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Flash Reprint: Jay Merill’s “Trev”


by Jay Mer­ill


The stress lev­els he was fac­ing now were unen­durable. He didn’t know how he car­ried on. He’d forced him­self to go from day to day and not think about a big­ger pic­ture, yet the world demanded that you did. You were sup­posed to pre­pare for the future, have a Plan B, take into account what would hap­pen if.…. you were to divorce, die, lose your mind. There were just his two feet and the feel of the ground beneath them as they hit it one after another. Trev felt it was some kind of an achieve­ment to be in touch this far.

What had hap­pened to him was: He had got divorced, lost his job, become home­less. He hadn’t died or lost his mind — yet. The divorce had left him feel­ing shaky. He’d devel­oped asthma. He might draw in air, in the usual way, but it didn’t reach him. Los­ing the job was even less expected. Except job-loss was the story of the age — he knew he wasn’t the only one. Trev sat day after day writ­ing out job appli­ca­tions. Or went to the Job Cen­tre where the employ­ees treated you like a sup­pli­cant. Trev felt exas­per­ated then depressed. He thought of the phrase, ‘Down and out’. Thought of Orwell. He began to wheeze.

Things got worse. He’d told the land­lord of his tem­po­rary set­back. Some­thing would turn up, he was sure of it. His sav­ings ran out but he was cer­tain Hous­ing Ben­e­fits would have processed his claim by the end of the month. After all four months had gone by since he’d
applied. They said the more he asked, the slower things would be. Would only cause delay.

He said he needed to get the ben­e­fit by the end of the month; that he was being forced into home­less­ness. He went to a Law Cen­tre who wrote a let­ter; went to his MP who asked him if he’d voted for her; said com­pla­cently, ‘These are dif­fi­cult times.’

He was evicted. Sell­ing every­thing on E-bay he bought a cheap car, stowed back-packs in the boot, his tooth­brush in the front com­part­ment. Trev, a man who thought of pre­sen­ta­tion, even in awk­ward cir­cum­stances, didn’t want to let him­self go. Had cash in his pocket for cof­fee in the morn­ing, break­fast in a café. That first night of home­less­ness he felt light hearted.

Trev put his name on Hous­ing Asso­ci­a­tion lists, sat in the pub­lic library — the one that hadn’t closed down — did more job appli­ca­tions. He said at the hous­ing office, he was home­less because they hadn’t processed his claim. He’d paid in to the sys­tem for eigh­teen years. Said all this qui­etly, politely, for that was Trev’s way. But he could hardly believe he was human any more, hardly pic­ture being real. It was a Kafkaesqe night­mare. He couldn’t breathe.

Ten months now and still his ben­e­fits hadn’t been processed, his Unfair Dis­missal claim hadn’t gone to the Tri­bunal. He had to get rid of the car. What next? He’d arrived at the point where he couldn’t imag­ine a next. Trev sloped along win­ter streets look­ing for some­where to sleep. In cen­tral Lon­don there were many like him­self. He passed vastly expen­sive flats kept empty by own­ers who didn’t even live there; passed over­crowded high-rises, smelt the penury; said to him­self, ‘What a world.’ Thought of Zola’s ‘Fats and Thins’. Those rel­a­tively few who were grow­ing fat­ter and those mul­ti­tudes whose daily lot was thin­ning them down to noth­ing; thought of the word, Sav­age.

It’s a year now since Trev became home­less. He sleeps in a niche in the wall of Water­loo Sta­tion. Tonight it’s rain­ing hard. His card­board sleep­ing-base is soaked. Hot air blows through the grat­ing of a crois­sant-shop. He loses him­self in the waft­ing smell. Thinks of Dick­ens and Joe-the-Cross­ing-Sweeper. The word Bleak comes read­ily to mind.

Thinks of the fat-cats sleep­ing in comfy beds or par­ty­ing. What could they under­stand about any­thing he’s going through? He thinks of Atwood’s dystopian Oryx and Crake, with its sealed-off com­pounds and mass of scav­engers roam­ing out­side the gates. Thinks of Jack London’s Peo­ple of the Abyss; won­ders if any­thing has really changed.



Note: This story orig­i­nally appeared in Night Train, in Sep­tem­ber, 2008.


Author’s Note

I wrote the story ‘Trev’ in a state of fury and dis­tress. A close friend of mine who was ill at the time, had recently become home­less through no fault of his own and received no help. ‘Trev’ is an entirely fic­tional char­ac­ter but the thoughts and cir­cum­stances in the story reflect some­thing of this sit­u­a­tion. ‘Trev’ was writ­ten fairly quickly and I sent it off to The Big Issue, a well known jour­nal in the UK on home­less­ness. They decided to pub­lish it. This was fol­lowed by my mini series titled ‘Trev’s Friends’, in which I tell the sto­ries of four other home­less fic­tional char­ac­ters — ‘Adie’, ‘Cooper’, ‘Rue’, and ‘Wendy’. Here is a link to these sto­ries: http://www.bigissue.com/features/2789/memories-me


JayMerrill.jpg Fic­tion by Jay Mer­ill is forth­com­ing in 3AM Mag­a­zine, Epiphany and Prairie Schooner. Sto­ries have appeared recently in Apeiron Review, Blue Lake Review, Cit­ron Review, Corium, Eunoia Review, Foli­ate Oak, Lit­er­ary Orphans, Smoke­Long Quar­terly, Spork, Wigleaf and other great pub­li­ca­tions. Jay has 2 short story col­lec­tions pub­lished by Salt and is the win­ner of the Salt Short Story Prize. She lives in Lon­don UK and is cur­rently Writer in Res­i­dence at Women in Pub­lish­ing. http://www.womeninpublishing.org.uk/writer-in-residence-jay-merrill/


FF.Net Edi­tor Com­men­tary (Ran­dall Brown) 

Change seems essen­tial for nar­ra­tive, so a story that ends with the pos­si­bil­ity of noth­ing chang­ing seems espe­cially bleak, doesn’t it?

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