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  • Colin Burnett

Ordinary Criminals

Ma postie came boondin along the road theday wae a skip in his step, and a smile that mighta lit up the Vegas strip. It doesnae matter if it’s a hoat summers day, or if the froast bite is aboot tae set intae his baws. This boay alweys hus this annoyin grin splattered aroass his annoyin puss and his annoyin mooth offers an even maire annoyin ‘’Hello’’. Ah fur yin ken that whenever ah see him wanderin up the pathwey tae ma front door. That some cunt, somewhere, is aboot tae make me walk the plank and theday didnae disappoint. Ah hud jist goat back fae Farmfoods efter ah hud been there in preparation ae another evenin ae fine dining. Fur this evening ah decided ma taste buds were gonnae be traumatised at the hand’s ae a ninety - five pence chicken risotto frozen ready meal. Grub fit enough fur a mass murderer oan death row. Oan a shoppin budget ae thirty quid a week what else kin yae expect, eh? well, apart fae diabetes that is.


Jist as ah reached ma front door and wis aboot tae turn the key tae go inside ah hear a familiar gravelly voice, ‘’Tommy, ah’ve goat suttin fur ye the dae’’ it says. Ah thought tae masel as ah turned roond ‘’Please, God, dinnae lit it be this cunt’’, but sure as shit ah wis faced wae this gleeful Postman Pat. Honestly, this cunt is that nippy he would pit yae oaff yur mornin cornflakes. Ah’ve seen folk hittin the lotto wae less grimmer pusses than this boay. He’s yin ae they fuckin happy wanderers, ken? the sortae cunt tae gee yae the dry boke at even the mere thoat ae his presence, ‘’Aw, that’s great, Gary’’, ah sais. Then, he pits his hand inside the bright rid Royal mail bag holstered oor his shoulder and he produces a broon envelope fae it. Ma hert sank upon seein this symbolic pile ae shite. Ah jist kent ah wis aboot tae git well and truly shafted. Aloat ae bad news comes in many shapes and colours but the department ae workin pensions ain taste ae misery is alweys delivered in the same depressin broon envelope. Suttin struck me though, as he passed the letter oor. Somehow, he looked smugger than usual. Ah mean, he hud a smile tattooed acroass his puss as big as Liam Nesson if he’d jist been cast in the remake ae Zulu.


Ah could feel a tight knoat startin tae develop in ma stomach. The sortae feeling yae git when yae ken this isnae gonnae end well. And at this point ah jist wanted tae git inside tae pit awey ma messages. He tried tae rope me intae a conversation wae um, ‘’Ah hope it’s gid news, Tommy’’, he tells me. Staring right through the cunt ah imagined how gid a 100lb American pitbull dug wid look oan toap ae him. Ah turned awey tae open the front door as wey ae avoidin geein him the satisfaction ae makin ma dae any worse than it needs tae be. Then like a sucker punch tae the gut he hits me wae it, ‘’Ah goat a coupon up last night. Eight hunner quid fur a poond, No bad eh?’’.


This wis the last hing ah needed tae hear. Especially fae him but ah chose tae be graceful in defeat, ‘’Aye, gid oan yae. Ah canne back a winner tae save masel thenoo’’. This is the exact same situation yae see at the Oscars. When the camera pans tae the losers and their actin aw humble and they’re applaudin like everyboady else there. But deep doon everyboady kens they they’re hoapin the winner swallows their tongue durin the acceptance speech. Upon hearin ae ma recent run ae bad luck he tries tae act sympathetic, ‘’Ah’m sorry to hear it. It’s a bit like Tony, eh?’’. Ah cannae lie likes, his last comment spiked ma interest, ‘’Tony, at the end ae ma street, the boay wae the stutter’’, ah ask. ‘’Nah’’, he tells me, ‘’Tony Soprano, In that episode cawed Chasing It, it’s a fuckin classic.


