‘You see that church?’
Amy looked over the road to the building that seemed out of place amongst the glass-fronted shops. Its bricks were beige and slightly melted with moss growing in the armpit of every corner.
‘It’s not a church anymore. They’ve turned it into a restaurant.’
Amy quickly wiggled the control stick and manoeuvred her wheelchair around a piece of bubble gum on the pavement. ‘What a waste,’ she said.
‘What?’ He followed her eyes down to the pink blob on the floor.
‘You can’t spit it out like that. You’ve gotta chew it until all the colour’s gone.’
John stopped. ‘I can go back and get it for you, if you want?’
They continued down the high street, close to the road so they didn’t get in the way of the fastest walkers, or the ones who would suddenly stop before deciding whether or not to go into a shop, or the ones just coming out of a shop who were too busy with their bags to care about anything other than their bags.
‘It’s expensive, though,’ said John, ‘the church restaurant. I’ve heard it’s bloody expensive.’
‘It would have to be if they bought out God.’
‘We can go for your birthday, if you want?’ said Amy, noticing something ahead.
John half nodded. ‘It’s an option. I’d have to see what the access is like, though. I think there’s stairs.’
Amy slowed down as they approached a stall that seemed oddly placed at the side of the road, with various tables huddled round an old telephone box. At the front, and obviously the main attraction, was a huge board with hundreds of tiny pin badges pushed into the soft cork.
The man watched to see if she was interested and twisted the display slightly in her direction so she could get a better look. ‘One for three quid, three for six quid,’ he said, tapping on a paper sign that had water damage and looked like it had been printed on the very first printer.
Amy nodded and smiled. She could see him watching her as she tried to focus on the tiny metal artworks, each one shining like an eye of a cat.
‘Is there any subject you like?’ he said. ‘We have decorational ones here. Flowers, animals, butterflies.’ He pointed to the top of the board. ‘Then, we have sports.’ He pointed lower down to where crests of various football teams huddled together. ‘Films, music. What do you like?’
‘Thanks,’ said Amy, ‘I’m just looking.’ She could feel his gaze travel to her chair. ‘John?’ she said, trying to create a barrier between herself and the stare. ‘John, what do you reckon about that one?’
John stood closer and picked out a tiny golden deer from the board, its legs thin and delicate and its head pointed upwards as if it was about to leap. ‘This one?’
The man took it and placed it in a small paper bag. ‘Is there a cure?’ he said.
‘What?’ said John, smiling, not quite hearing.
Amy shook her head. ‘No.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ said the man, ‘when you die, there’ll be no more pain. I shall pray for you. In heaven you’ll be able to walk. I shall pray for you.’
Amy raised her eyebrows and shrugged a smile.
John took the paper bag and placed the three coins into the man’s hand as rudely as he could, but the man didn’t notice. ‘I can’t believe he said that,’ said John, as they moved away from the stall. ‘Where the bloody hell did that come from?’
Amy shrugged. ‘He thinks I’m not happy.’ She stopped and turned around, looking back down the street towards the new restaurant. ‘Do you want to get something to eat? I’m hungry.’