me sister fucked off, said I wa a waste a space she went darn to that London. Fucking idiot everyone knows there’s nah proper brown in’t smoke.”

I stood there bewildered, quickly returning to my earlier thought. What would Laura do? I briefly thought of the modern world where my monthly phone bill steadily increases. Hidden charges, itemised billing, the mysterious premium rate numbers. I make 3 fucking calls a month you robbing cunts. No one uses the bastard phone anymore and you’re charging me 2 quid to tell me I phoned my mum twice and Dominoes when the app went down. Twats. I wanted to live in a better place.

I thought of the inclement weather forecast for the next couple of days and looked back at my pal stood as though he had one foot in the 80s and the other on worthy farm. Christmas was approaching and this mad bastard was dressed like Worzel Gummidge at Glasto. I was still panting, in between breaths I mustered a suggestion.

“I only live down the road from here pal, if you’ve nowhere to go come with me I’ll make you a nice cup of Yorkshire tea, fix you something to eat? Good meal will see you right. You can grab a shower if you want?”

“Ah that would be proper that.”

And that was it. The hardest part was not walking past as is often the case. The next person along will probably give him 50p, poor bugger. Wrong. Chances are the lad or lass hanging out of their arse smelling of piss will spend your hard earned cash on their next fix. But wouldn’t it be nice if as well as scoring they were able to get a burger and a bed for the night. Fucking hell in a perfect world your generosity might stimulate them to take control of the situation, kick the habit, go back to school, get those GCSE’s in Maths and English, in time one of those job thingy-ma-jigs, save up, see some more of our unique planet meet a girl or a guy or both. Marriage, kids, a house, a subscription to garderners monthly, a blender, a bread maker, a cuddly toy. Choose life.

It was a twenty-minute walk back to my temporary accommodation, not much was said.

“Instead of a cup of tea can I mek some graavee?”

“Yeah of course mate” I replied, whilst clearing my throat, “Get you a bag of chips if you want there’s a chippy round the corner”

“Ah chips and gravy, fuck its like all me Christmases at once.”

Now we are in the kitchen, me drinking a cup of tea whilst he was enjoying the fruit of his labour on a bag of chips, ‘best pals these’ mumbled in between mouth fulls.

The lad in his own brash way asked if he could have a gravy boat to drink out of, I wasn’t sure I had one? He said it was how the posh lads do it. I rummaged through the kitchen cupboards. I told him I’d never seen anyone drinking out of a gravy boat and I had known a few Schweffes in my time. He shrugged nonchalantly, cheeky shit.

It was just after two, I got the laptop out looking for a solution. He was homeless, malnourished, struggling mentally and in need of some shelter. A bag of chips wasn’t going to work this time. Not your everyday predicament but there are always options. I remembered an old friend, his dad used to work for a group called M25 which dealt with addicts and homeless people in and around Doncaster. I got the number from the website and gave them a call.

It was a quick call. As soon as I told them it was an addiction to gravy they asked me politely to stop wasting their time. I persisted with phone calls to other charities in the area but no dice. This was no good. If they met this lad they would soon change their tune. I got the address for the M25 group and walked in to the living room. He had clearly figured out how to get the TV on and navigated to what looked like one of the food channels. After noting this, I noticed his right shoulder shaking furiously as I neared the armchair. The dirty little bastard was wanking. To Jamie Oliver making gravy no less. He was making his signature roast beef gravy. I snatched the remote from the arm of the chair and turned the TV off.

“What in the name of cunting fuck do you think you are doing you perverted little bastard, wanking in my living room to…” I could hardly bring myself to say it, it was so wrong “…to Gravy!”

And with the last two syllables of Gra-vy, he released a moan. The twisted fuck finished right there in front of me into his pants. I lost it. Grabbing him from the chair I dragged him by the collar of one of my ill-fitting shirts through the living room into the kitchen.

“Don’t you dare try and touch me with those filthy fucking mitts you disgusting toad!” Words escaped me. His hands still smothered in jizz from the gravy inspired monologue of Oliver. I pushed him through the back door, he stumbled I continued, picking him up from the floor. I pinned him against the fence. I locked my eyes on him, he was avoiding my stare. Like a sex addict released from his daily pursuit, gimp mask sweaty, nipple clamps sunk deep into his chest, blood fresh and plentiful the lad was filled with instant remorse. He started before I could launch my verbal assault.

