I unloaded my groceries onto the checkout conveyor and waited for the woman in front to pay. Glancing round I saw a man in his sixties with a can of beer in each hand.
‘Is that all you’ve got?’
‘Go on, then.’ I waved him ahead. He thanked me in a quiet, polite way and took his cans to the till. I weighed him up. He was clean, and his clothing was far from shabby, though cheap. I had seen him before, standing outside the same supermarket, drinking from a can of beer. Having paid, he nodded to me again, and left the store.
As I emerged from the shop he was wheeling a bicycle across the car park. I loaded my stuff into the car and watched him from the corner of my eye. He had stopped by a concrete block on the edge of the car park, leaned his bike against it and opened a can.
As I drove away, I could not help wondering about him. Clearly, he was not a tramp or a beggar, and was in no way rough. Yet, there he was, and had been before, standing alone on a cold day on a supermarket car park drinking his beer. Why? Did he live in a hostel where alcohol was forbidden, or perhaps he had a wife who would bend his ear for drinking at eleven in the morning.
At the moment, I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor am I likely to find them in reality. I am fairly certain though, that I shall answer them to my satisfaction when I meet him again: in one of my stories. He was custom made to become a ‘character’.