“When I were a lad, there where people who came round with their horse and cart buying scrap metal and old clothes. “Rag! Bone!,” they would shout. Rag and Bone men, they were called. You’d take your dad’s best suit out and they’d give you a goldfish for it.”
“We have to sort our rubbish and take it to the tip these day’s, Granddad,” said Julie, “and you don’t get a goldfish either.”
Julie loved the old man despite his memory lapses and loss of mobility. OK, he didn’t know what day it was, but he had so many stories from the past and he really cared.
“Are you nearly ready, Dad?” Mum shouted from the kitchen, “they’ll be here for you soon.”
“I don’t want him to go,” cried Julie, “I can take care of him.”
“It’s OK, love,” said Granddad, squeezing her hand, “we all have to face the Katie Hopkins’ eventually. It’s all for the best”
Julie sobbed. It just didn’t seem fair that a man who’d given so much should be worth so little, but what did an eleven year old know?
“He’s right, Julie,” said Mum, bringing in a sandwich and a cup of tea for Granddad. “If you keep everything for sentimental reasons you end up living in mess of clutter.”
“But people aren’t clutter,” Julie protested.
Julie had seen the Katie Hopkins DVD in PHSE lessons at school. Old people were a drain on resources and didn’t make a contribution. It made sense for them to be removed, freeing up houses and rationalising healthcare. Julie understood the lessons but she was not convinced. Surely emotions had a value too.
“Skin! Bone!” A hand bell rang and the Skin and Bone man drove his van slowly down the street. “Skin! Bone!”
Mum grabbed the barely touched sandwich and tea.
“Come on Dad,” she said urgently, “they’re here for you.”
“Skin! Bone!” The van was just outside now.
Granddad struggled to his feet, took his walking stick, and struggled slowly to the front door. At the door, two men held him and hurried him just a bit too quickly to the van. Julie followed behind in floods of tears, knowing that she would not see the old man again.
One of the Katie Hopkins’ men tousled Julie’s hair.
“Don’t worry love, it’s all sorted now,” he said reassuringly. “Do you want a goldfish?”