The watchman standing near the gates of the appartment had been there since three hours in the cold dreary winter night. The wind was picking up along the pavements and carrying dry leaves across the road. They made a shuffling noise breaking the otherwise slumbering silence of the neighbourhood.

The burly man was probably in his late fifties, his fading hairline and grey duffle coat made him look old. But he paced in front of the gate, alert and restless. He couldnt afford to stand still at one place, he might fall asleep. And walking made him feel less cold. Every now and then he would blow onto his broad palms and rub them together afraid that they would turn blue and numb.

Whenever any car approached the entrance, he would rush towards the door to examine the driver’s permission and then let him in. There was a small cabin for the watchman. It had some kind of a reguator switch inside, to pick and drop the yellow barrier fence, and each time he allowed a car to pass in, he would click the regulator and let the fence move up slowly so that the gates would open and the car could enter.

That was his job. Throughout the entire night just a couple of cars would drive up to the entrance. And until then he would pace, pausing only at the appearance of a vehicle.

What did the solitary man protecting the whole of that neighbourhood think about while pacing back and forth? Always vigilant, yet did his mind go back to his own childhood from time to time, when he used to play with marbles with the other street kids. Or perhaps he thought of the small bed in the corner of his room, that he longed to sit and rest in.

With the break of dawn, he turned off the street lamps and went inside the cabin again. He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. As he walked out, he greeted the other watchman who would now be taking his place.


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