“I can’t help it pal, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Am a fuckin freak. I hate it but I can’t do’owt.”

I understood addiction or at least I thought I did. Christ I remember the 0-0 draw in the World Cup Finals a few years back, Portugal v The Ivory Coast. I also remember where I was when Ronnie hit the post in the 20th minute and I was convinced the game had goals in it. I remember the sinking feeling at the final whistle too when me and Jambo had dropped over 3 grand between us sat on his sofa drinking tea with HobNobs. This was his pet French Lop, not the biscuit. There we were on the 27th floor of the Beetham Tower in Manchester without a pot to piss in. I won’t forget that feeling, Fuck, that buzz, what’s next? Chasing it.

I understand the thought process behind addiction the impulsiveness, one more spin of the roulette wheel and I’m done. Black thirteen, twat. One more. And repeat. It is of an impulse. I understand being addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling fuck even curries but gravy? Could someone really be this addicted to gravy? The evidence in front of me was compelling. In the space of two hours I had witnessed two of the most peculiar things in my life. A few seconds passed and my approach, like his cock, softened.

“Mate, I get it. You need help. This is killing you.”

“Soz for wanking in your living room, tried to stop me sen. Tried me best to finish before you walked in, a wa waiting for him to add meat juice.”

“It’s alright, meat juice what the fuck! Right we’re going to get you some help. Let’s go back inside for a minute whilst we decide what to do.”

Christ if any of my neighbours were in the garden hanging the washing out I’m pretty sure they would be on the phone to a 101 phone operator right about now. Fortunately, it was midweek in the middle of the day and most if not all were winning their bread. I wasn’t on that team at the moment following one of those sabbaticals from the working world, I believe my old economics teacher termed it frictional unemployment. Christ getting away with doing the square root of fuck all for a good two years in the offices of various investment banks across the capital, one of my finest achievement to date really. I had a good run.

He looked pensive, god knows what he was thinking about? Probably gravy. How often does one man need gravy? Ah the age old question for the northern monkey. He had just drank at least 3 mugs of the stuff not to mention his hand shake with the one eyed milkman whilst watching UK Food. Jules wouldn’t have been happy.

“Right I’m going to dig you out a hoody or a jacket then we’re off to town, alright?” God knew why I was asking, what else did he have on besides maybe a trip to the wastelands of Stainforth to dig for more granular treasure. Stainy for your reference was on par with Moorends, another decaying pit village on the outskirts of Doncaster. A large number of the residents relied on their JobSeekers to help them buy that precious pint of smooth down Working Mens. Sithee.

“Ta mate.” I handed him the hoody which was two sizes too big for him.
“What’s your name?” I asked.

“They call us Gravy Monster or Beast-O, I dunt care much for names anyway mucka rose smelling like shit an’that.”

I nodded. The lad didn’t care for much. Suppose that’s what happens when you trade in your aspirations, relationships and material belongings for your next fix. It was sad but I was committed, it needn’t be this bleak. I was going to see it through, the lad needed professional help. The absurdity of the situation was not lost on me.

We walked the short walk to Thorne South for the train. Gravy petted the shire horse living in the field beside the tracks just beyond the decrepit Victoria Inn. These days the Vic doubled as a curry house and somehow served continental lager at £2.40 a pint, reassuringly cheap? Reassuringly expensive maybe but £2.40? Probably stolen, out of date, watered down or all of the above. I had very little desire to sample the menu. A drawback of previously living in Shipley was that all curry houses for me were measured against the world famous Aagrah. The service possibly as good as the food but this was reserved for only the best customers. Tipping the waiter £100 when I myself was in need of a padded room back in 2012 meant it was always on offer to me.

The train ride was uneventful, industrial warehouses on the left, skip for hire business on the right, steel railings, car parks and of course the river Don complete with a rustic rust covered shopping trolley bobbing tirelessly. I noticed Monster becoming a little restless. Withdrawal setting in? His leg moving up and down was starting to make me anxious. A stutter when he spoke. Sweat forming on his brow.

