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Pete the freak


I met him on the stairs…

… and I had to squeeze past him to avoid the bulk of his body and looking at his face. It wasn’t the first time we had met like this and it probably wouldn’t be the last. In the apartment block we called him Pete the Freak. Not the nicest of nicknames I’ll admit. He came and went infrequently and everyone dreaded bumping into him. His flat was in the attic. It smelled. We had no idea what he did in there. I’d say he was maybe 45-50 and had an enormous yellowing beard. He always wore this 1970s style parka with a fur hood. He never took it off whatever the weather. He didn’t seem to have a job or an income so we had no idea how he could afford the rent. We’d spoken to the landlord collectively about trying to have him removed for environmental health reasons but so far nothing had changed.
Once, a pint of milk had been sat outside of his door for so long that it turned yellow and crusty and we actually thought he’d died. Clara from the apartment below me plucked up the courage to knock on his door to see if he was still alive. She knocked, waited and after a few seconds there was the shuffling sound of Pete the Freak coming to the door. Clara bolted, too scared to face him head on. It seemed a pity that he should live this way and I felt more than a little embarrassed that I was treating him like an alien from another planet. I mean, what would my mother say? In fact, my mother said plenty when she came to stay last May and she didn’t think much of my smelly neighbour either.
One day out of sheer boredom and morbid curiosity, I decided to follow Pete the Freak to see where he went.
I was sat outside the front door in the sun on the steps when he made an appearance. I’d got a few days paid leave and seeing as everyone else was at work, I was just knocking around the apartment block alone and looking for something to occupy my time.
Pete the Freak came out, shuffling along, wearing his parka despite the summer heat of at least 25 degrees. The smell of his attic room was following him like an invisible green trail. I waited until he’d turned the corner before sneaking after him. I edged around the corner of the building and waited until he’d gone a little further down the road before continuing. He then turned on to the busy high street. It would be hard to keep a track of anyone else, but Pete the Freak was so large and because he was wearing that god-awful parka he stuck out like a sore thumb.
He ambled slowly along, not looking into any shop windows or viewing goods for sale on the market stalls. His vision seemed to be head on. I noticed people stepping out of his way. They could probably smell him too.
Eventually he turned down a small side street and after a few seconds I followed. As I turned the corner I already regretted ever following him in the first place. There in front of me, not six inches from my face was Pete the Freak staring directly in to my eyes.


By Rachel White
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