Friday, 5 February 2010

Too Slow To Catch A Cold

Vest splattered with yesterday’s dinner, he shuffles to the front of the queue. His ears deaf to the mutters of his fellow customers, his eyes blind to their looks of disgust.

“Bread and beans.” He slurs, spittle catching on the sales assistants uniform as she scans in the items. “That’s all you need. Bread and beans.”

His hands tremble as he hands her his money. The coins are moist with sweat and she recoils, granting him a brief, composed nod. As he wobbles away all eyes follow him, the stench of pity thick in the air. Her next customer, a short bald man in a charcoal suit, winks jovially at her. “Too slow to catch a cold, that one, eh?”

The doors slide closed behind him, shutting out the laughter trickling from the tills. A smile creases his face and he straightens his back. He walks home, his limp morphing into the purposeful stride of a man who has fought and won; his mask of alcoholism an easy price for free housing and benefits. The plastic bag, heavy with lager, swings in his hands and V’s of birds fly across the sky.