It was early in the morning. Around nine.
Pete shouted over: “Did you see it?!”
He was leaning against the handrail beside a traffic light. I crossed the street and asked him: “What?”
He wheezed.Was a baker for 38 years. They never ventilated the place. Now he’s got COPD. Everyone else that worked with him got sick too. Something to do with fumes and big ovens and a distrust of all things regulatory. He was on some kinda pension. Drinking every day since.
“Jason was in it.” He said.
Jason was his kid. Down syndrome. Took part in a Play recently. Pete was mighty proud. He kept shifting his balance from one foot to the next, like he was standing on something hot. Buses passed. Clouds gathered. His face was red with thick white flakes of skin that were peeling off.
He said: “Jeez, I’m fucked.”
Told him there was a pub down the road serving early. He said he knew, but he couldn’t walk. There was an ulcer in his heel for the last six weeks, causing him agony. He was eyeing up the closer pub across the road, wondering if he’d make it. He shifted his balance again, his face spelling pain. Then he coughed. Huge belly. Stared at the ground for a few seconds. Leaned forward like a man going with the motions of a boat. Bloodshot eyes. He looked at me and asked:. “Are you goin somewhere?”
Told him I was going doing a bit. He stared at my shoes and said: “You didn’t see it so?” Told him I’d catch it next time. He said I should.
Taxis passed. He shook his head. Like a horse irritated by a fly. Thought he might puke, or cough up some bile, but he didn’t. Silence reigned. The green light beeped. To say pedestrians could cross. I said I better go. He ignored that,  said the wife was down there at the play too and she loved it. Then he looked across the road, contemplated the distance for a few seconds, and said: “How’ll I get outta here?”

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