His hand is deformed. Split in the middle. A palm, of sorts is there, more slender than a man's hand should be. Where the fingers should start, the horror begins. The second and third fingers are conjoined, one large finger. No nail, no knuckle to speak of. The fourth and pinkie fingers, separated by a yawning expanse, are replaced by a fleshy tail.
Like the tailend of a fish.
Out of water.
These are not his only deformities. It's obvious from the twist of his ancient anorak, it's fur-trimmed hood matted grey, that his body twists like a salmon.
Struggling always upstream, in his swing and falter gait.
If he sits near me, I'm so disgusted I can't eat, can't swallow. Not even a coffee.
While his brain is not the sharpest on the planet, there is not a single twist in it. No disgust in him. No cruel thoughts nor judgements there.
He has the sweetest of natures. The most polite of manners. The chattiest of personalities. Only kind words come out of his twisted body. Only gentleness surrounds him. He smiles often and chats to everyone. His big news, Burns Night. He loves a ceiledh.
He walks behind me, with his tray, concentrating like a child, not to spill his soup.
I hate myself as I feel my body shirk. Away from him.
He hobbles on, to a table nearby, and one of the volunteers says
"Hugh, are you coming to join us?
"Oh yes, Hugh smiles and nods too much and for too long.
"Brilliant! He says. And he means it.