The sight of Dan coming toward her barely registered. Her daughter had a meeting today about her grandson at the school. Since the nursery he had made slow progress. Her daughter worried that the program she had been on to come off the drugs had just finished when she got pregnant. It had been a night of anxiety as she asked what she could ask at the school.
Dan slowed near the photo booth next to the now closed supermarket.
The shopping centre wouldn’t give her a new polisher. The council had retaken ownership but there wouldn’t be much change she thought. She was exhausted as she and her hands vibrated and moved in circles to match the polisher’s movement. The new phone shop had had its new sign put up. The black foot prints of the workmen were stubborn and refused a first going over.
‘You always get the good jobs.’ Dan said.
‘That and a few mair.’
‘I think last time..’
At that Dan stooped further from his slow and bent pose. The bright but faded eyes showed panic as he lost his footing and fell on his knees then collapsed onto his right side. The white plastic bag with the library book and teabags fell into the bright maw of the phone job.
Dan’s days in the mine meant she could understand his slow walking and warm chat that he used to cover his need to rest as he headed home toward the north doors of the shopping centre.
As she put the machine off and moved the bag to the wall the young sister of the phone shop manageress came to help. She held his head while the young girl got her phone out and asked if she could phone the ambulance.
The new advert about pressing hard and fast on the chest was in her mind but as opened his thin nylon coat Dan shook his head weakly twice at her.
‘No wi ma lungs, Lal.’ He said.
‘Will he be okay?’ said the young girl.
As the security man arrived Dan eyes closed and she felt him relax as she held the side of his head.
The chat of the security staff went on and they were joined by the manageress who had quickly closed the shop. As they waited she remembered the night her husband had died in the bathroom. He had fallen against the door. It was the same. It was that long and slow build up of pain and tension to something that might always be going to happen.
Ten years since she had started here. She had met Dan the first day. His coat had not changed once in that time.
The tiredness had left her and as they waited listening to the First Aider try to talk to Dan she thought of the phone she had left in the cleaner’s store cupboard.
*mair-more; wi-with; ma-my