Equinox man – by Steve Luckham

(Contains adult language)

          The name he uses is Jonas Finkelstein. He’s tall and thin. His spine is curved into a slight stoop lowering his height making him less conspicuous. He dresses conservatively; his shoes are polished, and his hair is grey. People describe him as unassuming and mild-mannered and he feels comfortable in that role. Tomorrow, he’ll be back at work but today he’s taken the day off and intends to cause just a little bit of pain to people he meets.

‘Look you fucking idiot, you could see I was waiting to reverse into that parking space.’

‘I could see you wanted it, but I got here first.’

‘You’re a fucking idiot.’

‘Well, this fucking idiot has the parking space and he’s staying in it.’

The ball was firmly in the court of the angry man in baggy clothes. He could attempt to physically remove me and the car from ‘his’ space’, kick my car, or back off. Fortunately, he decided on the latter.

‘Fucking idiot. You’ll end up getting thumped one day.’

I said nothing as the angry man moved his dark blue Peugeot. I noticed his wife and child were in his car and felt a sense of achievement at causing him embarrassment in front of them.

From my bedroom window I can see the shadow cast by the garden fence next door. The shadow gets shorter day by day. At midday Jonas will be out with his tape measure and notebook. He’ll measure the length of the shadow from the base of the garden fence, squint up at the Sun, and write something in his notebook. He always glances up at my window and waves to me. I wave back and return to my homework. Today he didn’t wave. I feel sad.

The beggar sits on the pavement with her left foot bare despite the cold. The foot’s deformed and I suppose she hopes the sight of it will garner some sympathy from shoppers like me. I reckon she’s a fraud like many others, and thinks we’re mugs if we’re generous enough or stupid enough to part with our hard-earned cash.

This tall stooped bloke approaches:

‘Can you spare a quid mate? I’m out of work and homeless with a family to feed.’

The tall man looks embarrassedly at the beggar’s foot:

‘You poor soul,’ he says sympathetically. ‘I’ll see if I have any change.’

I feel frustrated. The tall man’s clearly a mug.

‘I seem to be out of change, but perhaps this will help.’

Unbelievable. He’s gone into his wallet and pulled out a twenty pound note. I bet the beggar can almost taste the alcohol as she thinks about it going down her throat.

She reaches forward expectantly:

‘Bless you sir.’

At the last moment, the man snatches the note away.

‘See this?’ he says, waving the note in the air. ‘I worked for this in a boring job carrying out boring tasks for a shit-faced boss whose stupidity is matched only by his arrogance. This money costs me my time, my self-esteem, and my intelligence. And you think I’m going to waste it on a fraud like you? Fuck off with your foot and find a job.’

I feel elated and applause the tall stooped man. Passers-by join in.

The beggar looks down at the pavement, feeling anger and shame. The best she can do is:

‘No, you fuck off you slimy cunt. Who do you think you are; Hitler?’

She gathers up her stuff and hobbles away.

On the sea front at Herne Bay in sight of the clock tower and the pier there’s a sundial, a gift from the German town of Waltrop. It’s made up of a set of dials on the ground and if you stand in the right place you become the sundial’s gnomon and can tell the time if the Sun’s out.

The man known as Jonas stands on the sundial and observes the shadow cast by his long thin body, The Sun’s rays are warm on his back. Jonas closes his eyes; he can calculate the length of his shadow with simple geometry because today the Sun crossed the celestial equator. He looks to his right at the row of motor bikes parked in front of the Neptune car park and thinks of pushing one over. But the Sun’s getting low and there’s not much time left.

He joins his hands together as though in prayer and slows his breathing, concentrating the negative energy of the day’s misdeeds. He wants deliverance.

Ten minutes is measured out by his shadow: nothing happens.

The man known as Jonas sighs, walks across Central Parade to Makcaris’ for a coffee, and takes a last look at the setting Sun.

March 2020

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