“A, a ant bin on’t train in ages, where we off?”

“I’m trying to get you a bed for the night, can’t have you sleeping out in a farmers field can we?”

“I’ve tried before pal, well well me sister has and a couple of me old mates have, before they gev up on us. Dunt, dunt blame em” He managed.

“Tried what?” I replied.

“To help me.” Looking down, he was lucky he was a size 9 and he was able to squeeze in to some god awful military style boots my younger brother had left in the garage. I imagined Gravy’s view looking down to see the Toon Shoe out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit talking to him ‘get his wallet, think of the brown Gravy lad, think of the bucket of brown! Be fucking rate kid!’ Would he hallucinate from his gravy abuse? Nah. Heart burn from the salt and no doubt raised cholesterol as a result of the animal fats maybe. He continued.

“I dint used to be like this, nicking stuff to buy gravy, brekkin’ in to warehouses for me brown. Once I wa normal well mebbi a bit messed up,  me mam left when a warra young lad never met me dad he died when a wa a babbi.”

“Sorry to hear that Gravy.”

The woman sat across the carriage from us glanced over her shoulder when she heard me call him Gravy. As you were you nosey bitch.

“When’s last time you were in town pal?” I asked keeping the raft afloat, trying my best to keep him from turning to thought.
“Not for ages a dunno, think it wa’when Rovers’still played at Belle View”

Doncaster Rovers had played their football at the Keep Moat stadium for nearly 10 years. This meant a few things in the town centre had changed since his last visit.

The calm I had been holding hostage escaped. What say you fuzzy britches? A thought? A sound? Gravy erupted. His slight frame was electrified like the powerlines buzzing above the East Coast Mainline. Shouting at the top of his voice.

“TUCKY!!! TUCK-EEEEE!!!”

I snapped back. “Gravy keep it down, Christ!”

Doncaster train station on a Tuesday afternoon was a world away from Waterloo on a Monday morning but there were still a few people about and I wasn’t too easy with them all looking at me with a nutter bellowing Tucky.

“What’s wrong with you!?”

“Pal can we go Tucky, please? Be your pal forever if we can go?”

I was embarrassed; a few school kids were pointing and laughing. I suppose you would if you saw a grown man losing his shit at the thought of a visit to KFC.

“Look calm the fuck down” I hissed. He cowered a little, but then right back in my face.

“Tucky gravy is’t bollocks!”

I caught sight of the catalyst, a large advertisement for KFC donning the wall facing the commuters stood on Platform 3b.

“But you’ve just had chips, you can’t be hungry?”

“Just need a wet of Tucky graveee!”

He obviously wasn’t aware there was a new KFC in the Frenchgate shopping centre. Shopping centre don’t make me laugh, more like a day shelter for the elderly. I decided it wasn’t worth walking the short distance across town to the M25 Group’s office on The Market Place with him like this. We would definitely get asked to leave, him going bananas at the thought of scoring a tucky tub of gravy whilst I’m trying to find him some temporary accommodation. I needed him there in a half decent state, this would at least give us half a chance.

Gravy transformed into Beasto overcome with rage and desperation as we stepped off the escalator. The ‘Tucky’ sign clearly in view. Bursting out of the stall he sprinted very deliberately towards the counter, bypassing the queue which as per usual was at least 10 people deep. The vast majority of whom looked like they were one Hot Wing away from a coronary.

It was the one thing I had never understood about Doncaster, the town’s unhealthy obsession with Tucky. If this were North Corbin in the state of Kentucky itself fair, but, we were a fucking ocean away. Friends from school, friends that I have met through others over the years, my close family they all love a Tucky. And you can guarantee they will mention the gravy every time. Only last week I was in hospital visiting my Gran and my Aunty was telling me quietly (out of earshot of the nurse) how she had snuck in a Original Recipe Meal (my gran’s favourite) and you guessed it, the meal came complete with a tub of the brown stuff for dipping.

I started to think about my addictive personality. How good that first experience was, well apart from that unfortunate time with the ketamine. When does like become love become need become give me your fucking money you cunt.

