There he is a again:  old Charlie,  He almost falls as the door gives way more quickly than he seems to have expected.  Been thrown out of the coffee shop down the street, most probably.  Again.

    Well. as long as he behaves himself and doesn't start hassling the other patrons, I'll leave him alone.  There's no harm in the old feller, really.  This time of day, he just falls asleep on one of the sofas, and stays there till closing time.  Doesn't ever make a fuss, either, though sometimes, if Janet is the one to tell him to go, he'll give her some lip.  Once, he gave her a long stare, when she woke him, and called her Louisa-May, and asked her why she 'd cut her lovely blonde hair so short.   Janet and I did laugh about that: she's worn it in that crop as long as she's worked here. 

   Charlie comes in early, sometimes, and sober.  He sits in the reference section and takes down several tomes on world history, then thumbs through them, reading for hours, and occasionally pulling a scrappy little notepad out of the inside pocket of his greatcoat and making a note with a stub of pencil.  Those days, he usually stays till around lunchtime.  We know, that when we see him again, he'll most likely be drunk.  Janet goes to the coffee shop to get us pastries and lattes sometimes,  and has seen him there, slumped in the corner, around four in the afternoon.   Sometimes he comes here; sometimes they take pity on him and let him stay and we don't see him at all.

     Once, he commented, in that soft-spoken, surprisingly educated voice of his, on the cross I wear on a chain round my neck.  He told me it was Celtic.  I told him I knew that, and that it was given to me by my grandmother.  He calls me Morag, sometimes.  I have no idea why, but I don't object.  After all, we call him Charlie, and it's probably not his name at all.  He doesn't have a library card, so we don't know what he's really called.  Well, you need an address to get a library card, don't you?

     The cellphone in my handbag, under the counter, gives a short beep, and I sneak a look at the text message.  Hi Red, Pick you up at seven, it says.  Tom.  I must tell him.  Soon.

The End

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