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5 - Apologies Part 1

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“Thank you,” the man muttered, glancing, but not smiling at Jo as he slipped through the door and into the shop. At least he wasn’t staring, Jo nodded as he returned to the pavement. A good few did. On most days. And more often than not accompanied by the internal ‘pitch & roll’.

Then again, he could have been seeing cobwebs in corners that were cleaned only moments ago. Something he did often, according to Recept. What was a bit of blue hair when someone he knew walked the streets dressed like they were ashore after a voyage of plunder. Or didn’t so much as turn when a passer-by would say, “Hello me Hearty,” with an over-stretch of the shiver-timber drawl.

Then again, enough of Jay. It wasn’t him walking down a street beyond the limits of what would be said to be safe. True, it was still daylight. But he never went this far up Smargethé Road unless he was on a pair of wheels and could get back out as quickly.

The notes of his boots; plus twittering from birds in the ribbon of trees that ran at the end of each street to his right; were the only sounds that danced into his ears. Not a motor, the odd voice or a bit of music from an open window. He might as well have been in a library; not a street with a bin that had a sculpture for a helmet.

No, he looked again, it wasn’t a helmet. Rather, a man; sat on top of the bin as if he were on the side of a lounger; hands tucked in sil-shimmer pockets; eyes fixed on the trees at the end of the street opposite as if a sunkissed, white-beached shore lay beyond it. So focused that Jo had to stop himself from apologising as he walked past.

“Oh no, it should be me doing the apologising.”

Jo stopped and half turned. “But I was the one who walked between you and your focus,” he said, taking in the sil-rimmed trousers, lime and crimson boots and a beard with its own umber shimmer.

“A trifle,” the man replied, taking out a pair of tangerine and gold earpieces. “It is for the future that I apologise.”

“I find it best not to worry about it,” Jo tried to smile. Although Patchwork knew how many mornings he woke up with an internal descent about something. “Some say it’s an adventure to embrace and be mindful of.”

“Paths cross on adventures, but not all are peaceful,” the man continued, looking at a scratched yet glistening watch. “I can only apologise for a path you may cross and will not want to embrace.”

Jo glanced down the street, then past the man to the way he had come. Mid-afternoon. The Time of Sun. Only under the reign of the Moon did it become open season if one left their ‘Bounds’.

“It’s not too late,” the man continued, shifting his legs and revealing crimson and scarlet embroidery in the shape of apples on his trouser-rims. “The Future need not happen if you do not venture further.”

“Believe me, I wouldn’t be here unless it was important,” said Jo. “And the quicker I continue, the quicker my departure. Good day to you, Mr?”

“Orchardé,” the man replied, eyes bright like the surface of a polished table. “And your’s?”

“Jones,” said Jo with a bow.

“I’ll remember it, and I apologise once more.”

Apologise for what, Jo half-frowned as he continued on his way. The absence of everything except tree-nestled bird song? The scent of soap flushed with spiced apples that had been coming from Mr Orchardé during the entire conversation and had gone halfway to his head? It was Mr Martens who should be apologising. For the impact on Jo’s palm for a start; not being able to have a quiet afternoon’s lounge and having a house in a quadrant more solemn than a band of-

They flowed out from the street openings upon either side. Looking at each other; then fastening upon him. He’d been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that turning into the side-road on the left had not even registered. Nor the absence of house fronts. Twinkling buttoned cloaks. Trousers with brocade and shoes the colour of a fluorescent rainbow. Far too bright for an afternoon’s walk.

“What’s with the skirt?” said one, stepping onto the road.

“I could say the same about the mane,” Jo replied, looking at the bright crimson beard, complete with magenta highlights.

“Depends where you’re from,” a second answered, beard as ebony as his oval shades were malachite. “Post-mod-Ninja is so last decade.”

“Do I look like trends dictate my dress?”

“I think not,” said a third, taller than the others and coated rather than cloaked. “But do you heed good advice?”

Jo stepped back, watching the fourth with a shirt of scarlet and black and a scent of apple pie mixed with cider that made him think of a bakery. Plus scrollwork upon trousers that may as well be the fruit-laden branches of a grand tree. Were they part of what the Orchard fellow had apologised about?

“I would be foolish not to,” he said aloud.

“Then heed a little more,” said the one with Malachite Rims. “By all rights, we should be a third of the way through the session. But we’re feeling a bit generous today. If you place the brooch on the pavement, you can be on your way.”
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