A Sketch At The Shops

When he hit me

The first thing I thought was this:

‘Don’t break the bottle’.

He was young, stocky, perhaps a boxer,

wearing one of those godawful snapback

baseball caps and a padded jacket. Someone had

spat at my feet, and I grabbed him, and then someone

grabbed me, a good strong lock around my head.

Then he hit me.

He must’ve hit me five or six times, all fair belts,

all bang on my right ear. I didn’t feel too much pain,

not then. And I didn’t fight back.

I was worried about the bottle, you see.

Maybe that’s what made him stop,

me doing nothing.

He stood there, after he’d hit me and let me go,

his back against the plate glass window of the shop,

watching me, turning the gemstone ring

on the finger of his hitting hand

back round the right way, and I’m thinking,

‘I really want to hit you, boy,’

but there’s the bottle in my inside jacket pocket,

and I know that if I hit him, we’ll tussle,

and the bottle, it’ll get broken, and I won’t

get that drink that I’ve been looking forward to

all day.

So I leave it.

I walk away and get in the car. His crew, some

boys like him, and a couple of girls with their bits

and spots and face shrapnel on show,

they yarp at me as I get in the car.

‘Silly old man,’ says one.

Sitting at the wheel, I boil up a little.

I think seriously about it. Running them over.

Seriously.

I get even hotter, realising that

I have that capacity,

That I’m actually thinking

of doing it.

I drive away.

At home, my ear looks like mashed red cabbage

and regret sets in. Regret mainly

for being a silly old man.

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