I followed the man in front, matching his pace up the incline. I was aware that I wouldn’t be able to overtake him without breaking into a run, that to do so would make me look foolish as really, I was going nowhere. So I held back, suddenly conscious that the sole of my right sole was going click, click, click; not a hard, sharp click but the sound of the chewing gum that I must have picked up underfoot in the shopping mall kissing the ground each time I took a step.
I needed something to occupy my mind. The cars and lorries passing by, weaving in and out of parked cars and the mayhem caused by the dairy entrance being situated on a main road was unremarkable. I wondered if my friend in front was worthy of contemplation.
Maybe I could guess his occupation. It was midweek, mid-afternoon. It was overcast, not too cold but hardly pleasant walking weather. Either he was unemployed or a shift worker. If he was unemployed, perhaps he was on his way back from the employment office. No, his step was too purposeful, too confident. His clothes were bland; straight blue jeans and a hooded anorak. He wore thick-soled boots, unmarked. So he wasn’t really as casual as I first thought. His left hand swung to and fro as he strode and his wedding ring looked new.
We passed the post box and he stooped to pick something up. A piece of paper. He took a few more steps and stooped again. It was money. He followed the trail, picking up six notes without hesitation. He didn’t look back. Then he took an umbrella from his pocket. As if he was expecting rain.
And then it wouldn’t stop raining and I got wet.