by Gary Thomson
The Chester Billings parkette gathered Clara Knox and her friends many summer afternoons when the companions were between engagements. That was Louella Dickens’ term—engagements—for part time work that paid little, and ended soon after it began. Clara was watching two gulls squabble around an overfull rubbish bin. She bristled when Richie O’Brien nodded towards her cigarets. “Give us a smoke, Clara? I’ll pay you back next weekend.” When pigs wear bow ties, Clara thought. To extend her smoking needs over several days, Clara took care when she left the parkette to leave the open packet with Ayaaz Mahmood who owned the convenience store across the road. He stowed it behind his cash counter in a plastic hold-all with his stapler and a topless ballpoint pen. The surrender of her cigarets was a moral aid towards eventually quitting.