I got to my feet and said, “Bathroom,” by way of explanation to the inquiring faces looking up at me. “The thing about The Hunger Games, though, still a better love story than Twilight, right?” I dropped that literary handgrenade and walked away.
The truth was I didn’t need to use the loo—quite possibly I’d never have to ever again if the feeling of my intestines solidifying was anything to go by—I just wanted to get out of there and be on my own for a bit.
I walked through the shed, out the other side and made my way back to the main street. It was hard to tell the exact time but I’d guess around lunchtime, maybe a bit later. The sun was high and exceptionally warm. I felt relieved not to have anyone with me, just a stick in one hand and the waist of my trousers in the other to stop them falling down.
The blacksmith wasn’t in front of his place banging away. The forge still burned fiercely but nobody seemed to be about, or so I thought until I saw a young guy sitting on a stool near the back, dozing. I really wanted to have a proper look around the place, but the guy looked pretty beefy and I didn’t fancy getting caught snooping.
I moved on to the leather store a little further along. This place also seemed deserted. Maybe everyone was off having lunch, or possibly they had a siesta type culture like Spanish people, afternoon nap and then back to work in the evening when things cooled down. Either way it was very quiet, although I suspected the girls who had been working in the back were probably still around.
What I was interested in didn’t need me to go inside. I casually walked closer, scanning the floor for any offcuts or strips of discarded leather. There were actually quite a lot of them. I took a brief look around, dropped to one knee like I was tying my laces (hard to do on boots without any) and quickly grabbed everything I could off the dusty ground.
My haul consisted of around a dozen leather strips of varying lengths, and a bunch of scraps. I got to my feet and speed-walked away to the other side of the street, desperately hoping not to hear someone shout, “Stop! Thief!”
The first thing I did was to use the longest piece as a belt for my baggy trousers. My hands shook so much from my little heist, it took a number of goes to tie a knot. I slipped my stick inside the belt like a wooden sword hanging at my waist. Once I got that sorted, I waited for my heart to stop hammering and then checked the rest of the pieces.
They were strong and supple, if a little hairy. I was sure I could make some sort of sling, maybe a couple. The larger pieces might even be enough to make a sap. From what I could remember from a YouTube video I had came across during my wasted youth, all you needed was some lead encased in leather, with a strap to give it some whip. By all accounts a ridiculously effective weapon for breaking bones and knocking people out.
I looked across the street at the smithy, wondering what I might find lying around on the floor over there. Before I knew what I was doing, I had wandered closer, my eyes glued to the floor. Old nails, broken handles, rusty keys—it was like a treasure trove of scrap metal. Surely nobody would mind if I took one or two bits of junk?
My hand was on the verge of reaching down when a clatter made me look up. The guy dozing on the stool was now standing and holding out a knife. He looked terrified.
I whipped my head around to see what was freaking him out, but there was no one behind me. Slowly it dawned on me the thing scaring him was me.