Billy’s on his high horse, the only kind he’s able to ride these days. His jodhpurs are grubby and his comb-over stands high in the wind. He’s been struggling to set up his display for more than an hour and now he’s standing over me, enraged. I feel as if I’m guilty of something.
Some fucker took my knife and my string.
He waits for an answer but I’m not paying attention.
Billy, you’ve lost me.
Give me a cigarette, he says.
Why don’t you buy some?
Oh God, no! he says. Filthy disgusting things.
All I want to do is finish the crossword.
I left them beside my stand, Billy says, and when I came back, they were gone.
I fill in another clue and when I look up again, he’s gone. What’s he talking about?
I go around to his stand.
Listen, Billy, I saw something a bit odd about half an hour ago. A car drove past with a ball of string on the roof.
Billy’s comb-over is back in place. There’s half a cigarette behind his ear.
What? he says.
I repeat myself.
Why didn’t you tell me?
Sorry. It just didn’t register with me.
Billy studies me hard.
So, he says. What was the driver’s name?