King of the pavement

‘King of the Pavement’

John Wid

A flow of unfocused light streamed in as Soulas prised his eyes apart, his world rendered in obscured newborn textures – all blurred tones and asymmetric shapes and bewilderment. Reaching his left arm outward in a tentative arcing motion his fingers met coarse gravel below, he groaned pitiably in some lament for his predicament. He wasn’t home. ‘That’s the way of it by God’ a voice shot out to him bringing him with a sharp jolt, which he immediately regretted, to an upright and alert position.

Opposite him, sitting in a perfect cross-legged lotus position was a man, clearly of vagrant distinction, attired in a filthy cheap light-blue dress suit of poor fit. His burst shoes displayed snatched views of the upper part of the soles of his feet. Etched upon his face, a face that indicated a heavy exposure to both alcohol and the elements, was a look of almost beatific serenity. This expression immediately aroused a sense of irritation in Soulas, whose own mask of contempt provided a sharp contrast to the vagrant’s apparent self satisfaction.

Reaching into his right hand side jacket pocket, the vagrant extracted the dog end of a cigarette and proffered it towards Soulas. ‘Smoke?’ he suggested only to met with a hastily mumbled refusal. Soulas turned away and panned his head groggily from left to right in sweeping fashion hoping to gain some idea of where he was. Two skyward walls framed a long corridor, loose clouds snaked elusively overhead. A dank odour hung clammily in the air. Some distance to his left an exit, a ball of light, cast an ethereal pale over the grime ridden passage – an alley – but where?

‘Slight not what’s near, while aiming at what’s far.’ mused the vagrant in a tone of such profundity that Soulas was left perplexed – ‘what are you talking about?’ ‘The unseen hand of fate touching all life’. Soulas dropped back against the wall shaking his head in frustration and closed his eyes, his confusion beginning to overcome him. Breaking the brief silence once more, the vagrant spoke: ‘In the kingdom of the blind the man with one eye is king’. Soulas eyed the vagrant with malice, his head was pounding and the erratic flow from the bum was unsettling him. He made to rebuke his companion but was stopped short by the abrasive bleating of a mobile phone from his own jacket pocket. He fumbled awkwardly with the zip before removing the item but in his panic to answer he promptly dropped the device to the ground where it smashed into several constituent parts. ‘Bollocks!’ he grunted in exasperation and moved to retrieve the pieces of his shattered handset.

‘Material uniformity distracts the wandering soul from the ways of the light’. Soulas looked up sharply ‘Man, I can’t think straight! What are you talking about?!!’ The vagrant met him with a solemn probing gaze, Soulas turned back to the ground. ‘There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.’ Soulas flared up angrily, catching a glimpse of the vagrant slipping something into his jacket pocket. He fixed the bum with a vicious stare ‘What’s that in your pocket’. Silence. ‘I said what’s that in your pocket you old bastard?!’ The vacant expression that met him irked him beyond reason. He rose to his feet in and stood ominously over the bum.

‘In your pocket, give it to me’. ‘Hand of fate’ the bum smirked and pulled an empty hand from his pocket, waving it insolently in Soulas’ face. Soulas reached down into the man’s pocket and snatched a crumpled sheet of writing paper. Crudely written across the sheet in roughly enumerated points scribbled in a barely legible scrawl were a series of quotes and abstract ramblings. Soulas read aloud, shaking his head in bemusement: ‘Slight not…’, ‘There are many things…’, ‘Blind man…’ ‘You’ve been reading all this off the sheet haven’t you!’ he exclaimed.

The vagrant looked up at him with an idiot grin, the remains of the remains of a cigarette pressed between his burnt lips, and winked at Soulas who threw the sheet of paper back at him derisively. ‘Enough of this’ he muttered as he stooped to retrieve the remnants of his phone. ‘I’ve got the key…’ stated the bum in a serious manner. Soulas, his back turned, scoffed in response ‘What now – key to heaven, key to the kingdom?’ ‘I’ve got the key’ he reiterated. Soulas turned to him. ‘You’ve got nothing and if you’re not careful you might be greeting the hand of fate yourself!’ He stood up to leave without deigning to look back as he moved towards the exit and the light.

‘I’ve got the key…’ remarked the vagrant once as he glanced at the back of the departing Soulas, laughing heartily as he removed a set of personalised keys and a brown leather wallet from his inner pocket ‘ your house!!’

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