I was sitting on a bench by the pond in the park with a sandwich, feeling like an old man with time to kill and no better way to do it. It was a good place to come to if you needed to get out of the office for half an hour, needing fresh air and some sanity.
London was still warm, in its traffic choked way, but there was a hint of autumn now, a whisper of menace. You think this is summer, it said. You think it will never end. But don’t you feel that little chill down your spine? If you raise your head, can’t you see the first leaves turning to orange, to red, to brown? Even though today the sun is hot on your back and the perspiration is on your forehead?
A leaf detached itself from the chestnut tree and fluttered casually down towards me. After doing a little pirouette, it dropped down to settle on the edge of the pond, half in the water and half out, where it lay still. A squirrel scampered up a branch above.
The packet of sandwiches I had extracted from the vending machine in the foyer of the huge building was artichoke, olive and tapenade on brown bread. Not a bad choice, but I could only manage a couple of mouthfuls. My stomach was churning after the morning’s meeting, and I felt sick. It was clear I would not be doing this job much longer. Nor indeed would any of us who had been sitting round that long highly polished boardroom table today, judging by the facts and the figures and the faces of the senior partners as they saw their bonuses evaporate.
So I sat on my bench flicking the remains of a SandwichMan special to the ducks. They inspected it without enthusiasm, having seen me and my kind often enough before to hope for much. A man with a bleak future, or no future at all. A man without hope, throwing bread for the ducks.
I watched a young couple come into my view through the park. He was tall and fair, she was shorter and darker. She looked eagerly at him as they walked, hand in hand, easy in each other’s company. He said something to her and they laughed together. Though they were a little way from me I could hear their laughter clearly.
She said something in reply that made him look serious for a moment. They stopped walking and stood still. They exchanged a few words. I could just make out his deeper voice, against the sudden quacking of the ducks. There was a tension in the angle of her head as she looked up at him, and in the stiffness of his body. They had fallen silent.
Then the moment had passed. He took her face in both his hands and slowly kissed her. They broke apart and she brushed something off his T-shirt, perhaps an insect. Their laughter began again.
I watched them for a long time as they walked slowly across the park, their figures getting smaller and smaller, until I couldn’t see them at all. I rose from my bench and threw the empty sandwich packet into a litter bin.
Then I took a deep breath. I felt better now. Much better. I would leave this job and find a fresh direction, put all this behind me. It was time to try something new, do something different, meet new people. Maybe find a girl who would smile at me, and brush a speck off my collar. And laugh with me.
It seemed a long time since I had laughed.
I retired to the Cotswolds ten years ago after selling the retail business in North Wales which I had built up over forty long years. Fortunately for my sanity most of my time was spent creating advertising copy and promotions, which dramatically increased the business and taught me the power of words. Being a member of the Chippy Writers’ Group encouraged me to attempt a lifelong ambition to write a novel. Recently published, In the Shadow of Hitler is a romance set in the ruins of bombed-out Hamburg in 1946.... more