51…53...55. As I ease the handbrake on, the gate swings open at 57 and Henry Boyd shuffles out with my daughter Melinda, by his side. The name sounds awkward to me still. Only with lots of use do edges get smoothed and the word loses its clunkiness.
The old bastard looks the same. He’s to busy with the kid to notice me.
As he checks the road for cars, he slowly bends over to pick up the littlie and her scooter, and crosses the street. Something falls from his back pocket. They continue walking. I watch them scratch a path to the park, before I get out of the car. I walk towards the gutter where I saw something fall and bend to pick it up. Lying in with the crushed Autumn leaves is a dog-eared old leather wallet. The old buggers mugshot stares accusingly back at me, from the edge of the gutter. Beside the license is a ragged, yellowing photo of a young girl, which I mistake for being Susan (Melinda’s Mum). The old man and Melinda have reached the swings. I cross the road and walk towards them. I’m self-conscious of the slap of my old thongs, on the backs of my heels. Henry’s neck jerks, as he notices me out of the corner of his eye. Melinda continues swinging. An awkward silence falls between us, neither of us wanting to say the first word. He turns back around and continues to push Melinda. I watch her legs rise and fall as she screams with delight. I try to make eye contact with her, but she’s facing away from me. As I’m trying to catch her eye, Henry, in a barely audible tone, mutters “What do ya want?”. I pull the wallet out of my back pocket and say “I think you’ve lost something”. “Oh, so have you taken upon thieving now have you?” he replies accusingly.
I half-grin at the old man’s predictability and shoot back,
“You dropped it you silly old bastard”. He snatches it from me and the photo falls to the ground again. Face up. As Henry bends down to pick it up, I ask casually, “Is that an old photo of Susan?”.
He carefully places it back into his wallet, ignoring me. “Is that one of your nieces?”, I ask tentatively.
He replies tersely, “It’s none of your bloody business mate.” “Have you got a few dark secrets from your past, old man?”