One of his shoes was missing, his cheek face down in wet, overgrown, weeds.
A man in his early twenties, wearing an oversized leather jacket, his hands tucked into his pockets, gave the bruised body a blank stare and walked quickly past. He was late for work in the Business Park, didn’t need another written warning, and anyway, the prone man was dressed in a gaudy nylon tracksuit and looked a bit of a junkie.
After he walked away, a small man with a bushy ginger beard and flaky skin on his forehead, his specs smirred by rain, came through the tunnel and almost tripped over the man with one shoe. His nose was buried in the light of his IPhone and he heard the enfeebled man groan. He laughed, taking a step backwards, pointing his phone, taking pictures and putting them online with a witty caption about Dalmuir alkies having a lone lie. He got it all on his screen, before searching his pockets and flicking a pound coin in the direction of the injured man’s bleeding head and hurrying away.
The route Sammad took to the Food Bank took him along Singers Road. His clothes were drab cast-offs, designed for someone taller and bulkier; his feet in outsized, all-terrain trainers, that flapped when he walked. That was one of the tricks he’d learned slow down to the pace your feet take you. Too big is good, when you’re feet swell. Too big is good, when you’re feet are freezing. You can put damp socks over dry socks, dry one pair and warm your feet at the same time. He’d walked a lifetime to get to this rainy place.
He squinted at the pearlescent sky and listened to the train singing on the rails. As it passed, he smiled and laughed aloud, white teeth showing, his tousled hair, a dark halo inside the nylon hood. He liked trains. At first he thought the man lying on the verge was dead.
Sammad had his fill of dead people. His family and his friends. People that did the wrong things, said the wrong things to men with guns. Desperate men, women and children who couldn’t cling on long enough and drowned. Men who clung on too long to trains and trucks. Insha’Allah they found peace.
The injured man tried to turn his head, but his face flopped back into the dirt.
Sammad put down his rucksack and crouched down at the recumbent man’s head, his movements slow and deliberate so as not to frighten him. He rolled up his sleeves to show his hands were empty, held out in entreaty.
‘I will help you,’ said Sammad.
He was not sure the man could not hear him, placing a hand on his shoulder and patting him. He picked up his rucksack and looked around. There were a number of bungalows across the road, grass perfectly trimmed behind fences.
He made for the one nearest, but had a bit of difficult opening the gate. He sidestepped it and pulled up the lever in the gate. The bolt trailing and screeching on the herringbone stone of the driveway as the two gates bent inward.
He stepped inside and the old claustrophobic fears made him sweaty and nauseous, he felt that he was being watched. He walked quickly around the side of the house, passing a large window that looked on to the front garden. The straps of blinds were tilted half open. He couldn’t see inside, but as he went towards the front door he sensed an opaque movement.
The door had a bell with a bit of sticky tape over it. A peeling sign beside it read: ‘no cold callers’, a red diagonal splitting the image of a man. Before he could decide to ring or chap the door opened.
‘Hi,’ said Sammad and smiled.
The elderly women, squat with dyed red hair a mask of makeup glowered up at him. ‘Can’t you read?’ Her tightly fitting dress and shimmered as she pointed at the sign with blunt fingers, the nails lacquered and pinked.
‘Oh, no,’ said Sammad, shifting the rucksack on her shoulder, and smiling even more broadly. ‘I am not…’ he paused, thinking of the right words, ‘selling myself. I am in need of your help.’
The woman cocked her head, huffed through her nose and hissed through puckered lipstick, ‘Nae charity, beat it, or I’m phoning the police.’
Sammad nodded. ‘The police good. Very good. I want the police, but not for myself, you understand, but for another. There’s been a man that’s been hurt.’
A bald man in white shirt and dark trousers stepped out of the living room, with a newspaper clenched in his hand. He looked towards Sammad, acted as if he hadn’t been standing out of sight, listening. ‘Is it one of your crowd? Whit have you done? Beat it. We don’t want any trouble at our door.’ He waved the newspaper at him, as if swatting him away.
In the distance they heard a police siren. Sammad looked out of the corner of his eyes for an escape route. He pulled the rucksack on his back tighter and wanted to run, the elderly couple were watching him with a smug look on their faces.
The police van raced through the narrow street, an ambulance behind it.
The elderly man edged past Sammad and tottered towards the flashing lights.
‘Would it be suitable to use your toilet facilities?’ Sammad asked the elderly women, peering at him with renewed interest.
‘No, I don’t think so.’ Her voice rose and was scratchy as a jumping stylus in long-playing vinyl. ‘You can muck up your own toilet, if you know how to use one.’
A policeman with a cleft in his chin, which made him seem younger, followed behind the householder.
‘That’s him there,’ said the elderly man.
‘Does he speak English?’ asked the policeman.
‘I speak English and Arabic and German and a bit of French and Italian,’ said Sammad, politely and smiled.
‘Smartass,’ said the policeman.
‘No,’ said Sammad, ‘I do not speak these languages well. I cannot, for example, curse in German.’
‘Well, you can swear in English, eh?’ The policeman nodded toward the guy being stretchered away. ‘What did you say to that poor man? What did you do to him?’
‘I did nothing,’ said Sammad. ‘His hand slapped against his chest, against his heart. I only try and help.’
‘Help,’ said the elderly woman and snorted. ‘That’s a new one.’
Her husband pushed past her and pulled her wrist, tugging her inside. Before shutting the door he addressed the police man. ‘It’s none of my business, but I just hope you deal with it. There’s too many of them over here. Who knows what they get up to, mugging honest folk.’
‘I’ve done nothing but kindness,’ said Sammad.
‘Aye, pull the other one,’ said the policeman. ‘I think we’ll need to take you in for questioning. Let the Home Office know we’ve detained you. I guess that’s how we play it. It’s really not up to me, what they do.
‘But…’ said Sammad.
The cop reached for his cuffs. ‘You gonnae come quietly.’
‘Quietly?’ said Sammad, looking over the policeman’s head as a train shuttled past. ‘Yes, I’ll come quietly and I’ll go quietly.’ He held out his wrists to be taken away. 'That is the way of the world'.