He crouched down and rolled him over, stroking bloodied fingers over matted hair as the poor boy whimpered and dribbled blood, spit and dentine.
“Image doesn’t matter. Image can be misleading. Image lies. What matters is action. What matters – in the end – is what’s true. You acted on the basis of image, and look what happened to you.”
He stood again, knees popping and arched his back, twisting slightly to work out the kinks.
“I looked like an easy mark, didn’t I? Older man, by himself, doesn’t look at that fit, gold watch, soft shoes. Very much out of place around here. Right?”
The boy wasn’t really listening, just sobbing as the adrenaline numbness wore off.
“Except I did live around here, before I bettered myself. You don’t have to be that buff to do damage to a person, you just have to have the will to do so. You can’t trust image boy, you just can’t. Never act on image alone.”
The lad put his hands to his mouth and stared at them, shaking, seeing his own bright blood staining them crimson.
“I mean, who can you trust? Image can be crafted, reality can’t in the same way. Image is all smoke and mirrors, advertising, done to sell you something. Who can you trust? Not the news, not any more. They’re not there to relay truth but to ‘sell’ a story, serve their audience, push up a narrative. Can you trust me? Well, I’m not what I looked like, am I son? Anyone who cares about image lying to you.”
He swung his boot into the kids sight, and the great ‘oof’ of air that came out as he was winded sent more broken fragments of teeth flying.
“Here endeth the lesson.”