He was obese.

As I approached the cafe table near to him, I could see his buttocks hanging over the edges of his chair.He wore a black T-shirt which hung about him in damp folds and which could substitute for the mainsail on a pirate ship. Added to this was a grey tracksuit bottom that gave his legs the appearance of an African elephant. His ankles were swollen and made his feet,  encased in running shoes, look tiny in comparison.

He appeared to have no neck, his square, crewcut head just sat on top of a slab of red fat. His face was pink, sweaty and for the most part unshaven. His bloodshot eyes were small and piggy .

He nodded a welcome and opened his mouth to grin at me, revealing an assortment of decaying teeth.

His right hand was holding a container of orange juice. His hand looked small and delicate and didn’t seem to belong to the forearm above it, from which his flesh hung.

I smiled and nodded back at him.

In front of him on the table, were two paperback books and an open carrier bag on its side full of bits and bobs.

“How are you feeling? he said.

“Fine and you?”

“Knackered. I can’t get going this morning. Didn’t sleep well last night.”

He’d come into the bookshop’s cafe to recover, he told me and to buy some art books. He tapped the two on the table.

“Gonna get these, I think. ‘Bout drawing”

“You like drawing?” I said.

He tried to take a final draft of orange juice, breathing heavily at the same time and unable to finish the action because the folds of fat on what was once the back of his neck wouldn’t let him bent his head back far enough.

“Drawing? Yeh,  done it all my life. I’m not very good at it. Not figure drawing, that is. There’s a three-day course at the college. I think I’m gonna do that if they let me. I’ve taught people drawing. Do you draw?”

I shook my head, “No, photography a bit.”

He reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger drawing them down the flesh, wiping beads of sweat away and then, reaching down, he located his tracksuited thigh and rubbed his fingers dry.

“I taught a girl to draw a bird once. In two hours. She’d never drawn in her life.”

He lifted up one his books, “How to draw faces,” and demonstrated to me how he’d shown her, moving a forefinger around  the shiny cover.

“You draw a circle for the head, see? And then an oblong for the body. A little triangle for the beak and then you can start to fill it in. She was amazed. Drew a bird. Beautiful, it was.”

She said, “I never thought I was any good at drawing.”

I said, “You just have to keep at it.”

“I believe that, do you?” he said.

“Sure,” I replied.

“Nice talking to you,” he said, offering his hand, with a fat man’s economy of action.

“My name is George,” he said. “Yeh,never drawn before and she drew a bird in two hours. Incredible.”


6 thoughts on “George

    • In fact the way the girl felt about being suddenly able to draw a bird remind me of how I felt when I started to “get” drawing .. also the obesity thing – I think artists are rather prone to addictive behaviour and so that is well observed..

      Above all it read brilliantly .. I loved the cameo like grabbing of a moment and making a word picture of it … like photography .. somehow the only bit that was a bit over adjectival was “misshapen AND decaying teeth” .. it kind of wanted just one adjective that said it all … don’t ask me what, I am not a writer…… maybe “an assortment of gaps and misplaced pieces in the jigsaw of his mouth” … or something like that..


  1. You’re right about the adjectives. I’m trying to purge them. Same goes for anything that ends in, “ly.”
    Hemingway said that it was Ezra Pound who taught him to distrust adjectives as he would later learn to distrust people in certain situations.
    I fear I’ve been slow at both.

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