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A Peckish Reproach

Del and Susan always looked like someone was after them.

Everywhere they went they were constantly looking over their shoulders. Waiting at the light, crossing the street, they looked behind them as if they knew someone was about to catch them.

I found myself walking behind them on an afternoon stroll. Then, every time I encountered them, the pair were clearly intent on staying as far ahead of me as possible. Each time they dodged around me to hurry ahead I was fascinated by their air of desperation.

The last time I saw them Del had a roast chicken in a Sainsbury’s shopping bag that had been well used. Clearly he didn’t waste his 20p when he had to buy a bag at the store. I wondered how many hot birds he had carried home in that bag and what other delicacies had seen the inside of it. Susan was clutching a plastic Tesco bag with less care than her mate. I surmised from her form that she likely had some devilishly good pastries or equally Divine sausage roll/savoury delight nestled in the crinkled old bag.

As the two of them eyed me over their shoulders yet again I smiled. This made them hurry more. So the next time they glanced over their shoulders at me I scowled, then cleared my throat before spitting on the sidewalk. It was like pronouncing some secret password.

They stopped and turned to face me.  “Y’aright?” Del asked in a kind tone.

I was flummoxed by his sudden shift in demeanour. “Er..ya. Sure…” My lengthy pauses and confused air didn’t seem to bother them. In fact Susan drew closer to me and opened up her bag.

“Fancy a choccie?” She said as she revealed the wondrous contents of her bag. It was filled with all my very favourite candy bars. I eyed the hefty family size Mars bar and it reminded me that my gluttony had been activated earlier in the day when I spied a huge Bramley cooking apple sitting amongst some rather more normal sized fruits at the green grocers. I’d gone in search of asparagus.

“They’re out of season.” The cheery shopkeeper told me as if to defend her establishment’s lack. “We only sell local…” This was a slur against the competition’s set up a few doors away where I often went when I had a hankering for some out of season delicacy- like asparagus.

I got the sense that it had been a very long time since Susan had even seen an asparagus let alone had one to eat. “Ye ken have some of my chicken if ya like.” Del said opening up his bag, thereby confirming my guess that he was hauling poultry around.

I looked at the crispy bird and shook my head.

“Um, I’m a vegetarian…” No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I felt the hot flush of humiliation rise in my cheeks. I’d completely screwed the pooch. Sure enough, the two of them turned on their heels. They flapped their bags shut and resumed their frantic pace into the setting sun ahead of us.

I’d practiced many times not divulging this information to other people I wanted to befriend yet in the moment of reality where I needed to put my practice into play I had failed miserably. “Oh, maybe another time.” I’d repeated so often imagining just such an encounter. “Feeling more like something else today.” I’d also chimed several times into the mirror as I prepared to set out for my day. Damn it, my real nature just wouldn’t be veiled, I guess.

I ran after Del and Susan. As I caught up to them, I posed the question that had been on my mind ever since the first time I walked behind them.

“Why do you always look like someone is chasing you?” I asked breathlessly when I reached them.

Del and Susan turned around but didn’t slow down.

“We’re running away from cheery vegetarians like you.” Susan shrugged. “And we don’t want to miss the home show on telly; we just had to get some food to enjoy it with…”

It was such a let down. I’d been convinced that this pair were up to some shenanigans, that they were running from the law. Really, they were just running way from crazy people like my very self. They just wanted to get on with their candy chicken existence in peace by the light of the glowing box that tells me everyone who isn’t a vegetarian is a killer.