I bumped into Tam on the way back to the flat. He was selling women’s shoes off a barrow.
‘Standing in for a mate,’ he said. ‘He went for a slash.’ He looked over his shoulder. ‘That was twenty minutes ago, right enough.’
An elderly woman stopped to browse his wares. She picked up one shoe after another and threw each one down with disdain. She looked at Tam with an expression that betrayed her anger at how he could dare try to punt such crap.
She shuffled off along the pavement.
‘Bitch,’ Tam muttered. ‘Fucking top quality gear, an’ all. Guaranteed plastic uppers.’ He looked at me. ‘They might give ye blisters,’ he said, ‘but they’ll never wear out.’
There was nothing I could say.
‘The shine lasts a lifetime!’ he added. Surely he wasn’t trying to sell me something?
‘Well, Tam,’ I said. ‘I’m off. Early start tomorrow, eh?’
He checked his wrist. Light freckles on pale skin. The watch strap was pink elastic. ‘Eh?’ he said. ‘Oh, aye. What time are ye...’
‘Nine o’clock,’ I said. Didn’t he know?
He smiled quietly to himself. ‘Well, ye’ve got the map,’ he said. ‘The, eh, secretary’ll open up at half eight.’
‘Right,’ I said. I turned to leave, but he tapped me on the elbow.
‘Ye’re no looking for a pair of shoes, are ye?’ he said.
I glanced at what was on display.
‘I’ll have gents’ designs next week,’ he said. He sounded desperate.
‘Some other time,’ I said, and started walking. ‘It was shirts I was looking for.’
‘I’ll do ye a deal!’ he shouted.
I kept walking. I wanted to get back to the flat to go over my lesson plan. The verb ‘to be’.
I was dying to see Tam’s school.
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