Saturday, 18 February 2012

Daft Colin by James Apps

The trouble with Colin was that nobody took him seriously.  Not that taking him seriously was easy, you had to look deeper than the surface. In the days when he walked the lanes of our village the pace of life was slower the hill was steeper and not many vehicles made it further than half way up. Those that did make it most of the way zig-zagged and turned where the coalman’s horse and cart finished his round.

The day the bakers van tipped over and spilled its load we ate free cakes and buns. Colin a man sized child with a simple face stuffed them down his face joyfully and took those he couldn’t eat home to his Aunt. Everybody knew Colin was daft but he wasn’t stupid.

He wore a brown button up jacket over his shirt and tie and neat grey slacks creased down to a proper pair of socks that filled his sturdy brogues. He was always polite and doffed his hat to all the ladies. Manners, said his maiden aunt, maketh man.  He was a big man and not very active, simple in his ways and although we children could have made fun of him we didn't; we realised that upsetting him hurt him more than it did others.  Colin's happy smile was a reward for kind words, and besides, if we upset him we risked a whacking from our Dad and another from his Aunt.  He wasn't the village idiot, but more the village pet; a poor unfortunate to be cared for.
In the summer and on kinder winter days Colin stood at the bottom of the hill directing traffic. The half hourly bus was his special joy and mostly the drivers would let him direct them as they turned around for the journey back to town.  Sometimes other drivers abused him or made to run him down and Colin would stand on the sidewalk tearful and scared. Not understanding. Often’ as if making up for their fellow's human failings the bus drivers or conductors would give him lollies. And then Colin and the world was happy blessed by his sunny child like smile.

Now Colin is long dead and where he used to stand and wave his arms there is a traffic island.  Black rubber tyre marks smear its smooth surface and litter dances on the asphalt covering. Yellow and white lines divide the road and where there was once a house and a pond with a Bullace plum tree hanging dreamily over the water there is a neon lit tavern.

I stood on the island waiting for a gap in the traffic intending to cross the road and have a drink in the new plastic fantastic pub. And then Colin was there stopping the local bus on it way up the hill with one purposeful hand raised, and a smile on his face.

Thank you Colin, I said, thank you, officer.

Thank you, driver, he said.

I smiled and walked easily across the road knowing I was in safe hands.

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