Mr. HighSt sits in the pub like an art installation. Thin, as if he has been given birth to by the cracks that filigree the old wall. He’s got me a beer and saved me a seat though I hadn’t intended to stop by. I can’t stay; I have somewhere important to be; something important to understand. I sit down.
‘Yours,’ he says, moving to face me as he speaks, without increment, like a trap shutting. Not thirsty, and having given booze up for lent, I drink deeply. ‘Going shopping?’ he asks with a too-wide smile that has the look of torn fabric.
‘I’m off to see the astronomer,’ I say. This is a small town, there’s only one. He nods his narrow head, languorous ups and downs that, with an increment I can’t discern though I’m watching carefully, become a shake.
‘The stars tire of being watched,’ he says. ‘They told me, and so I told him. I told him how our watching is caustic to them. I told him that they don’t burn brightly for us, they do so for themselves, and that their luminescence shouldn’t be equated to a surrender of privacy.
‘But he wouldn’t listen. He got adamant with me, would you believe. It’s fine; he won’t be missed.’
He leans close, his face a stigma around which sharp and numerous limbs suddenly flower. I notice at least three sets of stained knuckles as well as a pair of wings that shimmer like an oil slick. ‘Will he?’
‘No,’ I say, really meaning it. Forgetting even why I took an interest at all. ‘He won’t.’
Mr. HighSt sits back, penknife limbs dissolving away like Sunday night promises on a Monday morning. ‘So, going shopping?’ he asks.
I shake my head. Then, remembering that natty Alexander McQueen skull-handled umbrella I’ve been eyeing is currently a third off in Harvey Nichols, find myself nodding.
‘Yes,’ I say, quickly finishing my drink and standing to leave, fuelled by a sudden, nebulous adrenaline. ‘I believe so.’
Through a filmy window I see rain clouds loom and coalesce with unnatural speed. ‘I should hurry; the shops shut soon.’
‘Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,’ says Mr HighSt. ‘You never have to worry about that.’