Anywey, he’s constantly gittin fucked wae the bookie tae’’. This jist lit a match under me, ‘’Tony fuckin Soprano, is that meant tae be a joke or suttin? ah’m talkin aboot real life here, no fuckin HBO’’. Wae the look ae surprise splattered acroass his puss he wis visibly taken aback wae ma reaction, ‘’Hiy, The Sopranos is fuckin quality’’ he says. Like ah really needed this geriatric paperboay tellin me that, ah mean, give me a fuckin break. That’s when ah decided ah hud been polite fur long enough and ah jist stormed inside and ah took great satisfaction in slammin the door oan his bewildered freckled puss.


Ah started tae feel ah bit spoiled wae the wey theday hud started. No only did ah git the pleasure ae answerin a question ah never asked. Ah kin also take great comfort in kennin ah kin blow ma brains oot anytime ah decide tae open this letter. Pittin awey ma shoapin ah notice the freezer stuff hus begun tae defrost a bit. That’s jist fuckin great, eh? Aw, and look here, ah’ve goat a shit loadae cleanin tae dae tae. Will yae, look at this place, ma sinks overloaded wae dishes, bunkers stained wae coffee, and what the fuck is that smell? Ma livin room is the crème dela crème though, that’s goat longneck boattles ae Budwiser doatted aroond the room and half empty pizza boaxes and empty crisp wrappers scattered aboot everywhere. Ma mates hud been roond tae watch the game last night and it wis actually oan cooncil telly fur yince. There wis nae rush fur me tae settle doon tae read what sentence these agent’s ae misery hud passed doon oan me.


Yin hings fur sure likes. When the dole contact yae it’s touch yur taes time. So, ah decided tae take ma time in pittin awey the messages and tae tidy up the place. Ah goat the hoover oot and wae a bit ae hard graft ah actually goat the place lookin half decent. Finally, at aroond half eleven ah sat wae ma hoat cup ae coffee and a bacon roll smothered in broon sauce in front ae the telly. Wumen’s darts is oan BBC2. Gid hing tae because efter the mornnin ah’d hud ah could dae wae cheerin up. Fuck me, this lassie fae the Netherlands hus jist hit a hunner and eighty instead ae the usual female twelve. That’s no right, ah cannae stand cheats. Ah jist hoap she’s drug tested efter the match. The maire ah’ve tried tae blank oot ma impending doom the maire ah’ve started tae notice subtle changes in ma boady. Ah kin feel ma mooth becomin dryer, ma hands gittin sweaty, and the wey hings are headin if ah dinnae open this letter soon ah’m gonnae become a candidate fur yin ae they hoaspital drips. Fuck this, ah jist need tae bite the bullet and open this hing. Slowly peelin the broon envelope open ah feel as if am defusing a bomb that’s jist waitin tae explode in ma puss.


Accordin tae this glorified fish wrapper ma Joabseekers Allowance hus been stoaped because ah only managed tae apply fur fourteen joabs this week instead ae the thirty these cunts wanted. Thirty joabs a week? dinnae make me fuckin laugh, that’s maire the Tories huv created since they miraculously goat intae power. This is nae gid, ah kin feel ma blood pressure reachin new heights efter readin that pish. Mean, ah dinnae see the minister ae employment huvin his wages doacked fur no creatin enough joabs. Kennin the Eton platoon doon Westminster they wid probably send him and his family oan an aw expenses taxpeyer peyed holiday tae the Bahamas. Meanwhile, there’s folk like me livin in the real world who git the pleasure ae reapin the consequences ae his actions. Ah mean, the closet ah kin git tae the Bahamas is walkin past the Thomas Cook travel agency oan the high street.


Nah, the cunts that wur dain oor ancentors a hunner year ago are the same yin’s dain us the noo. They jist dress a bit better theday. The proof’s right in front ae yae, ken? and ah’m bein held accountable fur suttin that doesnae even exist. Kin someboady please explain this tae me, eh? Cos what’s nixt? Is ma water supply gontae be turned oaff because it’s no rained enough this year? This hing states ah’ve been ‘invited’ tae attend an appointment wae ma advisor doon at the Joabcentre oan Friday mornin. The wey these cunts say your ‘invited. Like it’s an invitation tae the school prom or summit. They might as well say if yae dinnae turn up git ready tae start fasting this month.


