by Gary Kaill

The rear of the store is where I find him. Flopped on a couch all higgeldy like some toy lost and forgotten at the end of a hot summer’s drive where mom and pop go hard at each other, too caught up in their beef to notice their kid scratching across the broiling leather, searching in vain.

This unloved hotchpotch: one of everything, and everything levered off the back of the creaking drop-tail into the tired prefab on the corner of Dexter and Main. Furniture, mostly. Eased down onto the sidewalk off the truck and into the dusty display area by men with heavy gloves, sopping shirts, satisfied smiles.

‘Found you,’ I say. ‘Look at you, Albi. You look like that doll from the movie. The kids’ movie. The cowgirl!’

I like to explain with Albi. He likes it too, but still he looks at me nonplussed, happy to have found a nest away from the bustle. The merest shrug is what he gives me.

‘You’re all lost. Who left you behind?’ I say.

You fuckin’ did!’

And, smiling, he pats his sides like he always does, releasing a soft puff of air.

‘Anyway, who the hell’d pay’—he picks at the label taped to the arm of the couch to remind himself—‘a hundred and twenty bucks for this piece o’ shit?’

The way he stretches out like a house cat staking its claim – you’d think he was planning on taking the damn thing home.

‘Jesus? My ass!’ he goes on, idly gesturing at a poster on the wall behind him. A small boy, grubby and thin, rubs teary eyes. ‘Fuck me if any of it goes to where they say it does.’

‘Albi, do you think we should ask these nice people if they’re pocketing all the cash for themselves? Is that what you want?’

‘Two fucks I got for the poor, Mary,’ is all he can splutter as he pushes himself upright, his back bowing under the strain and his winter coat folding across him like a threadbare flag. ‘Two fucks.’

‘You know you don’t mean that you devil, you,’ I say, and suddenly he brightens, his eyes no longer rheumy and grey, his hands flexing impatiently by his side.

As he locks his arm into mine, the young supervisor with the red apron ‘(9th Congregational – He welcomes you’) breezes past. Those glasses! Those really big ones with fat, black frames that we would always be teased about when we had them as kids, and jeans so skinny (‘You can see his motherfuckin’ dick, Mary!’) you wonder how the hell the boy can breathe.

‘A good afternoon to you, Mrs Crosby,’ he says, his arms full of garish paperbacks, their covers peeling, the books threatening to spill from his wiry grasp. ‘Mr Crosby.’

He nods at Albi, who repays the small kindness with a distant grunt.

‘Come on, my dear,’ I whisper, leaning into him, getting him moving. ‘Nothing for us here today.’

Gary Kaill is based in the rain-sodden hills of Saddleworth, outside of Manchester. He writes about music and books for various print and online outlets, including The Skinny magazine and The Quietus. He is studying the MA Creative Writing course at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is writing his first novel.

Twitter (@garykaill), Instagram (garykaill)