Monday 30 May 2011

Mary Snips says 'Mrs Empty says'

Mary Snips bent her head the better to hear Mrs Empty. She was not one to gossip (not Mrs Empty) so when she did then Mary Snips knew best to listen. Her plastic head bobbed on Mary Snip's finger. Mrs Empty whispered. So it was said. No one in the hunt thought it strange that one of their best took her orders from the head of a discarded dolly.
Twelve in number, sometimes they were more but that rarely lasted for a baker’s dozen would fight like drunk butchers amongst themselves. Miss Twist only provided food, tools and clothing for that many. She liked to keep her hunt sharp. Mary Snips was not the most dangerous but she had Mrs Empty, and that was her power right there. She said, “Mrs Empty says we are close.” She stood to brush the muck from her britches and the tails of her red jacket. She settled her bowler hat more firmly on her head, “Mrs Empty says that we are to be nasty.”
The gutter hunt thought that a very fine thing to be. Some could remember no other world than this. Some could, but rarely thought of it. This was the world of do-as-you-please for they were the hunt and London was theirs to fish. Few could command them, a few more could best them but the hunt was not proud and would run if things went bad. Laughing as often as not as they did so. But they did not run away so very often for they knew whom to avoid, and none of them were as quick as they. Yet when the dinner bell rang they would come to pretend to be neat, and to be told, by Miss Twist, what to eat.
Mary Snips held up Mrs Empty to the closing hunt. Each had a jacket like hers, or a top hat, or a policeman’s helmet. Wrapped in rope and about their necks hung little bags of sweets. They always had sweets for Miss Twist insisted that bad little boys and girls should always have sweeties. And none were as bad as the gutter hunt, so none had more sweeties. They had slings and knives (lots of knives) and each wore a papier-mâché mask, round and indulged. Two indeed were very fat, but strong and that was rare for the gutter hunt were thin and fast and sharp as needles.
They did what they wanted but sometimes others told them what that was. This was such a time, a time to pick and prick to tease and tumble, to trip and to taunt. To jeer and to cut - they were petrol bomb bright, brief and about as benign.

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