It is fair to say I felt a tad of embarrassment on behalf of the Gravy Monster when people in the queue people sat enjoying their meal and the staff all stopped to stare at the maniac barging his way to the counter. He looked like a River Island manikin brought to life in his make shift get up.

Had he reached the front of the queue simply shouting “TUCKY” that would have been bad for both of us. No. Once Gravy fought his way to the front of the queue, with the deftness of a moggy scaling a wall he cleared the counter. Fuck. The little bastard then dived to the floor, forcing a member of the staff to jump out of the way arms everywhere. I was a good few yards behind him. People gasping and shouting. Gravy couldn’t give less of a fuck.

The steel drawer below the fries dispenser was pulled open aggressively, he rifled through the pots, opening them and pouring the scorching contents onto his face. It didn’t matter at this point what was in each of them, he didn’t discriminate. Gravy, beans, he was having it all. The staff were not prepared for this. A chip fat frier fire? Yes. Disgruntled Donny Soldier at the counter with no hash brown in his Zinger Tower? Yes. Delirious gravy addict completely devoid of social skills running amok and destroying the whole day’s supply of sides? No.

I got to the counter and the eating area was hushed, no one knew what the hell was going on. Was this a joke? A YouTube video? A ridiculous SnapChat? Dirty Sanchez?

Grumbled expletives and ‘Tucky’ emanated from behind the counter between gulps and gasps of air. Like a lion neck deep into the belly of a fallen wildebeest he looked back to me at the otherside of the counter, covered in brown residue and the odd baked bean. He nodded to me the Come on Ched get involved look. Unlike Ched I was raised to know when to dip my chip. I could see the steam rising from his skin. What the hell was happening? This was turning from a gesture of good will in to a fucking nightmare. Right on queue I clocked several youngsters recording the whole incident. Pricks.

A security guard was now making his way down the queue. I asked the manager to let me in so I could get him out from behind the counter. This didn’t happen. Instead the security guard collared me. Fear gripped the KFC women, why are there no men at KFC? Positive discrimination if I have ever seen it.

“You with him? The police are on the way. Get him out of there!”

The police. Fuck, this rolling stone was gathering no moss.  I became defensive, replying bluntly,

“Why the fuck have you called the police? He needs an ambulance and a psychiatrist not a bloody jumped up Boy Scout in a Vauxhall Astra!”

This is what always surprised me. Innocent cyclist gets creamed by a bus, emergency services swing by a café on their way to the scene of the accident. Mentally disturbed gravy addict ransacks the local Tucky, half the fucking station turns up in less time than it takes to complete the Metro crossword. Circus is in town.

He had drank his fill after a few minutes and slumped to the floor. Leaning against the counter facing the rest of the restaurant, no one could get a view of his face. Not that it mattered, it wouldn’t bother him if #GravyMonster was trending. I was a little more concerned of the social media coverage. Kids with guns.

“Gravy?” I called, clearly shaken by the whole ordeal. “Can you hear me?”

“Ye pal, Am sorry” He said softly from behind the counter.

“It’s gonna be alright kid, are you okay?”

“Av burnt me face, its killin.”

“Don’t worry about that we’ll get you seen to.”

I turned to the rotund security guard, who I guessed hated weekends.

“Can I go behind there and help him out mate?”

Displaying the social skills of a pineapple, the hired gun mumbled his response. I couldn’t even tell you what it was, but I guessed from his stance it wasn’t positive and he didn’t encourage me to jump over and a help him.

“Gravy you listening, we have got to wait.”

The police arrived right on cue, little and large, two blokes. I made a mental note of the numbers on their shoulders. Force of habit. Good name for a police spoof that. Overworked underpaid results in piss poor performance and generally not giving a fuck. I got it, but when the situation involved someone at risk of a night in the cells, a criminal record and little else, I wanted more.

“You with him?” The first copper asked. No time for introductions priceless gravy was being plundered. Not in Gods own county!

“Yeah.”

The second larger copper leant over the counter talking at Gravy. Gravy had rapidly returned to his post wank state. He was inconsolable realising what he looked like and also what damage he had done to his face and neck, he had 1st degree burns at least.

“Look he’s not very well, he needs to go to hospital, he’s burnt himself.”

“We’ll decide where he’s going. What’s his name and what’s your name?”

