A quiet friend

They lie by the fire with the tips of their middle fingers just touching, their thumbs pointing out into the room and the little fingers reaching towards the heat; the gloves are grey, hand knitted in a plain stitch without pattern.  Sure enough, Norman, their owner, is sitting in his corner, motionless, immaculate, his grey hair now corrected from any dishevelment caused by the wind outside, his parting pin-point accurate, his comb returned to the top pocket of his grey tweed jacket, his overcoat hanging from the only hanger on the hooks by the door, he has brushed the single speck from its shoulder with his then still-gloved hand.

His back is straight and rests against the upholstered bench that runs around the wall of the front bar, his legs are stretched out in front of him, beige trouser-creases crossing below the knee, polished brown shoes shining in the fairy light from the bar.  The evening paper is neatly folded on the shelf beneath the table; he does not touch it.  He looks out into the room without expression, a glass of orange squash, obtained without negotiation and paid for with exactly the right money, sits untouched on the table in front of him; it will remain there until just before he leaves when he will drink it down in one and return the empty glass to the bar.  He will weave unseen through the people and leave but we will notice that his gloves are gone.

Norman has a story; everyone has a story.  The more controlled a man’s world is – the more bizarre is the eruption when it comes and come it always does.

I will not tell you Norman’s story for the one I have may not be true and anyway you will probably have heard it before.


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