Freedom From Money

Entry by: quietmandave

4th April 2017
For all her teenage years Lily had wondered who owned the narrow strip of land between the two white bungalows along Handforth Road. Occasionally a car would park in the space, especially on Saturday afternoons when the local football team played at home. But mostly it had become overgrown, with grass that had reached a constant height, leaving any potential flowers in the shade. On both sides the inhabitants of the bungalows had erected six foot high fences to keep out the vacuum.


She passed one day and a container had landed in the space, red and ribbed metal faded by seawater and rain, marked with an assortment of weights, lengths and logos, none of which meant anything to her. Pointing in the direction of the road, two massive doors were locked shut with a silver pole running from the ground to the roof. She didn't give this a second thought, but wondered whether someone on the road might be about to carry out an extension. Two weeks later it was still there but the grass leading to the doors had been worn down. A burnt patch shone like a dark brown sun in the pale green of the grass.


A few days later Lily changed her routine, altered her walk to the public house where she worked evenings. There was something about the container that fascinated her.

She could see the queue from quite a distance, and the smell of meat in the air. Behind the gathered crowd, the door to the container was open wide enough for a small man to get through. That small man stood behind a converted oil drum, concentrating intently on turning the steaks in front of him at just the right time. The fat from the meat stained his wrists but it didn't seem to bother him. His eyes continue to focus on the sizzling meat, feeling the perfect time to serve. He flipped a steak onto a plastic tray, then a second, scooped up a creamy white spoonful from a tub on the small table next to him, and handed the plate to an outstretched hand. Then he picked up a bag of coal and placed it under the table, for it looked like it might rain. He smiled at the woman and flicked his head to the next customer, who held out a tray of cans of soft drinks. The man took them and placed them inside the container and almost had to run back to pick the steaks off the cooking surface, repeated the scoop of creamy food (was it a salad?) and passed the plate to the man.

Lily was aware that she was positioned about twelve feet away from the cook, just standing still in the middle of a town street, the occasional passing of a car and the hum from the queue combining with the spit of the meat and the clink of utensils. But she continued to watch as customers exchanged items for their meals; packs of plastic trays, bottles of salad cream, a large bottle of a vibrant green cleaning fluid, even a cheap pair of shoes. Finally a group of four women wandered along the road with a large pack of raw meat which they exchanged for their meal. Immediately the man stashed the meat in the container. As the time moved past eight, she realised she was late for her shift but so engrossed was she in what she saw ahead of her she could not move. She had to watch.

Finally, the queue was gone, the grill was empty, and the young man was taking the cooking equipment to pieces, carefully cleaning each component, wrapping unused food, sealing bags, placing some in an icebox and others in a large canvas bag. The smell of the cooking meat still hung in the air. She walked forwards.

Lily wasn't the type of person to make mistakes, and when she spoke it was calculated and friendly. 'Have you finished for the night?'

'Yes' replied the man in an accent that Lily could not place.

'Have you done good business tonight?' She slowed her speech in case the man did not speak English well.

'Yes, it has been very good. I have enough for tomorrow.' He smiled broadly, happy with his evening's work. Perhaps happy with his life.

'Do you always cook the same meat?' she asked, looking for a sign as to whether the question was sensible.

'It's what I used to cook at home,' he replied. 'Lamb. I have a good supplier.'

Lily thought back to the women who had brought the raw meat to him. She wondered how he had found them. How had he started?

'Do you like this area?' she asked casually, hoping the man might volunteer more information.

'I don't know the area,' he replied, laughing slightly. 'I know I am in England. But I don't know anything about this town.'

'Don't you go out?' asked Lily.

'No, I never leave this place.'


'I left it when I first came here, to buy meat. I brought everything else. On the ship. It was a huge ship. I could get out and walk around the ship. The sea was so big. The sky went on forever. I did not get seasick, although it was a very long voyage. I wanted to come to England. Here I am. I am in England.'

'But you never leave this place?' and Lily clearly indicated that she meant the small fenced area and the container contained within it.

'No, I never leave this place. I am happy in England.'