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Open Features: ‘Dan The Man’

Dan the Man sells more than ice cream. Some of his clientele as for special 'pick me ups'. But what will he do when he finds an old mate's wallet?

Jean Cowgill tells a tale from the real world.

Kids are a pest with their mucky hands reaching up to the van ledge offering snot-covered coins which they usually drop in the gutter when ice creams appear. Little angels some of the older women call them – more like creatures from the underworld. I’ve never liked them.

Mothers are even worse. With their moon faces, badger hairstyles with blonde and black stripes, wrestler’s arms and voices to set your teeth on edge. Don’t see many fathers, or even ‘uncles’ except on Sunday afternoons when they have ‘family quality time’. Glad I haven’t any kids. I do pity the mothers though. Blokes appear with their big spend at weekends. Mothers have to find the dinner money and sort out washing all through the week. I don’t get any quality time me; unsociable hours all summer and then just the ‘social’ to tide me through winter.

It’s a good job I get my flat paid for. I call it a flat actually it’s more like a broom cupboard. Chap that owns the ice cream vans lets me work on the black so long as I do a bit of extra trading. Not with kiddies or mums and dads. Oh no this clientele ask for special ‘pick me ups’ which I store in an old lollipop box under the spare seat. Have to keep my wits about me though. A ‘set up’ makes me nose twitch and I just look back at the beggars blank like. I must be doing something right as my last warning was over a year ago. I escaped going back to Armley by a whisker right enough.

The other day I was by the main gates at Roundhay Park. We had a warm sunny day for once so trade was brisk. I saw this posh looking chap in the queue with his two bairns. He was in smart clean clothes. He was the sort who buys expensive casual as well as having a wardrobe full of business suits. He seemed familiar but I couldn’t place him. His little girl had fallen off her swing and she was in his arms still acting up. He didn’t seem to mind that his jacket was getting mucky. My dad would have given me hell. His daughter claimed all his attention. Her tears dried up when ice creams appeared. I think he was trying to juggle the ice creams and the demands of his daughter and little boy. Any road when he was gone I noticed his wallet sitting there. Last in the queue was a bairn who hardly reached half way to the counter. So, quick as a flash, I shoved the wallet under a pile of empty boxes.

On the way back to the depot I stopped in a lay by. Out on an industrial estate it was so no customers there on a Sunday afternoon. The wallet had only a couple of tenners which I lifted. I’m not keen on nicking plastic. Wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole these days what with pin numbers and such like. The bloke who used to buy credit cards from me is now looked after care of Her Majesty. I was lucky not to get drawn into all that. So I glanced at his cards without really intending to do anything with them. I had a bit of a jolt. ‘Edward W Scott’. Alongside there was his work pass – ‘HM Revenue and Customs’ with his photograph. Name and photo jolted my memory.

Edward W Scott. Eddie Scott was my mate from school who couldn’t spell for toffee. He gave me my nickname. We had an arrangement where I helped him with his essays and he sorted out my maths. Of course when it came to the exam I fluffed it completely. He scraped through, mostly on course work which I had done for him. Of course the beggar could hide away in the tax office. Nobody would notice his shortcomings there.

Should I find his address and take the wallet back? Failing that I could go to the local nick although I am sure the coppers would have a field day at the sight of me going in there voluntarily. I had three reasons for not doing: the money would come in handy, I had kept the wallet and my daubs would be all over it inside as well as out, most importantly Eddie was the specimen who had got me into hard drugs.

No contest then. I cut up the cards and dropped the wallet down a drain. After I had returned the van and takings back to the depot I walked round town dropping plastic darts in twelve different litter bins.

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