"supermarket boy" by Conor Smart

Categories: ISSUE 04: Eleanor

supermarket boy

I see the boy most days, carrying groceries to and fro, collecting empty gallon bottles of water and rolling full ones along the hard concrete ground. His fingers are dirty and he always wears the same leather jacket, lined with fleece against the harsh Beijing winter.  In the stiff February air his breath fogs out, a translucent mist framing his chubby face and long black fringe. He stops, hands dug deep in his pockets and stares at me, unafraid and curious. I hold out the sketch I’ve been working on for him to look at; a skeletal tree still bearing the crimson fruit of New Year. His face lights up; small crooked teeth gleaming between wind-chilled cheeks. With fingers used to stacking shelves he takes my pencil and starts to draw, sitting on the coarse grass. Feet clad in cheap knock-off trainers turn inwards. An emaciated figure takes shape, cloaked in a black robe, holding a sword in one hand and a lightning bolt in the other. His pencil sweeps back and forth, the blade of his hand smudging the heavy artist’s grade paper. Finished, he hands the sketch-pad back, brown eyes staring into mine. He speaks no English but it doesn’t matter. The bold strokes of his pencil have spoken for him. With a final grin he scampers off; clumsy legs carrying him back to the shop, ready for his next chore.

--Story by Conor Smart