Our office is on a pretty quiet mews.
There are offices and back entrances to shops along it, but, until you get to our end, there's not much life. After our office, there's a fancy restaurant, a pub, and an EAT sandwich place. That's it. It's pretty tranquil on our little lane usually.
So, imagine our intrigue when, just before we left the office this evening, we heard a lot of shouting from the street. There were only three of us left for the evening, and we were mulling over whether to go to the pub for a quick one, or just head home. Suddenly the three of us were bolting across the floor to push our noses against the front windows.
On the street there were three tramps; two men and a woman. The men were brawling - properly going at one another, and the woman was hopping around behind them shouting eloquent things like, "fuck off you fucker!" Naturally, we were gripped.
The row, it seems, was over a sack of leftover EAT sandwiches. There were twenty or so in the bag that the shop staff had put our for the rubbish, and one of the men and the woman had picked up the lot. This, it seems, does not adhere to the rules. The done thing is to take one item each and leave the rest for the next people to come along. Mr Tramp II came along in time to see them make off with the goods, and took issue.
So the three of them were tearing pieces off one another in the street, and, in the process, kicking over the sack of sandwiches. One man ripped the sleeve off the shirt of the other. "You bastard! That's my only shirt!" "No it's not! You're not even really homeless! Give me the food!" (Lady Tramp skitters around them shouting, "kill him! Kill him!") The Sleeveless Tramp thumped the other in the face. One bloody nose. The Bloody Tramp looked at the blood dripping down his front and thumped back. Two bloody noses.
"Kill him! Hit him harder! He's hardly bleeding!"
"Give me the food!"
"You tore my shirt!"
We cast our eyes around. Every window along the mews had people hanging out of it, gawping with the same obvious glee that we were.
Lady Tramp looked up and saw, presumably, a hundred faces pushed to the glass. "You can all fuck off too!" She spun around, shaking her fists at the buildings around her, and tipped backwards in the process. Somewhere above us, someone cheered.
A man appeared, walking towards them slowly, holding a role of kitchen role. He's the guy who works in EAT. "There's more sandwiches. Calm down," and he handed the two bleeding men handfuls of kitchen role to stem the flow. Standing between them, in his new role as Peace Keeper, he rotated slowly, as they sidled around one another, keeping them both at arms length.
"Kill him too! Get him!" the woman shouted. They both lunged. EAT Man dived. They hit one another, and immediately got one another in headlocks. Stalemate.
Another man entered the fray. A fourth tramp shuffled in from stage right. He stopped six feet back from the interlocking tramps and stopped. Everyone froze and stared at him. A silence filled the air. New Tramp looked from the men, to the EAT Man, to the woman, to the sandwiches, and back again. After a short pause, he walked past them, bent down, picked up two sandwiches, and walked on. A hundred pairs of eyes watched him go, and once he was safely out of harms way, a new cry went up.
"We're more homeless than you!" They were off again.
By now there were bits of clothing, clumps of hair, pieces of sandwich, littering the street, and still the fight went on. EAT Man tried to get between them and break up the fight. Tramp Woman egged them on. Every office worker on the block peered out the window. A crowd gathered outside the pub.
Then the police turned up. The crowd shuffled with dissatisfaction. Someone on the opposite side of the road booed. Bloody Tramp took off. He just turned on his heel and ran. The crowd cheered. The police looked on, dumbstruck. Woman Tramp shouted after him, "you're not that fucking hungry then, are you?"
And then it all quietened down. An ambulance arrived and mopped everyone up and the police moved the crowd along. EAT Man bagged up the now-trampled sandwiches and threw the bag back with the rubbish. And we went for a pint, safe in the knowledge that we wouldn't have that exciting a Wednesday night again for a long time.
house of eels: july 2017*
1 week ago