Matt has just ordered his coffee but the waiter has not yet brought it over. He is sitting on the timber bench with his back to the wall, considering whether he ought to have some toast. This involves staring out the window at the passers by, which is how he comes to notice the thalidomide woman. She has a magnificent head of blonde hair and she’s wearing very funky sunglasses. She stops to talk to someone she knows, a frowny woman walking a big shaggy dog with a lumbering gait. It is a sort of miracle that Matt notices any of this actually, because she is the fifth thalidomide person he has seen in as many days.

On Monday it was the guy at the car wash, on Tuesday the fellow in front of him at the deli buying goat’s cheese, on Wednesday the woman who sold him the tickets at the cinema, yesterday the man who cycled straight through the almost-red light, which was cheeky and dangerous, but Matt had noticed his missing arm, and the tiny stump coming off powerful shoulders, and he’d repented of any urge to curse him as he flew past the cars in front of him, streaking up Cleveland Street like a Lycra clad demon.

Matt is a little freaked out. It all feels very David Lynch. Like they have been sent. The Thalidomide Five. He waits for his coffee with a growing sense of unease and a political awkwardness, because you would, wouldn’t you?


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