Some Things Never Change

A sudden roar from the other end of the room, heralded the entrance of one of the warders and a new face. In some slammers they ignore you, but this poor devil was getting the the whole nine yards. I wondered what he was in for, but didn’t have to wait long to find out, as he walked towards my end of the room and slumped casually on a chair, relishing the fact that he was the centre of attention.
‘What you in for mate?’, asked Joe, a mountain of a man, who instilled unnecessary fear into anyone who didn’t know him.
Grievous bodily harm, with intent.
‘What,.. drunk?’
‘Na!. Deliberate. Got the buggers back’
‘Go on’.
‘Who wants to know?’ He looked at Joe scornfully.
‘I do!’ said a cold voice behind him.
‘And you are…?’, he asked, turning to see the owner of the voice.
‘Someone you don’t mess with. Now, what’s the score! Wha’dya do?’ The owner of the voice put his boot up on the newcomer’s chair. He was Harry, the self-professed ‘boss’, and he was interested in finding out if he had cause for concern.
The man looked at him for a minute and decided to acquiesce.
‘I had me stag night. Two mates thought they could have a good time at my expense. I didn’t agree’.
‘What did they do?’ Joe asked
‘Got me totally plastered, stuck me in a bloody dog costume, and left me chained to a tent with a sign that read ‘Rover’, in the middle of a field of campers. When I came to in the morning, there were bowls of water and packets of dog-food left outside the tent, and about twenty people gawping and and wetting themselves laughing.
‘Well at least it was original’, commented Harry.
‘You’ve gotta be joking! They haven’t an original thought in their heads. Na! They read about some bloke who had it done to him a few years ago, except his friends left him in a field of sheep’.

Later that afternoon, in the relative privacy of our cell, Denny, my cell mate, asked me if I was ok. He was good like that. Very caring bloke. I told Denny I was fine. Little did he know that I was the original victim, who had been left in the field, with a tent, dressed only in a dog costume! I was John Rovinik at the time, hence the Rover bit…but because of learning who my real father was, a few years later, I changed my name to his. He and I became very close in the time we had together before he died. I felt he would have liked it if I took his name. Over the years I had learned to deal with the Rover experience. I no longer hated Rosie’s brothers, who had punished me for getting her pregnant. I still felt guilty about not getting in touch with Rosie again, and explaining what had happened, but it was all in the past.
The following years were difficult for me. In fairness, my childhood and teens had been marked by a distinct absence of love, security, even attention. As a consequence many of the troubles over the next twenty years were down to my inability to hold down a job, my lack of confidence, and the annoying habit I had of allowing others to make decisions for me.

Strange how two people tackle problems so differently. This guy had fought back, met his protagonists head on, but me? Well, I had run away.

My life was changing though. I didn’t run away from things these days. This was definitely my last spell inside. I had been helped a lot this time. I’d been on courses to help with my lack of self esteem, and courses to extend my skills, and courses to show me how to handle job interviews, and courses…well you get the picture. Yep, the future was looking, well… orange! I only had a couple more days and then I was free. The lassie from the social was getting me sorted with a place to live and she was arranging for some folk outside to help rehabilitate me, and keep an eye on me. She was worried, she said, that I might not take my medication, and that I would slide down the miserable slope again. No way, I assured her. This time it was good. This time I went out and my life started! I’d even got a job lined up with the council. Some scheme they run, but I don’t mind being a bin man. I would be working. I could hold my head up high with the best of them! In a nutshell, the past was the past and the future was mine.

Two days later, I emerged from the compound with my small bag of belongings and much optimism. As the taxi trundled along unfamiliar roads I had time to go over the details of where I was staying. The couple were called Mr and Mrs Akita and they had a daughter who was at university, so I wasn’t likely to see much of her. Apparently they had taken in people like me before, so I had little to worry about. I was looking forward to some home cooked food and a comfy armchair in my own room.

The taxi turned into a tree-lined suburban street, and pulled up at a house which looked pretty much the same as all the other houses in the road, in that it was a big semi, with a neat front garden and two cars in the drive. As I walked up the drive, I felt the thrill of freedom, the excitement of the unknown, but it all felt so good! When I reached the front door, I rang the bell, which echoed somewhere at the back of the house and after a minute I heard footsteps approaching. The door was energetically flung open by a pretty young woman, whose face, somewhere in the back of my mind, seemed uncannily familiar.
‘Hi. Are you John? Come in. We’ve been expecting you!’
As she turned to lead me in, a huge dog bounded down the hallway and almost knocked me over.
‘Oh, don’t mind Rover,’ the girl laughed. ‘He’s a coward. He won’t hurt you’. Then grinning she added, ‘He was named after my dad who was a terrible coward and stood my mum up on their wedding day. His friends said he’d been detained by a flock of sheep, who inadvertently thought he was a dog, as he was sporting brown spots, a fluffy tail and some rather fine whiskers’!

I heard her words. I looked at her face.
And fled!

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