Car 2

47
Mr Ashley Watkins

Outward appearance

Heavily set black man in woolly hat, army jacket and baggy blue jeans. Hair in braids down behind his head, tied in a pigtail. This looks slightly out of place with his age and bulk and general air of gravitas. Deeply lined hands rest on each knee. Passenger 46 bumps him with a bicycle seat and apologizes. "Tch" says Mr Watkins, sucking on his teeth in disgust.

Inside information

Runs a stall in the bleak, windswept trench around the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Everything Mr Watkins sells is black-themed: Egyptian papyrus, towels with leaders' portraits, books by Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, and tapes of lectures.

The stall really makes its money from soul, rap and dance cassettes, which he buys in bulk from a supplier who seems to have a limitless supply of deleted albums.

What he is doing or thinking

Mr Watkin's dignity is affronted. His white supplier must have made a mistake or he's taking the piss. He is yet to have words.

The last shipment of cassettes consisted almost entirely of the Tammy Wynette back catalogue. There were some George Reeves and Slim Whitman cassettes, nine copies of the Ray Coniff Christmas Album and two copies of The James Last Sound Honours ABBA. There was a single bargain basement collection of the worst of Teddy Pendergrast. Mr Watkins does not drink or smoke; he does not pursue women. Women do not pursue him. He labours in the fields of pride, but there is not much harvest from the concrete plains of Elephant and Castle. And even fewer laughs.

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