The Drain Man

1910 Swansea.

Roddy, head bowed and breathing hard, stands between the shafts of the milk cart he’s just pulled up the steep hill to the top of Cambridge Street; he’s caught in a sudden pool of early morning light glistening on the tarmac, damp from overnight rain. Seagulls whirl, screeching with laughter. The milkman climbs down from his seat and sets the bottles gently on the front step of Ivanhoe. Hearing a scream from the upstairs window he thinks, That’ll be Maggie’s new baby.

The boy’s cord is cut in buttery sunlight. The child has no thought of the future, no hope of fame and fortune, but his mother does. She is possessed of a fervent desire that he’ll become someone of note, who embodies promise, who’ll escape their poverty. I shall call you Aneurin, for you are truly golden.

1959 Cardiff

In early morning light, as weary summer wears out and sloughs into autumn, Aneurin arrives on his boneshaker Raleigh bicycle at a particular house, among many, that he visits once a year. 

His hand shakes as he raps the back door with his knuckles and waits. Unshaven, unkempt, he gasps for breath tucking his dirty shirt into threadbare army trousers held up by a sisal cord. His bony ankles poke out from his trousers and he has battered brogues on his naked feet.

The door opens. Oh. It’s you, Aneurin, Alice says, delighted. I was afraid you wouldn’t turn up.
He stifles a cough, and gasps, Like clockwork, Alice.
Yes, it’s a year to the day. Like some breakfast? Alice asks.
Yes please, Alice, but I’d rather do the drains on an empty stomach.
You don’t have to do my drains.
It’s my living, Sis. I’m the drain man.

Sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, hairy arms exposed, hands big as dinner plates he kneels at the down-pipe, his head bent, as in prayer. Down deep his arm plunges, his head turned against the reek, scooping out the yearly waste, glutinous black muck, into the bucket. His eyes blank, he rises and continues until all the drains are clear. Under the cold tap at the back of the house he rinses off the filth. 

In the kitchen he eats a hearty cooked breakfast.

Alice, sitting opposite him, drinking tea, asks, How’ve you been? What have you done this last year?
He swallows a piece of fried bread and bacon and swills it down with tea. Survived, he replies.
Survived? Oh, Aneurin, my brother, you were a commando in the war!
Yes, I thought I was golden, like what mum said, until those bastards broke me. I gave in, I betrayed my men. They died because of me while I escaped, nothing but a coward. I should be dead like them.
No, no, no. You could be safe here. Start again.
No, Alice, I can’t. If I keep moving they won’t find me.
Who won’t find you?
My men.
They’re all dead.
No, in my head, they’re still alive. 

I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday. 
Please feel free to pass them on to others you know who may be interested.
You can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door” here >>>More

© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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