Before ah started tae sign oan wae ma cap in hand ah saw this advert fae the DWP. Ah’m tellin ye likes, it wis the number yin hit comedy ae the year. This boay struts in tae the dole tae meet his very ain agent ae misery and it turned oot tae be this tidy wee blonde hing. She chatted awey tae him like Graham Norton oan coke and she even made him a nice cup ae tea. Earl Grey, ken? the proper stuff, no the usual pishwater they inflict oan yae doon there. She jist sat patiently and listened tae aw his concerns and even gave him some gid advice, Anyboady watchin this wid huv thoat he hud jist arrived in the great hall ae Valhalla and that the place wis paved in blow joabs. Tae ma detriment ah soon came tae realise the fanny’s makin this video wur maire creative than J.K Rowling. Who did ah end up wae? Some auld bam who made me reconsider ma position oan the use ae euthanasia fur the elderly.


Efter a gid few days ae insomnia and bein sae stressed that ah could barely digest ah bowel ae tomatae soup, the big day finally arrives. Ah goat tae ma appointment at the Joabcentre oan Commercial Street fur half ten in the mornin. Ma advisor wisnae meant tae be seein me til ten tae eleven but ah thoat it wid be better tae git there a bit early in case the cunt wid see me sharpish. Ah’ve goat tae admit ah’m alweys struck wae how grand this buildin looks fae the outside. Mean, it’s bigger than maist ae the supermarkets aroond here. Standin ootside ah took ah deep breath and exhaled slowly. Ah hud read in yin ae they shitty mags in the doacturs waitin room that this wis gid fur slowin yur hert rate doon. As ah walked forward taewards the automated entrance door’s they part weys tae lit me inside. This boay comes oot fae naewhere chargin past me and he hud this look oan his puss ah’ve no seen since ah watched this documentary oan Vietnam vets. There goes another unsatisfied customer ah thoat tae masel. He’s probably been telt he’ll need tae learn tae fish if he wants tae feed his family fae now oan.


Ah go in and ignore aw the signs plastered acroass the wah that are yased tae direct folk tae the appropriate stormtrooper. Straight awey ah’m hit wae the stench ae austerity and ah almost OD oan the sickly aroma ae desperation that lingers through the corridors. Yince ah enter the groond flair’s open plan ah notice yin ae the security guards sizin me up. These cunts alweys go intae terminator mode tae scan everyboady that comes in here wae their compassionless eyes. This allows them tae produce a detailed two second profile ae ye and through this scientific formula you’re placed intae a category. Maist people faw intae yin ae three categories, Junkie, Immigrant, or jist a run ae the mill scrounger and ah will say this. You shouldnae really take it personal. Cos anyboady who’s unfortunate enough tae pass through these doors are treated tae the same discrimination. But obviously you huvtae take it personal. They’re fuckin scum.


A wuman standin at the front wae a clipboard in her hand approaches me, ‘’Are you here to Sign on?’’ she asks ‘’Nah’’ ah tell her, ‘’Ah’ve goat an appointment wae ma advisor, Frank McCann’’. She takes ma dole book fae me and directs me tae the Joab database stations tae search fur a needle in a haystack until ma name is cawed. Takin a swift glance aroond the room ah noticed it’s full ae faces covered in shame and humiliation as far as the eye kin see. As ah scroll through the list ae joabs in ma area ah’ve goatae admit ah’m a bit underwhelmed wae what’s oan offer. Tesco delivery drivers wanted, handy fur somecunt who kin actually drive. Aw, here’s an interestin yin, the British army are lookin fur new recruits. Mighta been interested if ah dianae huv this phobia against being yased as a clay pigeon. Each joab is worse than the last and ma only surprise is that they’re no advertisin fur tour guides in Yemen.


