Sheldon was sitting in his customary place, partly hidden in a corner of the Snug. He nodded at me as I looked in before going through to the Public bar. He was a large, squat man, bald and heavy-jowled, with a hooked nose and large moist pink lips. He would sit between seven and nine of an evening, nursing a pint of ‘mild’, occasionally exchanging brief pleasantries in a hoarse whisper. Rumour had it that he’d been a concert pianist of rare talent, his career cut short by an accident in the middle of a tour, although I’d seen no proof of this. Of course, what distinguished Sheldon was that, come rain or shine, he always wore large curved sunglasses.
But I was privy to a secret. Years earlier, a storeroom heater had ignited some blankets and smoke had quickly filled the pub. I’d collapsed, choking, when I’d been lifted up and carried on strong shoulders, out through the fug and into fresh air. As the rescuer lowered me down, I accidentally knocked his glasses off and in the second it took him to replace them I saw something I’ll never forget – Sheldon’s empty eye sockets staring at me.