The supermarket security guy smokes a sneaky cigarillo, his sweater tucked into his belt. A pile of school kids tumble out of the shop, flushed, clutching crisps and bottles. They see the security guy and sober, walking a little too quickly, stiff-leggedly, around the corner. Passersby imagine the sound of running feet. The security guy hears his name being called from inside the supermarket, stubs out his cigarillo and goes back in. The world breathes and calms.
He swabbed my palms and then the backs of my hands. Then he swabbed my belt buckle. He took the swab off its stick and put it into the machine. We both looked at the machine and waited. The light was late-night bright and the air stung your eyes. A few belts over there was a commotion as a fat man in a suit refused to take his shoes off. My swabber looked up quickly,saw it was a heavily flushed white man causing the fuss and looked away again. “They take the piss, you know,” he said. “They take the piss.”
The machine pinged and he waved me on. He was putting another swab on his stick. I scurried after my backpack before it disappeared forever. I was visitor 21,868. I could tap the green face, the amber face or the red face to show my satisfaction. I thought, briefly, and tapped green. Perhaps that would cheer up the man with the swab at his team meeting in the morning.
Dusty-haired men lie on hi-vis vests on the grass, their hard hats an orgy of albino tortoises. A woman in silver court shoes is distraught as she drips low-cal mayonnaise down her top; the couple next to her are too engrossed in each other to notice. People wonder who that dog belongs to; and why it is wearing a muzzle. Others wonder if that smell can be what they think it is or whether someone’s lotion is cannabis-laced. A man frowns but continues writing in his small black notebook as the woman behind him reads out her credit card number and security code. He looks around guiltily, trying to say with his expression that he is a writer and he was taking notes before she even sat down. He puts the notebook down on the grass, face-up, so that she can see what he has written. She does not look round. He has no choice but to leave. As he stands, he feels his face burning. Perhaps it is the sun.