Sean dodged the flag as it’s owner swung it in another swirling circle, narrowly escaping a clout from the pole it was attached to. A brief glimpse of the bearer’s grinning face flashed through the blur of colour. The drink was kicking in now, not before time either given that he’d been wandering through the parade, bottle in hand, for the last two hours avidly trying to work up a drunken glow.
A hand clapped him on the back and was gone by the time he’d turned to see whose it was. Everyone was a friend here though, any passing stranger could have been acknowledging his attendance with approval, just as he’d done in half a dozen hurried and vague conversations himself already.
As he walked, or increasingly stumbled, forwards he could feel the vibrations of stamping feet and drum beats up ahead where a crowd had gathered to break up the shuffling procession with an outburst of raucous noise. Sean recognised the tune, if not the words, which had clumped together in an incomprehensible blob of excited noise, more communal growl than chant. Another swig and he joined in himself, grunting in tune to feel like part of it and earning smiling affirmation from the crowd he was joining. Over their heads he could see the police line monitoring their progress, warily waiting to see if collective celebration would slip over into anger. It would, Sean knew that much, sooner or later it always did when drink had taken it’s grip on everyone and the joy of looking inward gave way to the simmering anger of looking outwards. It was why he was here, why he tried to drink himself ahead of the rest, he wanted to be ready and willing when the tide turned and the good spirits gave way to malevolence.
Flags were bobbing up and down ahead of the band, piledrivers digging in and out of the mass of people towards the front of the parade. The start of something hopefully, the embryo of a reaction fuelled by some hold up along the route. Sean smiled and raised his voice in the eclectic chorus, throwing an arm around the stranger next to him and shaking him with heartfelt familiarity. It wouldn’t be long now before they started moving as one, pushing forward and into the waiting line of police, and that was where the real beauty of the day lay.