My school necktie too tight, I clutch Mum’s hand amidst a thicket of legs as we exit the corner shop. Stacks of dented custard tins teeter beside us in the icy English drizzle. A forlorn “Half Price” sign, as crimson as blood, whips in the wind. Through a nearby barbershop’s window, I glimpse an old man twisting the dial on a television set, a pearl grey glow collapsing into a star.
“Oi! . . . Oi Paki! . . . Oi Paki! . . .Go home, you Wogs!” I hear from somewhere, as Mum pulls me in.
I turn to see three skinheads perched on a wall behind a jumble of forsaken cardboard boxes. Cigarettes pinched between indexes and thumbs, they glower at us through Union Jack eyes. Afternoon clouds part. A splash of pale sunlight makes fleetingly devout the teens’ five o’clock shadow scalps.
Then the middle one hawks, a glint of silver teeth as he pitches forward to spitball Mum. A viscid bullet, his rebuke spatters her temple, jewels of saliva decorating sable hair as her head, half-turned to me, recoils. Mum’s girlish face, a gargoyle of alarm, settles into a mask of blight as her eyes meet mine, our hands unclasping then, her sari unfurling, an egg crate lost as she falls.
Her olive shoulder now bare, Mum lies prostrate on the pavement like a discarded storefront mannequin. Passersby, shopping bags in numb white hands, pretend not to notice us. Gusts of cold freeze the tears to my cheeks. Stepping over her like an oil-stain in the street, the three skinheads enter the corner shop, single file, without looking back. I watch as amber rivulets of yolk flow helplessly into black rain puddles.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Nate Archer