Jist as ah look up ah spot ma mate Bowser headin oot the door. He goat his nickname oan the strength ae resemblin that big scary cunt fae the Super Mario video game, only wae a shorter temper tae match. Yae ken how ah said earlier maist folk that pass through these doors faw intae yin ae three categories. Well, Bowser is a member ae an exclusive club as he’s part ae the hidden category ‘’ Fuckin nutjobs’’. No a single security guard or advisor ever dares tae question why this boay comes in every Friday tae sign oan wearin his tattered lookin work bits and clais. Ah ken fur ah fact he’s been workin at his cousin’s scrappies fur the past six month oor in Granton. In this place boays like Bowser are treated as if they’re endanger species or summit and naeboady goes near them. Ma guess is that that’s goat suttin tae dae wae the fact they aw ken their dealin wae a boay who wouldnae hesitate tae perform his ain version ae stigmata oan anyboady daft enough tae question his integrity. There’s nae denying Bowser’s a cunt, but a gid cunt aw the same, ken what ah mean? Ah jist wish he would stoap gone aroond stabbin folk.


Yince yur in this place that invisible Britain yae only hear whispers aboot or see oan a thirty second BBC news bulletin becomes clear as water. Aye, we’re aw ordinary criminals in this place that’s the yin hing that bounds us aw taegether. Fur every man and wumen that come here there will be two or three kids waitin at haime wonderin where the nixt meals gonnae come fae. It sais aloat aboot a country when yin ae it’s fastest growin industries is foodbanks. Aw the while the politicians at Westminster wash doon caviar and lobster wae fine French wine. As fur the rest ae us we’ve bein tastin shit fur sae long we actually start tae hink it’s a meal cooked by a Michelin star chef. Anytime ah’m doon at the dole ah cannae help but feel a wee bit like that boay fae the sweetie advert, Bertie Bassett. You’ll find aw soarts here tae. There’s the boay yasin yin ae the free phones in the corner ae the room wae the sweat pishin oot his pours and ah kin tell he’s oan the brink ae dain a Michael Douglas fae that film Falling Down.


The poor sod hus maist likely been pit oan hold fur an hour and hus hud tae sit and listen tae Beethoven’s symphony no.9. Only tae be telt he’s entitled tae a three quid and sixty pence crisis loan. Then, there’s this middle eastern guy who hus been stoaped at the entrance by three ae Princess Mall’s finest rejects. Everyboady kin hear the guy’s broken English tryin tae explain tae Larry, Moe, and Curly, that he’s here fur an appointment wae yin ae the advisors. These bawbags huv cornered the bloke as if he’s goat a weapon ae mass destruction stuffed inside his coat.


Maybe three or four minutes later, ah glimpse this young lassie come in wae her two wee bairns. She starts talkin tae the wuman at the front desk and ah watch as the lassie passes her oor a caird. The wuman takes a quick look at the caird and withoot warnin shouts acroass the room, ‘’Sally, have you got the vouchers for the Edinburgh North East foodbank there?’’. Ah really felt fur the young wuman, her face turned that bright a rid she could probably guide Santa’s sleigh this year. The hale room turned tae face her direction tae see what aw the commotion wis aboot. These poverty enforcement agents need tae understand their dealin wae human beins and no jist another national insurance number oan the books. Sure, oan camera they welcome yae wae open airms but in reality yur as welcome as Michael Jackson oan the Disney channel. Finally, efter a gid few minutes the wuman appears wae a piece ae paper in her hand wae what ah assume tae be the foodbank voucher. Yince it’s in the young lassies hand she quickly hurries oot the buildin wae her two young bairns in tow.


