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by Alan Beard

He had a boxer’s nose, slight but spattered. A beige complexion, his eyes the same colour. His hair a chopped growth, sepia.

He stopped me on the street and name dropped through his spit. The late sun was warm on my back. I watched the cars and people in the busy street. A bicycle with a brown-legged girl in shorts. For almost ten minutes I nodded and assented to his propositions for the early retirement of some town councillors and a scheme for the quick promotion of juniors. Kids walked by with ice cream.

He stopped. I said phrases I had waiting. “Must be off. Nice to see you.” He started again. He said the place was overrun with children. You know there’s a policy on this. One of them didn’t even know his name. We talked of Rodge at last, how no one knew he was so close to it. Going down like that in the street, just across there, and no one to help apparently. A crowd milled at the junction now. We both murmured about his wife, the kids, the left behind.

Finally he went off. I watched his jacket thread through shoppers. I knew he was up for Rodge’s job, he’d be my direct boss soon. I felt a pang for Rodge, his sweary rants and coffee breath. All those hours to come, painted brown, beige and sepia. The sun, the crowds didn’t care. I sneaked back to the ice cream shop.

Alan Beard has two collections out, Taking Doreen out of the Sky (Picador 1999) and You Don’t Have to Say (Tindal Street Press 2010). He has had numerous stories and flashes in magazines and anthologies, including Best British Short Stories 2011 (Salt).