2nd August

Street Theatre


Jill Mather turned. Alex had come to a halt in the middle of the pavement.
He was staring, eyebrows raised, at a point about ten feet to his right, slightly above eye level. His right arm was bent at the elbow and the hand was held palm upward as if to catch raindrops or perhaps as if he were about to recite lines from Shakespeare. It was possible that he had been taken ill, but Jill doubted it. He was a frighteningly robust man.

‘What are you doing, Alex?’

He remained immobile, while the crowd flowed, more or less, around him. Some individuals had to jam on the brakes or swerve suddenly to avoid crashing into him. A woman pushing a pram had to divert off the pavement into the bus lane.

‘Hello?’ Jill waved her hand in front of his eyes, one of which winked at her.

‘Give me a coin,’ he said through barely parted lips. ‘Quick. In the hand.’

Shoppers, Chinese tourists, festival fun seekers and a man on stilts handing out flyers all navigated their way round Alex.

‘This is you trying to prove a point, isn’t it?’ Jill said. He nodded minutely. She sighed, opened her purse and placed a pound in the upturned palm.

Alex made a whirring noise in his throat and began to move like a mechanical toy. He pocketed the coin, bowed stiffly to Jill and mimed gratitude before extending the hand and becoming a human statue again.

‘I see,’ Jill said. ‘Street theatre, is it?’ Another nod. ‘Well, I’m away to John Lewis. I’ll phone you in an hour.’

A minute earlier he’d been complaining about not being able to move for the bloody Fringe, the rich kids up from Cambridge with their so-called bloody comedy shows, the bloody dawdling tourists and the bloody street performers. Now he’d decided to be one.

She could hear him already. ‘Easy peasy.’ Even if he didn’t earn a penny he’d go to a bank and swap a tenner for mixed coins just so he could say to her, ‘Look, money for old rope.’ She could read him like a book.

Well, he’d be paying for the coffee.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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