Preparation for work was religiously thorough. It involved the
consumption of one bottle of Buckie, two cans of Breaker Malt Liquor
and a couple of generous swigs of White and MacKay, to wash out the
taste. Between the booze, he puffed heavily on the remains of the
previous night's tobacco supply. At about 8.00 am he was ready to
leave. It was a short walk from the hostel to Central Station and by
the time he got there, the place was buzzing with activity. The cafes
and shops were opening up and the ticket office was doing a roaring
trade. There were the familiar Big Issue blokes and newspaper stand
screamers, but he didn't stop to gab. He made his way through the early
morning throng to his regular spot just in front of the main arrivals
board, and braced himself for the first of the day's customers.
Out they poured onto the platforms and into the main concourse. He
could see them coming, a motley crew of walking dead heading straight
for his pitch. As they approached, he assumed the position. He took off
his coat, sat down on the marble floor and cleared his throat. He began
with small, almost insignificant chuckles. A delicate warble he had
cultivated over the years. This he then expanded with gesticulated
grunts and growls. As the numbers increased, he moved on to the
full-blown laugh combined with selected hand signals. It was usually
during this stage, that sections of the tribe would start to notice his
existence. He'd single them out, point his bony index finger at them
and then release a long, resonant chortle.
By now he was well into his stride, and ready to move onto his final
and favourite part of the performance. He lay down flat on the station
floor, spread out his arms and kicked his legs wildly in the air. His
laugh was now a relentless series of operatic guffaws. As the vocal
explosions reverberated around the building, some pigeons in the roof
space shifted uneasily on their perch. An arc of empty space opened up
between the procession and his enthusiastic display. Some commuters
tried to conceal a nervous smile, some stared intensely at the station
floor, a few looked on in disgust and hurried by, while others seemed
to twist out of shape and lose their footing as they negotiated around
him. When this particular target audience stumbled past, his laughter
increased and his legs flayed around playfully. Sometimes he liked to
articulate his thoughts, though this could land him in trouble. On
other occasions he would remain deliberately silent and enigmatic. Like
a prostrate Mona Lisa, it was all part of his patter. Today, he just
felt like laughing. It was the happiest he had felt for a long time.
Tears ran joyously down his face. He kissed the air and blew into the
departing crowd. The last of the commuters carried on as though immune
and untouched by his generosity. They disappeared down the station
steps and out into the world.
By 9.20 am, it was all over and his work was complete. He picked
himself up and finished off the remaining whisky he had buried in his
coat. The station was quiet again and the pigeons returned to pick up
any food that had been dropped by the passing horde. Even the Big Issue
blokes and the newspaper stand screamers had moved on to another pitch.
He gathered up the rest of his stuff and made his way down the steps
and out into the daylight. When he got back to the hostel, his fellow
residents gave him the usual third degree.
'How wiz business Wee Sammy...' they smaned, '...Any
'Oh aye,' he replied. 'A few converts the day ah think.'