“Why do you need my name?”
Out came the standard issue notebook, the weapon of choice.

The copper clenched the paper a little tighter with my reluctance he considered his approach, tilting his head and his glare intensifying, “Don’t be difficult just answer the question, what’s his name and yours?”

“He’s the Gravy Monster and I’m Mickey Mouse.”

Smart arse.

This played out for at least ten more minutes. The crowd behind were growing restless. It was kick out time for the secondary schools in the area and we were standing the way of their Flaming Wrap. The paramedics now joined the party and started attending to Gravy. I was a little happier with their arrival, a more honourable profession.

Gravy eventually stood up and walked slowly out of the back of the kitchen and into the main food hall.  A couple of jeers from the crowd that had gathered, but on the whole the kids understood the gravitas of the situation. If there is one generation that knows more than most about mental health it is this one, we live in a world of increasing exposure of the human condition. Everything analysed. Pressure at every turn. SATS, GCSEs, AS, A-LEVELS and soon the 11 PLUS making a come back at the will of the top 5%.

The two coppers finally listened to me once I had told them about my eventful afternoon. They conceded that this lad was no self-styled Robin Hood stealing gravy from the rich and giving to the poor. He was in fact a neglected, lonely young man with nowhere to go no one to talk to. As well as that he had mental health issues that needed assessing and treating, how he had fallen through the net?

I’ll tell you how. People fall through the net when resources allocated to support and help those in society who need them are so thinly spread the vulnerable are turned away. There are no beds. There are no appointments to see the doctor, the psychiatrist, the social access team. Please call back tomorrow. Next week. Too late.

You’ll be pleased to learn that our right honourable friend is earmarking much needed funds for our beloved NHS. Following the money we will save now we are no longer going to be a net contributor to the EU. No I tease. This is made up. The Tories in fairness have done their bit to help, the Mental Health Act 1983 being their biggest contribution to providing better care for those in our society who rely on the state to keep them off the streets. Out of the hospitals. Out of the prisons. Or out of an early bath in the game of life. But that was over thirty years ago, mental health care funding has been cut for the third year in a row and is set to be cut even further in 2017.

More needs to be done. Now I’m glad the pig-head fucking twat has returned to the private sector where he belongs and we can start to repair some of the damage he and his comrades have ravished on both health care and social care in our country. That isn’t to suggest previous and subsequent governments haven’t and won’t do the same but we have to make it harder as a society, as a collective. Poor mental health is the largest cause of disability claims in the UK and it doesn’t take a genius to predict that the number of Gravy Monsters out there will increase as funding decreases.

No this won’t be an epidemic of knife wielding lunatics as the Daily Wank Rag might have you believe, I’m not trying to sell papers here or influence political rhetoric. I’m appealing to your moral fibre. The current approach will result in one thing and one thing only, a steady increase in the number of vulnerable people on our streets. Will crime increase? Most definitely. The Tories will defiantly argue the stats don’t show this, suck a long one you bag of dicks. These people are out there. People who have had a raw deal and people who haven’t. People who gambled it all away or simply lost one hand. Tried it once. These are all people. The most desperate of people. But people all the same.

To exacerbate this disabled people are now receiving £55 a month less that they were a couple of years ago, this was a stroke of genius by the right honourable gentleman George Osborne wasn’t it. What a gobbler. Then we have the bedroom tax. The cuts to local authority funding. Why are we marginalising the most vulnerable people in our society? I get the Monster’s gravy addiction but I can’t understand why we are empowering the Eton mess every four years. I hope members of the front bench in years to come will be able to attend my funeral and lower me in to the ground. Just so they can let me down one last time.

If you enjoyed these ramblings, you will be pleased to learn this short story has been adapted into a play being performed nationwide. You don’t need to buy a ticket as it is free to all. You will find endless performances in your train stations, outside your cheapest boozer or in the doorway’s of the high street after dark. Smile, say hello, buy the caste a cuppa.

My superhero doesn’t wear a cape, she wears Doc Martins. She she doesn’t work as a journalist for the Daily Planet but instead as a social worker for the local authority.

Happy birthday Sillay, good luck in the Jungle and thanks for never walking by.