Text Box: First Quarter 2017 — First Place

Rainbows for Coppers


Claire Whatley



























First sounds. The whirr and squeak of a bike. Pink and green. Wheels crunching over something: a cardboard takeaway box, I reckon. I imagine the chips inside. Perhaps some chunks of cod or haddock, white as silence. I see the tyre imprint on the box. Soon the rooks’ll swoop. Nothing wasted.

Later, builders’ boots thudding past. Brown, brown, brown. Been waiting for the builders. I look forward to them every day. Their voices weave together and the patterns they make are bright and bold. Red, blue, purple. As they speak I know they’re eating, and I wonder what they’ve got today. They like each other, the builders, they understand each other. They’re happy. That’s what I think.

The robin calls. His song neat and clean, pale yellow with threads of blue. He knows there’s something for him. I open the flap and there he is. He gives me the once-over: my hair, my clothes, my boots. He doesn’t judge. Next to me half a sandwich, still in its triangular package. ‘Love Life’ it says. Only one bite out of it! Coronation chicken. I pick out a morsel of bread; toss it right in front of him. He dives and it’s gone but then he cocks his head; gives me the eye again. It’s chicken he wants. Little cannibal. ‘There you go, mate’.

I wipe my fingers on my trousers.

Rooks carking, hurling slate-grey clouds into the air. Must’ve spotted the takeaway. The robin scarpers. I finish the sandwich, eating carefully around where the bite was taken. I look about me while the birds crayon the air. Sparrows! Orange!

I arrived here in April. I’ve watched the year change, smelled the seasons’ flavours, listened to the kaleidoscopes of birds and passers-by and sandwich-eaters. October now. Chilly.

The birds all know me, but to the punters I don’t exist and that’s all right. No judging.

A lot of people don’t put their leftovers in the bin. They leave bits of sandwich in their triangles on benches, drinks half-full on the ground, crisp packets, a few still left in the bag. I tidy up. A valuable service, that’s me.

After a visit to the public conveniences, I go to my patch. Guitar case on the ground, I play. I have to play a lot of colours to get enough for my beverages. Rainbows for coppers.

I was small when I found out, five, maybe six. Noises in the playground, they were too bright, too many colours all at once. I told the other kids and they laughed. And that was when I knew. They only heard the world in grey.          

Good day today. Woman gave me a triangle, unopened. Cheese ploughman’s with pickle. ‘Love Life’.

I head home with my beverages, timing it right so no one sees where I go. No judging.

I slip behind the high hedge and there’s my tent, undisturbed. I open the flap; disappear into the silence. And the silence is white, white, white.

Second Place: Appearances

Third Place: Summary