It was while the villagers were all huggered up at one of the Major's town meetings that he told them he didn't want to see anyone feeding transients. "It'll only encourage them," he warned. Everyone knew he was talking about me so I went back to scrounging dustbins.
Yeah, dustbins. Two years since the cities got all gutted up, petrol gone and everyone off the mains but here in the sticks the dustman still came around to cart away the rubbish. Not much tat went to tip, mostly he collected the food scraps to feed his hogs. Sounds a bit naff but there were good pickings, amazing what some would bung out.
But while I was nosing around Widow Kerr's dustbin I caught her taking a butchers at me from her kitchen window. I pushed right off - I knew if I narked her, she might grass me out to the Major. Everyone knew he was barmy for her, even before her husband died the first winter defending the barricades.
I stayed away a few days but slim pickings brought me back. I tried to rekky the alley before I risked it, but I couldn't see nowt. And when I took the lid off the dustbin, there was two sandwiches wrapped in an old cloth napkin on top.
Widow Kerr was watching me again from her kitchen window, she could see I was chuffed to bits.
I would only come by two or three times a week but there was something there for me every time, even an old flannel and a cake of soap for washing up once. At first I'd carefully suss out the alley but it wasn't long before I'd just take a quick look and dash over to the bin. I got lazy.
On the day he came, I'd just slipped a pork pie into the pocket of my mac when a stone hit me on the shoulder. It was Ian Bossy Boots and a couple of his short-pants cronies.
"Oy! Claht'ead!" Ian yelled. "Eatin' maggots? Push off you manky pillock!"
I bared my teeth at them, but they started throwing stones. Little perishers had wicked aim, all I could do was duck down behind the dustbin, so Ian's sudden squeel of pain and his mates scampering off caught me by surprise.
"Hey! Leggo!" Ian yelled. Taking a peek, I saw a bearded soldier with a pistol in one hand and Ian hauled up by his ear with the other.
"I hate bullies," the stranger said with a very American accent, dropping him. Ian clapped a hand over his smarting ear and scrambled to his feet.
"You'll get yours, mate!" Ian wailed as he ran off. I could feel my heart plummet into my plimsolls as I stood up
"You alright, poppet?" Widow Kerr asked softly, turning me around and looking me over. She was in her dressing gown, I never heard her coming out. Together we turned and watched as the Yank in the faded ragged fatigues slipped his gun back in its holster and walked over.
"Sorry about that, Ma'am. You ok, kid?"
"We're fine, thank you," Widow Kerr smiled. "You're American. I don't suppose you're a part of some relief column?"
"Tony Russo," he grinned, shaking his head. "Sorry Ma'am. My plane did a layover at Lakenheath for gas when the bombing started. I've been hoofing it ever since."
"You'd better leave quickly then," she said, giving me a sad look.