Scunthorpe Beauty Queen

Heavy white breath swirled around the heads of four or five young men in the February afternoon air. I thought they were with the old lady in front, maybe even her grandchildren, until I noticed they were taking it in turns to hock huge globs of spit onto the back of her coat and down the long grey/blonde tresses  of what was once a golden sea of curls back when Elvis rocked Las Vegas the first time.

She didn’t notice it at first, what they were doing, or even that they were following her, but when she stopped outside the Off Licence near McDonalds to look furtively into a bin her head turned just in time for something liquid and warm to hit her full in the face.

They laughed, then ran, calling “Tramp, tramp, tramp,” over their shoulders until they rounded the corner.

She stood for a minute stock still, head slightly up, put one hand on her hip, and smiled. She had shaken that morning when she put the red lipstick on and it showed, making her mouth look like a gaping wound, but she didn’t care for neatness anymore and she didn’t care for spit. Turning on her heels she walked slowly towards the bus station down the dirty rubbish-strewn catwalk of the High Street; parading once more in the past. Still beautiful.

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