Daniel eased the legs out on his telescopic music-stand and looked for a fairly flat piece of pavement on which to stand it. He didn’t want a repeat of last Saturday, when he had laid out his leaflets and then the whole lot had tipped, scattering his pamphlets all over the pavement. He had lost forty-seven minutes picking them up and putting it all back to rights. And then there was the laughter and the sniggering. Even people way off down the street were laughing at his expense. Well, when the day came, they would see . . . they would realise. And who would be laughing then?
He tied one of the music-stand legs to the graveyard railings, and another to the sign advertising the library. Two points of anchor, using sturdy string tied into bowline knots. The most useful knot in the world he had been assured.
Five minutes and he was set up. Not bad. He gently wiggled the music-stand. It felt firm enough. He opened his rucksack, £18.50 from GoOutdoors, reduced from £38 . . . but the zip was starting to go.
Daniel pulled the pamphlets out. He pulled out two packs, one hundred in each, each pack held together by a large blue rubber band. He was feeling lucky today. Today people would listen . . . would want to know. They could be saved, and he would save them.
Daniel heard a noise down the street. It was the old guy. Stooped, with a walking stick, and dragging along his right foot, encumbered as it was with one of those huge built-up boots. He wore an old worn-out trainer on his left foot, but his right was encased in its huge brown-leather boot. It looked mediaeval . . . like some instrument of torture. It made Daniel sick to look at it, to look at the old guy dragging that thing down the pavement.
The old guy got closer and Daniel could see that, as usual, he had two badges pinned to his grimy jacket. One of them, seemingly homemade, comprised a big oblong cut from a piece of pink cardboard. Written on it in dark black letters were the words ‘Hello . . . my name is Neil’. The other badge was round and bright yellow and had a happy smiley on it.
‘Kneel’ Daniel had thought the first time he saw the badge. It should really say ‘kneel’. He laughed again at his cleverness, but then he caught the sound of the huge leather boot scraping along towards him. Just the sound of the boot scraping along the pavement made Daniel feel physically sick. He could feel the lumps rising in his throat. And he just knew that the old man was going to walk close to Daniel’s music-stand, scraping past, knocking the pamphlets off, scattering them down the street. Daniel pulled a grey handkerchief from out of his trouser pocket and began mopping away the beads of sweat he felt appearing on his brow; sweat caused by Daniel’s anxiety at seeing the old man get closer.
And then, a marvellous thing. The old man’s walking stick had become lodged in a drain cover. The man toppled, unable to gain his balance. He fell heavily. People ran up to him, offering assistance, trying to get him back on his feet. A taxi driver parked nearby offered the old man a lift home for free. The people gladly bundled the old man into the taxi. It pulled away, the old man staring out of the window. He looked shamed and confused.
Daniel put his handkerchief away. His anxiety had gone. He felt calm. He felt relaxed. Now, he would save someone. He had thought that his day would be spoiled, but now he knew that it would be ok. ‘God is kind’ he thought to himself.