Friday, March 22, 2013

Desperate Measures


As I leant on my walking-stick, I watched him as he inched nearer to the goods behind the glass. It was as if he were slowly measuring the pavement rather than preparing to window-shop.

His steps were so methodical he sometimes back-tracked them and then started new steps from a precise point marked by a crack in a paving-slab or a hardened smear of a substance that once must have been chewing-gum - or that was the least unsavoury assumption to make about such a smear.

Eventually, after much toing and froing, he reached the pane's closed threshold, so near to it that his nose was almost pressed up against it.

 I could see he had been counting silently to himself - much like small children do when mouthing the words they read, head lowered close to the page to prevent anyone spotting them thus mimic the shapes that were configured against a sea of white.

"How far was it then?" I dared ask, while leaning the time of day against the support of my stick.

He pretended not to know me. In fact, pretence wasn't hard, I guess, as I was a complete stranger poking my own nose closer and closer with each jab of my words.

I assumed he was a local council official, despite what I estimated to be the late Autumn of his years. Why else was he pacing the pavement so painstakingly if not to divine some need to narrow or widen it? Surely, he would be using a graduated yardstick purposely marked out with strict stages of significant scope. That would have looked far more professional.

"Are they going to move the road nearer the pavement?" I asked, while waving my stick officiously. I was ever alert for local council shenanigans in our town. I didn't approve of ANYTHING they ever did, WHATEVER they did.  My letters were often in capitals when written down. Widening or narrowing, just as despicable as each other.

He turned round to face me, forcing me to realise that my stick-waving had been wasted ... Until now.

But perhaps he had been window-shopping after all. Or, as it turned out, being window-shopped himself, the meted-out steps having been just a means to delay the inevitable. 

Before I could even blink, two men in shop-soiled white coats emerged from inside and dragged him to the business-end depths of the establishment.

"Cheap at half the price!" I shouted out, victory in my voice. I now saw it was a butcher's shop, where bones often cracked audibly at night, if there was anyone about to hear them.

 Supplements for the food chain. Off-street curmudgeons were second-best to horse meat, but hardly anyone ever noticed.

I suddenly felt the urge to touch heel to toe, the business-end of my notched stick ready in hand.

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