I had never encountered a reason to be scared in London until the night I was on my way home from squash. I played at the gym at Hammersmith. It was only six pm. The sky displayed amber as the last rays sank behind the grey. As I exited the tube station I pulled my jacket up higher around my ears. Shoving my hands in my pockets I rounded the corner for the short walk beside the park. I noticed two kids sitting in the gutter on the other side of the road.
‘Hello,’ they said as I neared.
‘Hello.’ I walked past them.
WHACK! ‘What the…?’
Stunned, I turned to see the same two kids stepping away with a huge blow up hammer. They stood facing me, the hammer raised over their heads swayed threateningly, flopping like a drunk having had too many ale’s. ‘Piss off.’ I continued walking.
Movement on the ground behind warned of another attack. I turned swinging my arms and grabbed for the flimsy weapon. ‘Piss off I said.’ They moved away.
I continued walking, cautious of behind me. Sensing their approach, my right hand in a flash reached across my chest and like a blade removed from its sheath, my squash racket was drawn from the backpack on my shoulder. I spun to face my attackers. I swung, my makeshift blade slicing the air, back and forth with such precision, my swing giving me the edge over my pimply faced, plastic tool wielding attackers.
It was a game for these two. Their laughter could be heard as they ran down the road. The plastic apparatus bobbed between them as their teenage humour could be heard until the tube crossed overheard and they disappeared up the stairs of the station.
I stopped. My heart raced, not from the physical exertion but that my safe domain had become a place of plastic terror. Thoughts flowed free, of the Soho bombing that happened only weeks earlier. Of the unawareness that the people must have felt as their world around them erupted. I got off lightly. It was just a childish prank, but still a terrifying event to have happen.
Home was close. I started walking, quicker than before. As I passed through the gate I saw the kitchen light on. I ran up the stairs two at a time, avoiding the elevator with the urine smell, I fumbled with the lock and as I entered Fiona stuck her head around the corner.
‘Hello lovely, how was your day?’ Her generous smile was a wonderful sight.
I looked at her shaken and confused and then burst into laughter. Her smile dissolved.
‘What is wrong with you?’ a slight giggle erupting with the contagiousness of my own.
Calming myself enough to pierce the air with the words, ‘I was attacked by a plastic hammer,’ I fell again into uncontrollable giggles.
‘You were what? I’ll break out the red wine while you tell me this one.’