So that’s his game!
The old man sat there with a brick for a phone pressed to his hairy ear. He squinted, strained to hear whoever he talked with, mouthed spittle-infused words.
Oh, he was good. Really good. But it was an obvious ruse.
He turned and gave me that glassy-eyed look only the elderly could, his comb-over blowing in the speeding traffic’s wake.
He knew I was on to him.
Across the road, the last chocolate torte glistened in the bakery window like an Olympic medal.
He wanted it, but I wanted more.
Red: A wiggle and a shake.
Red and amber: I checked my trainers laced. Come to poppa.
Green: He was off.
Goddamn! He was already halfway across the road!
I swerved through the milling pedestrians like a serpent through grass. I’d show the old buzzard!
Bursting onto the pavement, I dodged an old woman with a mop for a dog and leapt through the open bakery door, chest thrust forward. Winner!
With no time to gloat, I got straight down to business. “Onechocolatetorteplease.”
“One chocolate torte, please.” This time slower.
“Sorry,” said the girl behind the counter, “we’ve just sold the last one.”
“The one in the window?”
“That’s the one.” She beamed an inoffensive smile.
I panicked, after all, she was pretty. “But I was here first,” I whimpered.
The girl shook her head and pointed over my shoulder, her bangs smacking a drum ‘n’ bass rhythm against her rosy cheeks.
I turned so slowly, my hips ground.
He sat there in his buggy smug as you like, his eyes watering and his few stray hairs a mess. His dentures were missing as though he’d rushed to beat me and hadn’t had time to put them in, his hitched-up slacks revealing the argyle socks beneath — beige, of course. But worst of all, worse than anything, he had something to say; his lips frothed with the effort.
“You’re fast,” he said. “Really fast, son.”
“Whilst I’m old and slow.”
I gave him one of my best sneers.
“But I have this.”
He held his black brick aloft, or as aloft as his ancient limbs could manage. This, he waggled.
“Same tomorrow?” asked the girl behind the counter.
The old man cupped his ear.
“Same tomorrow?” she bellowed.
He waggled his archaic phone one last time; it might as well have been a cup and string.
“I’ll ring ahead,” he replied, then reversed over my foot and sped off.
You’ve won this round, old man, but I’m off to buy a new charger.
Truth was, I’d rather have had the torte.