El Sentro, Nigel Ford

 

“I don’t want him to feel that we are a nuisance.”

“He won’t. I don’t believe he has ever thought that we are a nuisance.”

“We don’t want to interfere, to interrupt him, he might be busy.”

“He won’t be. And anyway, even if we did interrupt him, he won’t mind. He’ll be very pleased to see us. It has been some time.”

“Yes, it has hasn’t it. I do hope he’s alright.”

“I’m sure he’s fine.”

“We don’t want to put him off his stroke.”

“I’m sure we won’t. Perhaps we could walk down now.”

“It’s only 6 o’clock. Isn’t it a little early? Perhaps he’ll be busy getting ready.”

“It will take us at least three quarters of a hour to walk down there.”

“All that way. Are you sure we’ll be alright?”

“Why shouldn”t it be? It”s not much longer than our usual evening walk.”

“We could walk down and see him this evening. As our usual evening walk.”

“Not too late. He’ll be busy. We don’t want to interfere.”

“After coffee. That should be alright.”

The eye of the story follows them. They are both short compared with the present generation. Short, tough and hardy in body, forgiving and loving in soul. They have their standards of behavior and principle and they are confident these are theirs to keep.

Their attitudes exude confidently from them as they walk slowly and easily down the pavement, arm in arm, her thick white mane of hair nudging his cap.

He wields a cane adeptly and when she pulls on his arm to indicate they should stop and look – in a shop window, at children playing, at a policeman gesticulating at traffic – they clasp hands together atop the cane and share its support.

With the continuous stops and observations, an hour passes before they find themselves looking into the El Sentro bar.

It is small and the some dozen customers appear to fill its space. But not so full as to oblige the clientele to spill out onto the street and crowd around the four turned-up-on-end wine barrels used as tables and elbow supports as will be the case later in the evening.

The four young men dressed in black, including black aprons, behind the bar move surely, cleaning, cutting, preparing, all the while exchanging good humored banter with the customers.

A small, bright-blue hatchback squeals to a halt outside and toots, causing the old couple to start.

A young man, more gaily dressed, jumps out of the car and waves both arms, pulls up the tailgate and lugs out two large cartons.

One member of the bar staff walks out onto the pavement quickly, the two young men cross paths, and the member of staff retrieves two more large cartons from the car.

It is their son.

The man waves his stick to attract attention and calls to him, but their son does not hear, continues carrying his two cartons into the bar, to the back, through a narrow door, disappears.

The couple approach the street serving hatch and the encompassing windows tentatively, wearing cautious smiles. They stand on tiptoe, the man heaving himself up using the head of the walking stick, his wife clutching his shoulder, both peering in, unsure, shy, the smiles now wider, trembling.

The chef looks up, through his pumping elbows, washing furiously at his grill plates, spots them, turns his head away towards the back of the bar, shouts, a white face pops up from behind the coffee machine, a question mark, another yell from the chef this time – plus a broad, sweeping gesticulation, the white face frowns, the young man emerges, lifts the bar flap, walks out quickly, kisses his father and mother. They exchange a few words, the old couple all wide smiles, the young man, their son, kisses them both, turns, strides back into El Sentro.

The couple remain in place for several seconds, straining on their toes to see, but their son has vanished. They wave, the chef waves back, face creased in a busy smile, teeth gleaming. They turn and walk away from the bar.

“That was nice. It was so nice to see him.”

“Yes. It was very nice to see him. He seems to be doing well.”

“My, my. They do work hard, don’t they!”

“He certainly seems to keeping busy.”

They stop, turn and look back at the bar, now some fifty yards away.  More customers arrive. The occasional glimpses of their son reduce, fade and disappear.

“That’s that I suppose.”

“Yes. That’s that. It was very nice to see him.”

“He’s a good boy.”

“Yes. He is. I’m very pleased to see he has settled down.”

“Yes. It’s a weight off my mind.”

They turn and move off, retracing their steps back through the city. Every now and again, they halt to view some minor spectacle. Some humdrum occurrence that attracts their curiosity and attention.  They continue. They are moving more slowly. They get on a bus and then change to another bus, which stops outside their door.

Inside:

“Would you like some chocolate?

“Some chocolate would be very nice.”

“It was a nice evening.”

“Yes it was. It was good to see him again.”

“It has been some time. We should go to see him more often.

“Yes. We should.”

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