Sunday 21 August 2022

Vandals by Gill James, liquid porridge


"Go on then, dare you.  There's nobody coming up."

The escalator in the Metrolink station was whirring and clanking to itself. It seemed a waste of electricity, it running like that all the time. They were always banging on about looking after the environment, weren't they? "Don't be daft."

"Trevor's a wimpy. Trevor's a wimp."

"Okay then. Bet I can get down quicker than you can."

Trevor set off charging down the escalator that was coming up. It was a bit disconcerting. The steps kept on coming. He really had to run even to stay in the same place. At one point he really thought he wasn't going to make it.

Then there was a screech and a rattle. The escalator came to a sudden stop, throwing Trevor forward.

He thumped right into an old man, pushing him over.

"What the fuck do you think you two are doing? Bloody vandals you are." The man was already struggling with his breath.

"There is a lift, you know. It's just round the corner," said Alfo.

The old man shook his head as he pulled himself on to his feet.  "Damn thing's bust. You should think about other people before you start messing around."

The man carried on walking slowly up the now stationary escalator as Trevor rushed back up.

"He don't look so good," whispered Alfo.

It was true, the old man was really wheezing and puffing and his lips had gone a bit blue. But he seemed to recover when he got to the top. "I'm going to tell the police about you. It's a crime what you've done here. This escalator was put here for a purpose. What are your names?"

Alfo nudged Trevor. "Don't tell him nothing. He don't know who we are."     

Just at that moment, though, two people in uniform appeared.

"Oh no," whispered Alfo.

They were British Transport Police.

"So, what's been going on here, then?" asked the big burly one with the moustache.

"These vandals were mucking around on the escalator." The old man nodded his head towards Trevor and Alfo.

"It wasn't me. It was only him," Alfo pointed at Trevor. 

"That's true enough," said the old man. "But I bet he'd have joined in if the escalator hadn't stopped."

The other officer, a young woman who Trevor actually thought was quite pretty, cleared her throat. "You do realise, don't you, that you have done some considerable damage to private property?"

"Don't you just have to press the reset button?" Alfo ran his fingers through his hair. "Anyway it's public property, ain't it?"  

The officer shook her head. "Nope. They tried that. It's well and truly knackered. It serves the public but it's still private property."


Trevor's mum looked over his shoulder as he read the letter from the magistrate's court. He was to appear there 14 September, 11.00 a.m.

She shook her head.

"I told you not to mix with that Alfo. He's a bad influence."

"We were only mucking about, Mum."       


Trevor's mum had insisted he borrow his dad's suit and put on a white shirt and a tie. He hated ties anyway. He was very aware that Dad's suit hung loose on him and it smelt of cigarette smoke. That was at least one thing he didn't do. Smoke. Couldn't they be grateful for that one thing? He'd had his hair cut as well and he'd polished his shoes. But the shirt collar was irritating him. He scratched at his neck.

There were three people sitting in front of him; two men in suits and a lady with long hair also in a suit. None of them smiled. The man who sat in the middle seemed to be in charge.

Trevor was asked a lot of questions by someone he'd never met before and then a few by the man who was supposed to be looking after him. There was a lot of it he didn't understand. 

"Very well, then," said the man in charge. "You say you meant no harm and we can believe that. But you do realise that you've caused a lot of damage? And you've made a lot of people uncomfortable. That escalator had only just been repaired. It will cost another £15,000 to put right. You may wish to reflect on how much you must work and how long it would take you to save enough to pay for that. This will be reflected in your sentencing."

Well, Trevor didn't earn anything at the moment. Not since the cafe where he worked had gone bankrupt.     

"So, we sentence you to ..Oh."

Someone had come into the court and handed a note to the woman in a gown who was standing by the door. She in turn handed it to the man sitting in front of the three magistrates.

The man in charge read the note. The he looked directly at Trevor. "I'm afraid this case has collapsed. We're going to have to dismiss this trial as now something much more important has arisen. There will have to be a new trial and it will have to be at the Crown Court."



“So what exactly happened, did you say?" his mother quizzed him later.

"That man. Mr Hawkins. The one I bumped into. He collapsed that night. He's been in hospital ever since. And he died this morning. Just when I was in the court."

"So what will happen now?"

"I don't know." But he dreaded the worst.  



It was almost time to go back to the cells. In fact Trevor was looking forward to it. He had to put on an act out there in the open and even though the doors were locked at least he would be left in peace for ten hours or so. He had no cell-mate at the moment. He would read a bit, maybe write a bit, perhaps work a little more on his sketches. They'd allowed him to study for a GNVQ in Fine Art. Before lights went out, he might be able to work a little on something to add to his portfolio.

He ambled back to his cell.

What a shock.

His sketches had all been ripped up.

Something that looked unmentionable had been smeared on to his water colours.

Someone had scribbled all over his acrylic pieces.

His whole portfolio was ruined.

He pressed the emergency call button.

"Look what they've done," he said when Clements appeared.

"Hardly an emergency is it?" said Clements. He started picking up the papers that were strewn all over the floor.

"Can you do anything about it?"

Clements shook his head. "They're just vandals aren't they? Just think of the charges you're on, matey. Karma, ain't it? Heard of that?"   

About the author 


Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown. She edits CafeLit. She writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing 


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