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Genre: Humour
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The Long Wait

By: Roy Hare

Papers, papers, readorlabahtit. Deafn;disaster. 'Orrible murder on 'Amstead 'eaf. All the gory details. Lat--est scores. Forty nine people swindled."

"I'll take a paper."

"Ereyerar guv."

"There's nothing here about a swindle."

Fifty people swindled. Pa…per.

The news vendor, stood behind his small stall, the last few evening papers, flapping in a cold biting wind, whistling into the very depths of the corner pitch.

"Pa…per. Gawd I'll be glad when I've 'ad enough of this."

He was well used to chatting away to himself. Not many of the thousands of commuters, to whom he sold newspapers, ever gave more than a cursory grunt. Busy with their own thoughts, dashing back and forth, like robots.

Home, bus, train, work. Train, bus, home. Five days a week, fifty two weeks a year, less holidays, until the retirement clock.

He could have been from another planet, standing, slightly hunched shoulders, from which hung an ex-army greatcoat, nearly reaching his ankles.

Collar turned up, hiding the weather beaten face, long thin nose, from which hung a small dewdrop, dangling precariously until it was sniffed away or blown noisily into an off white handkerchief, before it dripped onto the latest news beneath. Steely grey eyes, surveyed the world, from under the peak of a grimy cloth cap.

Money and papers exchanged hands, with just an occasional 'Evening.' The last newspaper lay forlornly on his ramshackle table, flapping in the wind, trying to attract a buyer.

"Give it anuvver five minutes, an' I'll pack it in."

Muttering away, his thoughts turned to the warmth of his local pub, a double rum and pep, that would soon be trickling down his throat. Driving the chill from his bones.

"Is that the last paper?"

The question snapped in his ears like cracking ice. Thoughts of the rum trickled out of his brain. His eyes fell upon the elegant, well dressed woman, standing before him. Her well made up face, and large fussy hat, could not hide her age. He was still gawping at the not too buxom figure, as the ice cracked again.

"Well, is it?"

"Eh, what…"

"Your last paper?"

"Yeeees. Do you want it?"

"If it has today's winners. Yes."

"Well, if it had tomorrers, we'd all be bloody rich. Wouldn't we?" He could not resist the retort. Parting his thoughts from his rum had upset him.

The quizzical look on her face vanished.

"I thought so. Your face maybe older but I know you. Arthur--Arthur Morgan. Still handing out the insults. Well, I don't know, after all these years. Well, well, well who would have thought after, what would it be -- twenty five. No, nearer thirty years, we could ever meet again. This very corner. This is where we always met, wasn't it? Where have all those years gone?"

"I don't know, but I know where I'm gone, soon as you make up your mind about this paper."

"Typical. Yes, it is you. Same old rude or witty answer. Not recognised me yet? What if I say. Wotcher know arfermo. Does that ring any bells?"

Something clicked in the memory clock. His face went from puzzlement to enlightenment, straightening out a few wrinkles.

"Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs. It can't be?" Screwing up his eyes, he advanced his face to within six inches of hers.

"Ye--ss, yes it is. After all them years, who'd 'ave fort, you'd 'ave come back 'ere."

He took another close look at her.

"Gwendoline, aint it. All the blokes used ta call yer, Windolene, you was always bright and shiny. Well, buggar me. Where yer bin. Last I remember, we'ad a date. You never turned up."

"Oh, I have been here and there, traveled the world. Married three times. Last one was bookie, left me well provided for."

"Good I'm glad of that, you can buy me a drink and tell me why you left me standing on this corner, thirty odd years ago. Least you can't say I haven't been faithful."

They laughed all the way to the pub. Him looking forward to a free drink. Her with a free newspaper.

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