It was close to midnight and across the creek the Jamison’s were settling for the night. The four of us were growing impatient huddling under the bridge waiting for them to turn off the lights, the signal it was time.
The park lights gave us another light to see our way to the basement window, always open, through which we’d crawl and then squeeze together around the central heater which chugged its way through the freezing night but we didn’t care as we’d learned to sleep against its constant clatter.
Jacko would hold up his hand for us to stop moving. He’d listen and not hearing anything would shovel in two lots of coal to keep it burning hot and we’d settle for the night.
As the first strands of dawn spread across the landscape Miriam the house maid would rattle on the basement door, her signal for us to depart. We’d take a deep breath and crawl out into the cold and find our way to under the bridge where we had a few cardboard boxes to keep us out of the cold.
The cycle of our lives would start again, shivering until the sun found us, scrounging in the village for anything that resembled food then back under the bridge and pray the wind didn’t blow as the draught would chill us to the bone. At least were dry Jacko would say, it could always be worse.