Peter Green


It’s Monday afternoon, about half past one, and I am approaching the gate that leads to the studio where I live, when I notice a man, standing to the right of the gate, where the large blue-lidded rubbish bin is stored.
The man is bending down and taking clothes out of a duffel bag and laying them out on the ground.
‘I’m looking around,’ the man stands up and calls out to me just as I reach my hand out to open the rusty wire and iron gate, ‘for somewhere to wash my clothes,’
‘Oh,’ I say, stopping so still that I feel like a statue with it’s hand on a gate, ‘I’m not sure where you can wash them around here,’
The man, who is tall and bald and dressed in a green track suit, black leather jacket and large black work boots asks me if I could give him something to eat.
‘Have you got anything for me to eat? he says, and I tell him no, that I can’t give him anything to eat.
‘I can’t give you anything to eat because I haven’t been to the supermarket myself,’ I tell the man.
‘But if you wait a minute,’ I say to him, ‘I’ll go and get you five dollars,’
The man thanks me and says ‘bless you’ twice, and I go through the gate and into the studio and get 5 one dollar bills.
While I am there I look in the bottom of the fridge and see there are 3 Babybell cheese laying there and I take out 2; One for me and one for the tall, sweaty-headed man who is looking for somewhere to wash his clothes and something to eat.
With the five one dollar bills in my right hand and the cheese in my left I go back out into the alleyway where the man shakes his finger at me, motioning me to come no closer.
I stand still and wait until he has spat a stream of frothy white liquid into the large rubbish bin.
‘Mouthwash,’ he says, ‘I’m cleaning up a bit,’
‘Oh, nice,’ I tell him and then I hand him the five dollar bills and his cheese.
He puts the money in his pocket and says thank you and then rolls the cheese around in his hand, as if it needs explaining.
‘It’s cheese,’ I tell him of the cellophane wrapped sphere, ‘Babybell. I’ve got one, too,’
And then I say ‘look’ and start to unwrap the cheese and he does the same and then we stand there without saying anything, unwrapping, peeling and then eating our Babybell cheese.
‘My name is Peter,’ the man tells me once his cheese is all gone, ‘Peter Green,’
I tell him my name and then we shake hands.
And then Peter Green starts to tell me other things.
‘I’m a percussionist,’ he tells me, ‘and a drummer. That’s my thing,’
‘Oh, right,’ I say, ‘nice,’
‘My mother has cancer,’ he says next, ‘and she’s 92 years old and she’s been having chemotherapy,’
I tell him I am sorry to hear that and then Peter Green asks me where in England I come from.
I lie and I say – ‘I’m from near Oxford,’
Then he tells me his mother is from Wales.
‘My mother is from Wales and my father is from Jamaica,’ says Peter Green as he leans forward and rubs his right hand over and over on the light grey stubble on his head, as if shaking something from his hair, ‘and I am walking back and forward everyday to my see my mother while she’s getting well,’
I tell him again I am sorry to hear about his mother and then he asks me if I have some work for him.
‘I am a good handyman. Do you have any work for me to do?’ asks Peter Green and I tell him no.
‘I am actually looking for full-time work myself,’ I tell him, and he asks me ‘What is it that you want to do?’
‘I don’t know,’ I tell Peter Green, and then I laugh a little bit, ‘I’m waiting for a divine sign,’.
But Peter Green doesn’t laugh.
Instead he tilts his head right back, his leather jacket opening across his chest as he out-stretches his arms like a runner crossing a finishing line.
He stands immobile and I slowly finish my piece of cheese while I wait and watch to see what he will do next.
Then suddenly Peter Green tilts his head forward, lets his arms drop and looks at me.
‘Things are going to get so much better for you,’ he tells me.
And he tells me he knows this because he can ‘feel it’.
Then he tells me they’re going to get better for him, too.
Then he reaches out and takes my left hand and softly kisses the back of it.
I smile at Peter Green and say ‘okay, that would be great for both of us,’
Then he let’s go of my hand and I tell him I need to go inside and have a shower.
‘Then bless you,’ says Peter Green softly, rubbing his head and waving his hand at me, ‘I’ll be looking out for you’.


  1. liz

    I was reading this story and thought “this sounds like Toni ,s writing and then realised it was, another lovely story thank you .Hope you are keeping well and enjoying America


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