At the mall yesterday, I was waiting while Brent purchased an enormous barramundi for our dinner, standing in the food court, watching. Six days to Christmas, and of course the place was crowded with shoppers at varying levels of pre-Christmas hysteria. Everyone, it seems, was carrying at least one plastic shopping bag from each of the centre’s thousand stores. We were there just to buy a fish.
Through the crowd I saw him coming towards me, growing larger in my field of vision as he approached, then disappearing behind me. He was staring straight ahead, not looking at me, with a face that said nothing about what he was thinking. Blank. Middle aged, a bit overweight, dark hair, thinning – perhaps a combover. I didn’t see him for long.
And wearing a uniform. At first I took him for a scout leader – the uniform consisted of matching mustard-brown shirt and short pants, with epaulettes and shoulder flashes, both parts crumpled and worn. In the instant that he moved past me, I recognised the badge on the left breast of that shirt. Eagle. Swastika. Nazi.
My first brownshirt.