It was late, and I had a long walk back, but I didn’t mind. At that point I was still looking for work, so there was no necessity to get an early night.
As I trudged home, I became aware of a man walking alongside me, just on the periphery of my vision. I turned to look at him, to find a traffic cone being offered towards me.
‘Sorry mate,’ he said. ‘Could you hold this for me?’
I think I said something like ‘No thanks mate, I’m fine.’
Downcast, he withdrew the traffic cone but continued to carry it.
‘I shouldn’t be out, because I’m under curfew,’ he said.
I nodded as politely as I could to acknowledge him. Something of his statement had the feel of ‘I’ve been a bad man.’
Honestly, I wondered where this conversation was heading.
‘I’ve got to be back home before ten,’ he said, ‘Otherwise my head will turn into a pumpkin.’
Ruminating on this comment later, I am sure he was trying to say something about probation, but I’ll never really be sure.
My pace increasing, I had decided the bounds of polite acknowledgement had been reached. Time to move on.
As I hurried on, he spoke up one more time.
‘You’re walking too fast,’ he said.
Guess what brainiac, I thought, there might be a reason for that.
Once I thought it was safe to do so I looked back. About one hundred metres away, he left the cone on the pavement, before walking off into the darkness of some nearby undergrowth.
My journey home continued in peace.