Today was the day. The handover had been completed without a hitch, and Joe sidled out of the rendezvous with the brown paper bag clutched in his hands. There is an art to being unobtrusive: Joe had watched too many of the wrong sort of films and over-did his nonchalant departure. Still, if his skitter from the protection of one doorway to another was attracting the attention of the crowds, it was shielding him from the one set of eyes that he was trying to avoid.
He’d spotted his stalker, quite by chance, when he stepped out of the office block on his lunchbreak and had become dizzy with indecision. Why was his nemesis here now? Should he abandon his plan? No! Audentes fortuna juvat, he muttered under his breath. Very well. If fortune favoured the brave, he would be brave. He strode onwards, away from his destination, attempting to throw his stalker off the scent. He walked down tiny side streets, aware of eyes on him. Suddenly he twisted into a department store, zig-zagging amongst shuffling shoppers and exiting from the main doors on the other side of the building. From there, Joe tried to keep out of sight, moving quickly until he reached his target.
There could be no question of returning to the office to open the bag. Every one of his colleagues would come sniffing around. But he had thrown off his pursuer, so perhaps he could risk opening it in the park…?
Joe looked around nervously as he sat on the bench and started to open the paper bag. He’d lived on lumpy homemade cheese and pickle sandwiches all week so that he could save enough to buy one of the exotic creations from the Café Du Sept Hippocampes. It would, perhaps, have been safer to eat his lunch in the café itself, but the extra cost was beyond him, and the bohemian nature of the pretentious venue brought him out in hives. But the sandwiches…he drooled at the merest thought of them, which had led to one or two embarrassing moments when he’d started day-dreaming in long meetings.
He drew in the smell first, the aroma being the first part of the feast. There was always the temptation to nibble, to take mouse-like bites and so make the sandwich last as long as possible, but he’d discovered that to do so was to miss the point of this culinary sensation. The only way was to take a deep, hearty bite and so draw in all of the separate ingredients in one mouthful and undertake some gastronomic alchemy and deliver an explosion of taste to the tongue.
Joe bit deeply, and lost himself in an instant of perfection.
His pursuer, that had followed him for just this moment, swooped over his shoulder and took its own bite out of the sandwich. Landing on the grass in front of Joe, the seagull smirked, and eyed up the sandwich for a second go.
© David Jesson, 2021