Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Big Issue seller was short and fat like a baby pigeon, if you’ve ever seen one. Squab is the word. He had hesitant black curls in a ring around a gaping bald patch. In a forlornly weathered woolly jumper he stood at ease, for it fitted him so well. His torso and abdomen gelled together in one ovoid mass. With gnarled trainers and elderly trousers he stepped back and forth to keep the blood flowing. His face presented a pitiful smile. One got the feeling he was good-natured but at the same time forcing his smile. This impression was backed up by his spiel. At frequent Intervals he would throw an empty handed arm in the air and lift the splayed magazines slightly in the other hand. His stance thus prepared, he would summon the booming roar “Plee-sss buy a copy” followed usually by some mumbling “what a great read…” to a particular pedestrian in close quarters, or some such unconvincing inveiglement.
As I sat nearby watching him at work he gradually became more desperate. His “pleee-ss!” became more wretched and pathetic and his eyebrows lifted and drooped down on either side of his face like a sad cartoon character. He started bellowing, “you get to help the homeless and it’s a marvellous read!” But as his desperation became more and more theatrical, his presence became more embarrassing. Part of me sorely pitied him and wanted to buy a copy of his magazine but another part of me just wanted to get up and leave the area.
I stayed however, only to witness something at once hilarious and appalling. His painfully forced smile faltered momentarily as a dreadful thought appeared to cross his mind. Then, after sucking up enough air to furnish his next aural barrage, he let it rip: “You buy the magazine, I get money and I get my heroin. Then we’re all happy!”

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