The Tramp – By Daryl Baldwin
Bill looked like a circus clown; walking with a short stoop and slow shuffle in those oversize shoes made children laugh. Layers of clothes and the Columbo style coat hid his small frame from the world.
I remember the first time I ever saw him. I came out of school; running to the gate where my mum stood waiting. It was a ritual to go straight to the sweetshop for a quarter of pink coloured bonbons. As we came out of the shop and travelled home we passed a bench at the bottom of the road. There was Bill. I held my mum’s hand real close. He was so smelly and dirty I put my hand over my mouth and nose.
“Hello Bill,” mum said, as if he was a family friend.
I looked at her as she said it but just managed to catch the toothless smile from Bill’s face. Under the dirt and grime was a person. There was a story. I watched as he nodded and smiled at her.
“Mummy, who’s that?”
“That’s Bill,” she said
“Why is he dirty?”
“Because he hasn’t got a home and nowhere to wash.”
“Why hasn’t he got a home?”
“He can’t live inside houses.”
I put a sweet in my mouth. I kept wondering about him. He didn’t look like one mum’s friends.
“Because he was tortured during the war.”
I looked back at Bill and he smiled at me. The bonbons and the world lost their flavour.