Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 91: The Life of Toad

This is the 91st in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Life of Toad, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 2nd March 2013

Word count: 738

Info: a few days late with this one, playing catch up. Bish bash bosh, here they come….

The story:

Toad awoke with a start, he was immediately alert and on the look for whatever had woken him. Two bright dots in the mostly darkness peered at him. Toad crept forward, and the growing dots proved to be from a cat, the weak security light reflecting in curious eyes.

“Go to sleep Cat,” he said dismissively, crawling back into his nest of cardboard and newspaper.

An hour or two later Toad awoke again with the return of dawn. He gathered up his few belongings, his creature comforts, a spare pair of socks he wore only at night, or when the weather was really cold so they’d last longer, a pack of chewing gum, and a half eaten burger he’d collected the previous day, a sign on cardboard that was weathered and faded, and sixteen pence left from his previous day’s begging.

He left his back alleyway and ventured into the town centre. Sitting outside a McDonald’s, out of the way of the binmen and street cleaners, he ate his burger, imagining it was fresh and that he’d just bought it from the restaurant he was outside of.

“Oi, clear off,” the restaurant manager said running out to chase him off before the breakfast crowds arrived.

Toad didn’t argue, there was no point. He went across town to one of the last public toilets, there was a small group of homeless men waiting for the cleaners to clean out, so no one would kick them out.
After that he went towards the train station on a route frequented by the wealthy and well fed, near coffee shops and newsagents.

The begging was poor, but it was that time of month. That said he had enough for a coffee and a buttered bread roll from the market place by lunch time.

The afternoon saw more time begging, this time as close to the railway station as he dared in the hopes of netting that near mythical space between the where you could make some money, and where security and/or police would chase you off some what violently.

The afternoon takings were significantly better than the mornings, he had amassed the monumental sum of five pounds and sixteen pence, he’d been lucky enough to find tourists in a good mood, and possibly unaware of the exchange rate, or how little the English gave these days.

As a special treat he got himself a double cheese burger and a coffee, the rest he banked for later.

He returned to his alley feeling good for the first time in a long time. Maybe tomorrow he could find those tourists again.

He tucked himself into the boxes and allowed himself a stick of spearmint chewing gum. He fell asleep as he chewed.

He was awoken from a particularly pleasant dream of brighter things to come. Expecting the cat again, he was rudely shocked as strong arms raised him up.

“Looky here,” a high pitched voice called out, “I found another!”

Toad struggled, but was robbed of any momentum by a kick to the back of his legs, which would have sent him sprawling had he not been held up.

Footsteps approached, Toad looked up and saw three young men, two with skin heads, all with tattoos and leather jackets.

One of them, without word, poured a foul smelling liquid on Toad.

“What are you doing to Toad?” Toad demanded.

“Getting rid of your kind,” the biggest of the young men said and produced a lighter. Toad looked on frightened, he tried to remember his dream, it had been about his sainted mother, he knew that much.

Then suddenly the man holding him let go, Toad thought they were letting him go, but suddenly a wad of burning paper hit him, and the foul smelling liquid erupted into flames.

He screamed, he tried to run, but they shoved him back with hard things and kicks, he screamed more.

The men laughed as Toad gave up on life, and went quietly into the night. They didn’t care that he no longer suffered, only that he had and they had witnessed it. Most of them would go home and vomit, then they would shower and try to forget the screams. The screams would sneak up on them eventually when they were older.

It was Toads only justice, the police swept the case away, not enough evidence, and he was only a homeless man, not even a boy.

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