The Boy

The street was cobbled, lamplit, smokey. The earthy, vinegary smell from the beetroot stall--'penny a root, missus'--filled the street. In the butcher's shop, unrecognisable bits of meat lay on filthy trays, and the baker's shop shop sold rough black bread and 'real meat' pies. These shops and the surrounding black buildings lay under the petering yellow light of gas lamps, making them appear wavery and almost alive.
The boy had always fascinated me. I saw him always in the dark, on the way home from visiting my Grandmother. He was there every week, sitting in a dirty doorway, whittling at pieces of wood, pale face concentrating. He never spoke, this boy, to anyone. I often stopped; tried to engage him in conversation, but his eyes never lifted from his whittling.

Tonight, I decide I must visit him. I leave my body sleeping comfortably and creep out, soundlessly. It is easy to travel this way; weightless and unseen. The boy is still there, whittling. This time he looks at me. I gaze back at him. His hands cease their work. He rises slowly, gracefully, silently. He smiles. He takes my hand.
'I've been waiting for you,' he says. 'Welcome.'

 

Jean Thewlis

 

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