Barking. It took Vincent a few moments to register what the noise was, and quite a few more for him to realise he might need to do something about it. He looked around. Perry had ran off the path into a field that stretched towards the canal. Another dog was pulling against its owner, fury at Perry’s approach dripping from its muzzled jaw. “Perry! Here!” Vincent hurried over the grass as quickly as his body would allow. When he had been a kid he had spent hours running around the marshes – hours he would have rather spent smearing paint over yet another piece of paper or reading a book – but his limbs had long forgotten how to move with such agility. Perry looked over at him and hesitated, torn between obedience and curiosity. The sharp winter air caught in Vincent’s chest as he stooped to clip his leash to Perry’s collar. “Sorry about that.” “You’re alright, son. That’s quite a hound you have there. Ex-racer?” Vincent glanced at the man. He looked familiar, his laughing eyes bright against the dull sky behind him. “Yes. My dad was a breeder.” He nodded his goodbye and set off towards the path. “Hang on. Little Vinnie?” Vincent stopped in his tracks. It had been over 30 years since anyone had called him that, but the title instantly brought back the shame of standing in front of a jury of beer-flushed faces, their mirth at one of his dad’s jeers running down their faces. Even now, he avoided old-school east-end pubs with a snobbery established well-before he left the area. He had thought that three decades would have put to bed his feelings about his father, but the anger simmering in his chest suggested otherwise. “Okay, maybe not so little anymore.” The man chuckled and held out his hand. “Doubt you remember me, but I remember you. And your dad. He was a good man.” No he wasn’t. He was a bully and an alcoholic and I hate him. Even now he’s dead. The words caught in Vincent’s chest. Of course he couldn’t say that. He was too much of a coward. A cissy. His dad’s mocking voice echoed in his memory, refusing to let him go, even now. He closed his eyes. “We were very sad to lose him,” the man stumbled on, unsure of his faux pas. “You know, he was very proud of you.” Vincent’s laugh seemed to startle him. “Oh, I don’t think so. Good night.” “No, he was. I remember when you went off to art school, got that degree. He told us all about it. And all those newspaper clippings about your art shows.” Ron’s laugh was soft. “I don’t think he would have been more chuffed if you’d gone off to play for Spurs.” Vincent laughed again. “I doubt that very much.” He looked back at the path, but the man’s words held him. With surprise he realised he wanted to hear more. “Well, that’s the way it was.” The man coughed, following Vincent’s gaze. His mouth moved silently for a moment. “He might have given you a lot of stick, but he loved you. He really did.” Vincent stared at the old man’s face. Its earlier joviality had gone, replaced with something earnest, almost desperate. Vincent found himself smiling. “Thanks.” He nodded his goodbye again, and made his way back to the path, his head down. He felt the man’s eyes follow him as he strode away, Perry trotting alongside. His breath deepened as he picked up his pace, but the man’s words resonated it his chest, loosening the tightness that he had always carried with him.