Come to Hellier Hill for hillier hell,
reads the graffitti
carved into Herman’s kitchenette.
The closest thing to diamonds around here
are shattered windscreens.
Herman doesn’t mind the threadbare carpet
and absence of modern appliances.
on a scorching summer’s day,
contrasts pleasantly with the mine field
of Doberman, Rottweiler and pit bull turds
littering the landscape.
During his commute to the Helping Hand Club,
where he endures sixteen hour shifts
as a “bar tender,”
Herman passes the “Have a go, you’ll get a go” billboard.
The toothpaste ad smile of the sloganeer
is as long gone as the local wildlife.
His words cling to existence
like silicon implants on a corpse.
The lascivious smirks of Helping Hand regulars
are as stomach churning as excrement pie.
Journaling between customers
keeps Herman more sane
than the meth head/petrol sniffers
wandering the graveyard like zombie bees.
Dusk masks torched forest fumes.
Herman can’t decide
if the human detritus passed out on factory rubble
reeks more of bourbon dregs and bootleg tobacco
or diarrhoea, urine
and scavenged pizza geysers.
The mattresses in the alleyways
have been rotting for so long
the mould outweighs the springs.
Transient furriers squat in abandoned bus shelters.
Roofied stray cats are their fox bait.
A barrage of hailstones
muffles anonymous threats and screams
bouncing off sewage overflow ponds.
The moment the storm passes
torched forest smoke returns.
There aren’t many rate payers in Hellier Hill.
Drug dealers and protection racketeers
keep the plumbing working,
the lights on
and the community gardens
from being stripped bare by human locusts.
They’re not thieves, they’re “tax collectors.”
The authorities will permit them to govern
until the scourge spreads beyond the tollways.
Herman showers in a lukewarm broth
of rust and cholera.
Needles of clear water strike his skin
before his twenty litres are gone.
His final change of clothes
is hidden in a beanbag.
The only payment the laundromat accepts
is oral sex
and Herman can’t afford an errand whore.
He uses the moonless night,
shattered street lamps
and knowledge of the storm water ditches
to evade the patrols.
METHOD ACTOR NUMERO UNO,
reads Herman’s t-shirt.
On the other side of the tollway,
a baseball throw from the Helping Hand Club,
he sinks to the shower tiles
and basks in the steaming torrent.
Despite his midnight journey,
Herman wakes at four
and searches for his silk uniform
before recalling his escape.