The old man has rotten rabbit’s teeth, two opposing clumps of greasy yellow-black fragments that bow outwards at a poisonous angle. And from here it seems that - more than drink, fags, diet, or any of the other depravations a person of seventy endures - the thing that really seems to have blasted these teeth to the root is the bad language that passes across them.
‘Bring me that bastard Tony Blair,’ he screams. ‘I’ll bite his balls off.’
It is two in the morning. The man is lying on his side on the broken up tarmac of an estate car park, his knees drawn up to his stomach against the cold, his right arm pillowing his grizzled head.
‘Fuck you! And fuck your fascist state! Tell that Tony Blair I want him here, now. I’ll bite his cock off and spit it in his face.’
Rae drapes a blanket over him.
‘Thank you,’ he says. ‘You’re a kind person.’
The man and woman who made the call are standing at a safe distance over by a wall.
‘He lives up in one of those flats over there. Is he going to be all right?’
‘Hm. Not sure. But thanks for calling.’
‘Yeah – I bet,’ she laughs. They walk off, and the old man seems to react to the change in his audience.
‘I’ll tear his eyes out and stuff ‘em up my arse!’ he screams. ‘Murderer! Murderer!’
Then he whimpers, and rests his head back down on his arm.
‘Just kill me, fellas. Just put a pillow over my head and smother me. I don’t want to live any more.’
‘First things first,’ says Rae.
We both squat down at angles and distances he’d find difficult to strike or kick. ‘What’s your name?’
His head bobs up again.
‘Fuck you! Cunt! That’s none of your business. Leave me alone. Or kill me, and then leave me alone.’
‘Come on. We’re only here to help. You’re lying on the floor, cold and wet. Tell us your name and then we can talk like civilised human beings.’
‘My name? You want to know my name? Well, fuck you. My name is Tony Fucking Blair.’
A police car turns up the ramp into the car park.
‘Who the fuck is that, now?’, the old man says, raising his head and sniffing blindly.
‘It’s the police – erm – Tony.’
‘They’re going to beat me up and kill me.’
‘No they’re not. They’re here to make sure you’re okay, just like we are.’
We stand up and when the two PCs come over we tell them what we’ve found so far. The police man takes a few steps away to talk on his radio; the police woman squats down beside the old man. The lights from our torches reflect brightly off her neatly tied blond hair and pressed white shirt. She could be an angel come down to see what life is like on Earth, persuaded to wear a stab vest and cuffs.
‘Hello sir,’ she says. ‘My name’s Ella. What’s yours?’
‘Simon Larkinson,’ he says, meekly.
‘Hello Simon. What seems to have happened to you tonight?’
There is a pause. Simon pants quickly and quietly, like an exhausted animal.
‘I’m cold,’ he says.
‘Well no wonder. Lying on the ground like this. Let’s get you somewhere warm where we can talk properly.’
I fetch the trolley from the ambulance.
We all work together, stand him up and settle him onto it.
As I’m strapping him in he looks up at me.
‘Did you see that fillum?’, he says, with a delicious shudder that runs from his scalp to his boots. ‘”Venus”, I think it was. Peter O’Toole. A great actor, there. And not much older than me.’
And then satisfied with that, he seals his lips around those dreadful teeth, tugs the blankets up to his chin, closes his eyes, and suffers to be manoeuvred onto the vehicle with the graven resolve of a newly beatified priest.
It doesn’t last.