Ignore, Laura Nellist

He just sat there, blue fleece-lined coat and dark faded corduroy, red trainers (no laces). His white drawn-out face stared ahead. He wasn’t a bother; to some people that was the case.

8:00: The gates of the park open. He takes his place on the third bench nearest to the bandstand.

8.45: Mr Roe runs past as part of his daily routine.

9:40: Mrs Coach and her four unruly children come to feed the ducks. Ben Coach kicks his red trainers and sticks his tongue out.

10:10: Reuben the grounds-keeper, litter-picks near his feet and gives him a tentative shove.

10:40: He shuffles his bum a little and returns to his stare.

11:00: Picnic folk set up a few metres from his bench. The female of the group points and stares. They pick up their travel rug and move five metres away from the third bench.

12:00: The park fills up with the local office suit types. They have their pre-packed stale sandwiches and the background of chatter and gossip fills the warm summer air.

He never eats, and no one usually sits on the third bench. There is always room – even when he completes his 10:40 shuffle.

2:00: Quiet time, little activity in the park. He stares ahead, hands on his lap, fingers spread evenly apart, always facing forward.

2:45: Miss Hammond and her new-born hurry past the third bench. She lifts her chin upwards – in a not-so-subtle ignore.

3:15: School has finished and the park fills up. A ball is thrown directly at the back of his head. He judders and closes his eyes. He does not react.

4:30: The park keeper is ready to close the day. He politely asks for people to leave. The man stands, says nothing and walks towards the main gate.

“Freak” shouts Mr Ribblehead on his way home.

Mrs Hamilton asks Mr Ribblehead “Why is he so strange? I bet he is dangerous. Keep him away from your children.”

“I hear he has autism or something like that. Probably a drug user.”

He leaves, another day of being ignored and judged. No matter, he will be back at 8:00 and the gates will open again.

Copyright the author and first published by Friends of Rowntree Park 2014.

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