“Change please sir” -Howell had long since taken to uttering the phrase under his breath. It made very little difference whether he spoke or not, but doing so at least gave him the impression that he was trying. He blew into his hands. The second of January, what a time to be alive. The Christmas guilt of the general public had long since passed and so had any sense of generosity that came with it. Last year was the same.
The half full cup of coffee at his side had gone cold, there was no point in trying to savour it. He gulped it down in one and closed his eyes, pulling the blanket up to his chin. The stone wall sent a chill through Howell’s Skull which was accompanied by a passing sense of regret at having given away his hat. The traffic flowed past and finally came a deep and dreamless sleep.
Max felt bad for having looked at the tramp that way. He hadn’t meant it. The new year was always stressful and he could really use some time alone. The blast of a car horn sent a burning sensation up through his chest. Max gasped and his eyes widened as he held up an apologetic hand to the car which had stopped just short of him. Why could he pay nothing any attention anymore?
Lighting up a Marlborough Red he stopped in the middle of the pavement and threw his head back in dismay. Baby formula. “When will it end?”. He didn’t care who heard. What a fool he had been to think it would get easier now. He turned on his heel and walked back across the street.
Moving slowly up through the gears Sandra became aware of her smudged lipstick in the rear view mirror. “That fucking idiot”. She wondered to herself when the people of England would learn to perform simple tasks like crossing the road. She was late and the tank was half empty.
Sandra had a long journey ahead of her which at the time she could have done without. Turning up the radio in search of a distraction from what she was about to do she almost missed the turning for the petrol station and the tires screeched and the tires gave a manic screech as she swung the car in. Having driven on the left for over a year now, Sandra was if anything more averse to the idea than before. I just made no sense.
“Women drivers hey!” – James’ girlfriend chuckled and responded with a playful look of disapproval:
“Pig” She said.
“Would have been you this time last year” he smiled. The two fell silent as she linked their arms and leaned her head gently on his shoulder. Thinking about it, it was pretty astonishing how much could change in a year. Back then she would have said she was happy, but on reflection and in comparison to now that feeling could at best be described as borderline satisfaction.
James gave her a kiss on the head and then smiled at a girl walking past them. She looked sad. That made him think about his mother. A solitary tear came to his eye at the thought that there was nothing he could do for her.
Jenny loved this time of year; the sensation of a fresh start… She passed a card shop and got the urge to buy one for Dan. Fumbling around for change in her pockets, Jenny grinned when she realised how the mans smile just a minute ago had sparked this compassion in her.
“Good evening” she smiled at the man behind the till, placing a card on the counter. By the time the man responded her mind had drifted back into where she had to be tonight and she heard nothing. “Keep the change!” she said and slammed the door behind her as she went.
Guy sat back down and opened his book. He wondered what ‘good luck’ even meant. He scratched his beard and contemplated how one could go fifty-seven years without enjoying this thing they called ‘good luck’. Scoffing at the idea led to a violent coughing fit, the end result of which was a palm full of blood.
Wiping crimson on his jeans, Guy stepped outside the shop and rolled a cigarette. A teenager was walking past. Guy barked at him, “You got a light?”
“No mate sorry, I don’t smoke”.