by N J Crosskey
I watch him walk the littered pavements weaving between harried parents and shrieking children. I watch him and his cronies with their uniforms in disarray, bags hanging lopsided from their shoulders. I watch him knock the weak and wretched with pointed elbows as he hurries past. I watch him as I have done so many times before. The sneer of superiority etched upon his freckled, overfed face.
I hear him snort derision, pass disparaging remark to the similarly self-important toads he keeps company with. They praise his ugly phrases, repeating them back spiced with expletives and garnished with laughter. I hear him chide the studious and belittle the small. I hear him threaten with cracked-knuckle fist the smartly dressed head-hangers as they fail to go unnoticed.
He approaches a pig-tailed huddle of bright eyes and giggles. Reaching into their fortress of limbs he pulls out the pink paper they study. A handwritten letter of delicate hopes and dreams now defiled by his clutch.
The gaggle erupt into shrieks of dismay.
“Give that back,” an assertive girl with purple bows demands. “That’s Eva’s letter to Santa! It’s none of your business Danny!”
Danny splits the air with deformed laughter. He pushes the insurgent aside and stares straight at the pretty fawn she protects. Her big turquoise eyes fill with tears at the shock of his intrusion.
“Eva!” He spews forth his poison “You are such a baby! Santa isn’t real you sucky little baby!”
He holds his ill-gotten trophy aloft and shreds it with demented glee. Pink confetti scattered to the breeze. The fawn spills her tears upon the cracked slabs. The doves she troops with flutter to her side with outstretched arms and gentle coos whilst Danny’s jackdaws crow their odious taunts
“Sucky baby! Sucky baby!”
They leave their prey desolate and broken. But still richer than they.
He sees me. He sees me as he has done countless times before. Sat upon this crumbling wall. A human wrapped in ripped clothes and dirt, clutching this cold aluminium can that is both my saviour and my damnation. He sees me and sneers. Holding his nose he slings his spite with perfected venom.
“Smelly old wino! Why don’t you get a job you dirty old perv?”
“Dirty old perv!” his echoes repeat.
I smile. He doesn’t know that it is him I come to see.
Each day I sit here and wait for a glimpse of him. Each day he disgusts me. Each day I remain here long after he has passed by and I am filled with regret.
Each day, except today. Today I rise and follow. Down long cedar lined streets I follow, past pillar box and shops. I follow as one by one his minions depart from him into their safe abodes. I follow as he starts to increase the frequency of his glances over his shoulder and the confidence in his gait starts to crumble. I follow as the last of his peers reaches home and he realises I am still in slow pursuit.
He quickens his pace, as do I. He breaks into run, as do I. His heart begins to pound, as does mine.
We’re close now. Close to his house where his mother waits with fresh baked biscuits for her little prince. She waits to take his coat and plant undeserved and unappreciated kisses on his surly face.
I know this because I watch her too.
He almost reaches the white picket gate when I break the silence.
“Danny!” I yell to him. He turns and stops, affects bravado I can see he no longer feels.
“What do you want? Get lost you dirty old tramp!”
I smile as I say calmly, “I’m your real father Danny.”
I watch him as his face falls.
N J Crosskey is a mum of two, born and raised in West Sussex. She works by night and writes by day, and drinks far too much coffee.