a fine fellow

I am standing in the off sales at the counter – in conversation with the proprietor through the open grill – when the bell over the door behind me tinkles and a hand settles none too lightly on my shoulder. All sense of good humour evaporates in an instant.

A mendicant with a melting face appears just to my right and covers his brow apologetically as I wheel about to confront the cause of this impertinence. The purchased bottle is reassuringly heavy should provocation warrant my lashing out.

\”What say you, sir, \” I demand.

\”Have you no manners at all, you impudent fellow ?\”

The scoundrel is scarcely more than a midget, luminescent eyes set in a tiny wizened countenance not unlike a monkey\’s. Awash with madness and decrepitude. He opens his mouth to offer some imbecilic retort but succeeds only in drooling incoherently. Silver threads of spittle lace the upturned chin.

Quite disgusted, I brush him aside and make for my exit.

\”Good day to you, sir,\” I sneer.

Crablike, the awful creature sidles to the door and holds it ajar. If only I had my cane, I mourn. A damn sight more efficacious than the ungentlemanly swing of a loaded bottle.

He accompanies me out onto the street, persisting still in his ridiculous attempt to engage me in what must pass for banter in the lower orders.

What new foulness is this ?

He rolls back his coat sleeve and and raps on what is evidently some loathsome wooden appendage; a prosthetic of unfathomable crudity.

\”Hnnnn… See ?\” he croaks, and wags the painted fingers at me in a positively Dickensian gesture. \”Fuckin\’ see ?\”

\”What\’s this ?\” I snarl. \”I\’ll have no truck with such nonsense. Be off with you, I say. At once!\”

It is not yet dark, else I might bludgeon the grotesquerie to the pavement and make my ill temper manifest. As it is, I feel compelled to stay my hand. Given the woeful disparity of his circumstance, I can ill afford witnesses. Still…

I lean into him and bare my teeth. \”Fuck off, then,\” I tell him. \”I don\’t give a pickled rat\’s arse.\” He stares at me uncertainly. Well. We do what we can.


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