Gargoyles by Stephen Isle

Rush hour in Cardiff, and jib-pulling commuters pushed through a busy drizzle. Hurried heels slid on slimy cobbles, while the castle tower wound in its wet neck. The gargoyles lining the castle wall, stared with glass eyes. The vulture and lynx, the anteater with its new nose, and the hyena, hunched and ready to ransack. 

Running for cover, I cut through the arcades. I had just enough time. Past the violin restorer and his hand-written sign, the board games specialist that only opens Tuesdays, and the fancy dress shop where a busty superhero pressed against the glass. 

Weighed with work-day hassle, I reached my shop and found a man on the ground, lying across the doors on flattened cardboard boxes, wrapped in a sleeping bag that was split and shedding stuffing. 

‘Not today, come on!’ I said out loud, to myself. 

On reviled tiptoes, I stepped over him and by the time I had unlocked the doors, he had hauled himself to half-mast. 

‘I’m sorry. I’ll get out of your way now, in a minute.’ 

His voice was deep. It had a quality. While he rolled his bedding, I stood and unfolded my arms. ‘Look, I don’t open for a bit. Do you want to come in and warm up?’ 

He stopped and looked up, through his wild, matted eyebrows, looking for truth. ‘That’s kind.’ 

I sat him at the counter and I made coffee. 

‘Here, drink this.’ 

‘Oh, thanks. Is it caffeinated? I don’t drink caffeine. But thanks, genuine. 

‘You said “Not today” when you saw me. What’s happening today?’ 

I hadn’t meant him to hear. 

‘It’s nothing. My investor is coming to check things over.’ 

‘I hope it goes well for you. Good things happen to good people.’ 

He smiled, left and closed the doors quietly.

Published in Issue #7

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