Plenty of Time
Ferro of the Food Cart
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.3) Letitia encounters the black sheep of the family…]
The sun had sunk below the horizon and cockroaches of the human variety had emerged from under their rocks. She hoped that didn’t include Boris but imagined that every second person was a creepy man or a drug thirsty prostitute. Afraid, she kept her head down while she walked. On the Esplanade where the pavement widened, she became aware of a food van that had set itself up for business.
For want of nothing better to occupy her time and with the want of food, she drifted over to the vicinity of the crowd and hung shiftlessly around the fringes. The tantalizing aroma of roast chicken and vegetables were more than her empty stomach could tolerate. Her gut grumbled. She watched with envy as a collective of odd individuals with their nervous twitches and unkempt hair, homeless bearing beanies, and the occasional drunk whose pores oozing the pure scent of methanol, hoed into plates full of food with their plastic forks.
‘Go on! Get yourself some grub. It’s free!’ An unshaven man with dark brown disturbingly melancholic eyes had singled her out. ‘Go on! It’s delicious! Chicken tonight!’ He insisted with gravy dribbling down his week-old stubble.
‘No, no thank you.’ Letitia edged away from him. She was better than them. ‘I don’t need free food.’ Sounded just a tad hypocritical coming from the lady who had performed a virtual bin-dive just a few days prior.
He thrust a fork full of poultry meat towards her. ‘Go on! Have a bite! It’s delicious. You look like you need some filling up.’ His rotting teeth glistened in the fluorescent beams of streetlight.
She veered away from the fork with chicken attack and visibly shuddered. Knew where that fork had been and was not about to risk disease and death to taste a morsal of chicken. She held her hand up and repeated, ‘No, thank you. I’m fine, really.’
‘Don’t be embarrassed. There’s plenty to go ‘round. Go on! Have some. Go get it while it’s hot,’ the man said, his sad eyes fixed on her.
‘No,’ she began, then remembered the mutants. How could she have become so isolated, so afraid of the poor, the different? ‘Oh, alright. I will have some food then. I’ll get some myself, alright?’
The melancholic man grinned like a Cheshire cat, pleased at her conversion. ‘You’ll make Ferro happy, ‘cos when food’s left over he eats it and he’ll get fat and have to go on a diet. Ha-ha.’ He then babbled on in a monotone voice while trailing after her.
Letitia joined the dinner line, the dark-haired man stuck like a limpet behind her, still mumbling monotonously in a one-sided conversation with the back of her head. ‘You been to the Circus? Great show! There’s a big fat clown in there. Ha-ha. We call him Wally. Where you from? You not from round here, are you? I’m having seconds. Yum, chicken! I like chicken. You like chicken? You’re nice. You’re not like the other girls. Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want to be my girlfriend?’
He did not seem to hear the answer, “No, I mean, yes, I’m spoken for.” Lie. “And, no thank you”, to the last two questions. She had obviously made a friend for life and he was too busy rambling in deluded hope to hear anything she had to say. Especially the part where she repeated, “Aren’t I old enough to be your mother?”
As the man serving handed a disposable plate to her, foam plate, she heard a deep voice boom, ‘Trevor, I hope you are not bothering the lady.’
Letitia knew that voice. She scrutinized the four servers, but no one there seemed even remotely recognizable. A young man bronzed by surfing in the sun, aged somewhere in his mid to late teens, spoke again as he delivered a sliver of white meat to her waiting plate. ‘You will have to excuse Trevor here, he chats up all the girls.’
‘You mean I’m not special?’ Letitia jested.
‘Not unless you’re interested,’ the lad laughed. His joke and accent belied that a particular brand of Bavarian dry humour. His teeth were large, white and well-preserved.
‘You’re not from Bavaria, are you?’ Letitia ventured. She had nothing to lose from venturing. And he definitely looked like someone she should know. But, she dared not jump in boots and all and make a fool of herself.
‘Why, yes. How perceptive of you.’ The young man looked down at her over his large nose.
‘Hey, who’s holding up the traffic?’ The natives were getting restless. ‘Hey, what’s going on up there? We’re getting hungry,’ a voice at the end of the queue complained.
‘You keep your hands off of her.’ Trevor behind Letitia warned. He nudged her and remarked, ‘You gotta watch Ferro, he’s a lady’s man, he is.’
‘You behave yourself, Trevor. Hey, isn’t that your second serve?’ Ferro replied with authority.
‘Yes, Mr. Fahrer,’ Trevor replied, eyes downcast with respect.
Letitia’s heart stopped. She gasped. And turning her head left and right, hunted for evidence of Boris behind the caravan.
All the while, the banter between Trevor and who she now knew was Gunter, continued.
‘I think you better wait until everyone has had firsts don’t you think,’ Trevor’s superior advised.
‘Yes, Mr. Fahrer. Sorry Mr. Fahrer.’ Trevor mumbled monotonously and exited the line.
Before she had a chance to say something meaningful to her half-brother, the crowd in the line had surged forward and propelled her to the carrots and peas server and onto the mashed potatoes.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Memories of Bavaria and the Snow Balls in Rothenburg ob der Tauber © L.M. Kling 2014
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