Ah must huv been standin aboot here fur at least half an hour until ma name is finally cawed, ‘’Mr Cooper’’ a voice says. Ma fists instinctively clench as ah prepare fur a showdoon no seen since the O.K Corral. The first hing ah see as ah head taewards the direction ma name is bein cawed is the auld bag ae bones seated behind his desk. Ah;m no messin likes, this wanker looks like he’s yin cauld awey fae blowin his brains oot . This fanny might look like Albus Dumbledore fae Harry Potter but ah ken fae personal experience he’s a ruthless cunt when it comes tae turnin yae oor. As ah approach his desk he catches me unawares, it actually seems as if he’s happy aboot suttin fur yince. Ah’m walkin the green mile and this prick seems tae be oan toap ae the world, nice, very nice. His irritatin puss only serves tae stoke the fire in ma belly and ah’m no talkin aboot ma indigestion, neither. He gestures fur me tae sit doon oan the chair opposite him and before ah ken it ma temper boils oor and ah snap, ‘’Listen, Where’s ma fuckin money?’’.

Ma direct approach seems tae huv unnerved him, ‘’Mr Cooper’’ he says ‘’I’ve been made aware of your situation. I don’t appreciate that use of language. But you failed to comply with the agreement you signed when you first started your claim for Jobseekers Allowance. A benefit sanction is standard procedure in this sort of situation I’m afraid’’.


‘’Standard procedure? They hear aloat ae that in the Hauge’’ ah tell him.


‘’Excuse me’’, he sais, in a clear state ae shock.


‘’Forget it’’, ah snipe, ‘’You’re tellin me it’s fair ah’m bein held accoontable fur there only bein fourteen joabs in the area?’’.


Ma last comment appears tae send him oan the defensive, ‘’I know it’s not an ideal situation. But the conditions of your benefit entitlement are there for a reason. As I’ve said, failing to meet these will result in a benefit sanction’’.


Ah sat there hinking tae masel, ‘’You dinnae see this oan Attenborough’s shows. The lion sittin doon in front ae the poor zebra tae justify why he’s aboot tae munch him’’.


Then, tae ma surprise, he springs some gid news oan me fur yince, ‘’I’ve spoken to one of my colleagues. And an exciting opportunity has arisen. Are you interested?’’


‘’Really?’’ ah say ‘’That’s brilliant. Dain what exactly?’’

He appears ready tae shoot his load wae his announcement, ‘’Working at the Barnardo’s charity shop in the centre of town’’


At this point, it felt a bit like gone oan a night oot wae the lads and endin the night in ma bed nixt tae a stunner. Only tae find oot the hard wey oot that in fact, she, is a he, and he’s goat a bigger pair ae baws oan him than me.


‘’Charity shoap work?’’ ah ask him.


‘Yes’’ he says ‘’You will be reimbursed your travel expenses. Crucially though, if you accept this position, I have been authorised to reinstate your Jobseekers Allowance today’’. He then leans oor the desk and hands me a A4 piece ae paper.


‘’Bus Fares? That’s it?’’.


Then the bawbag ah’ve come tae loathe begins tae surface tae the toap. He sighs, ‘’I’m tired of you people coming in here’’


Ah pause fur a few seconds and yince it finally sinks in ah’m no oan the set ae Downtown fuckin Abbey ah bite back ‘’Wait, Who’s ‘you people’? Aw, yae mean the vulnerable and desperate?’’.


‘’I spend all day trying to help people in difficult circumstances’’ he says ‘’And all I get is an attitude’’


‘’Ma fuckin hero’’ ah tell him ‘’Ah’m gontae be workin fur nout’’.

‘’I really don’t appreciate your attitude’’ he informs me‘’And don’t use that sort of language or I will have to have you removed from the premises’’


‘’Really?’’ ah say ‘’Well, there goes ma sleep thenight. Is this the details ae the sweat shoap, Aw, ah mean, charity shoap’’ As ah wave the piece ae paper he hud handed me in the air


‘’Yes, it is’’


‘’Great’’

‘’As usual it’s like gittin ma baws cut oaff waeoot anesthetic. Fuck you, very much, prick’’.

Then ah git up tae storm oot ae purgatory’s waitin room.



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