The Tramp has returned to his usual spot by the bins where McLaren’s shop used to be. It’s strange to think that I used to consider this man my friend, before he was arrested under Section VIII. His parents, of course, had been devastated by this betrayal. His dad got addicted to some new drug the government were toying with and died of a heart attack a few years before his son was scheduled for release. His mum moved away. My friend was left with no one.
I tried approaching him, once. I thought that he might recognise me. I thought that his eyes might shine with joy, the way they had when we hunted for Holo-Beasts in our old gang, and that he might take me by the arms and cry ‘Jamie!’ the way he had done when we were children. I saw no recognition in his sad, sad eyes. He shook me off and resumed scrounging in the ancient metal bin, muttering something about ‘flies’ and ‘thick red lips’ and ‘lapdogs.’
One time, after stumbling across a half-eaten sandwich that had been discarded about a week ago, he suddenly burst into tears, took a giant bite out of the soggy bread and loudly thanked First Minister Fowler for blessing him with food. That hadn’t been the first time he’d mentioned Fowler’s name. I don’t know what his obsession with the old Minister was. Fowler had been killed in a terrorist attack carried out by our southern neighbours, about five or six years ago now. I don’t know whether he knows this. I don’t have the heart to tell him.
Illustration by Beth Herbert
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