The Perfect Loop
HMP Bristol

Read by Clare Mackintosh

A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman, smiling.

“Another one,” she whispered. She was counting each person who stepped into the well-disguised puddle. It was just after the lip of the curb, hidden under a loose stone pallet. The trap was perfect.

“Great one,” said the man, as he shook the remaining water from his shoes. He began uncomfortably walking towards the smiling woman, his face covered with dismay. “Hello sir, unfortunately you’re one of many today,” she said still smiling. “Hmm” he replied. In a pre- rehearsed voice she began to pitch.

“My stall sells Daps and socks.” The man quickly interjected. “No, no, no I live far too close, forget it.” Before the man could continue, the woman interjected. “If you let me finish please… My name is Rebecca and I’m about to close. My Dap, sock combo costs thirty quid but I would like to gift you a pair actually. Your discomfort is ruining this lovely evening.”

Rebecca was right. It was a cliché summers evening, local kids in the park, middle-aged women running with their pet dogs, birds gliding through the clear blue sky and the sun en route to create an elegant sunset. “Ahh, umm… Thank you, Rebecca, right? I appreciate this, I’m going to pay, I have to.”

Rebecca’s face lit up like a light bulb, she knew she had him right where she wanted. Rebecca reached down the back of her stall and opened a hatch. What size, I say a 10?” He nodded and sighed. “So, quick question, Rebecca. This is very random, why are you here? By a bus stop, selling Daps and socks?”

Rebecca ignored his very direct question. She was still head-first in her stall hatch, now praying that he wouldn’t pop his head around the side and see the jug of water, hammer and bus schedule. “Here you go” she said with her head still hidden. She felt the awkward questioning had turned her face red. Her hand held the items to the side until she felt them being tugged.

The man was grateful, but his face showed other feelings. He looked puzzled. Rebecca stood up to look over his shoulder at the bus stop. The next bus was arriving shortly. Another victim was at stake. She began to wrap up their odd, somehow fate-driven encounter. With growing eagerness the man asked again, “random that! You here, by a bus stop selling footwear.”

Her heart raced, the notes burning in her pocket. RING RING. His phone rang. She was saved. “Ok, I’m almost home,” he quickly said. This threw him off and he began to walk away. Rebecca knew she’d dodged a bullet. The timing couldn’t have been better. As if by magic, as soon as the man disappeared, the bus arrived.

A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman, smiling.