Two thirty, on the dot Pete the Greek’s doorbell jangled and Stanley shuffled in.
Bill looked up from his newspaper and Alfie swivelled in the chair, his face a sea of white foam. Stanley stopped short, bristling.
“Hang on Pete - two thirty’s my spot. What’s this old bastard doing in my chair? His turn’s not till three.”
“Early bird catches the worm Stan. Princes Street isn’t far. You’ll have to speed up a bit or be prepared to miss your chance.” croaked Alfie sagaciously. “Them nostril hairs have waited two weeks, they can hang fire another ten minutes.”
Stanley shuffled inside slowly muttering something about not being as young as he was.
“How’s the missus this week Stan?” called Pete cheerfully over his shoulder and going to work on Alfie with his razor.
“He’ll find something to complain about.” grumbled Bill shuffling along grudgingly to make room for Stan. “What’s she done this time?”
“Well you should have seen what she dredged up for dinner last night,” groaned Stan, easing himself painfully into the plastic covered chair. “It’s never exactly a smorgasbord of delight, dinner time at our house, but this time she tried to feed me some foreign muck that didn’t even have any meat in it.”
Bill grimaced. “What you tell her, Stan?”
“Well, I says ‘I’m not eating this muck, Linda’ and she says ‘Stanley you can either eat your dinner or watch it go cold and I’ll give it the dog.’.”
“And what did you do, Stan?”
“I went down the chippy. She was bloody furious. Even the dog wouldn’t touch my dinner - that’s how bad it was.”
“I wouldn’t stand for that. If my Gwen were still here she’d know to have my sausage and chips on the table bang on six o’clock,” muttered Bill.
“What did you have Stan, down the chippy?” called Pete over his shoulder, before Alfie or Stanley could retort with anything they’d regret.
“Battered sausage and large chips. Bottle of pop. Bloody lovely.”
“Come on Stan, you’re up.”
Stanley heaved himself to his feet and Pete set about him with his nostril hair trimmers.
“You do a tidy job here, Pete, even if you are Greek,” Stan told him. “It’s worth coming even if I do have to put up with these bastards.”
Pete smiled and said nothing.
Two weeks later two thirty came, but the doorbell didn’t jangle. By three o’clock Pete was beginning to worry. Alfie had been posed in the chair waiting for Stanley to arrive for half an hour. He’d been looking forward to this all day - annoying Stanley was the highlight of his month.
But Stanley didn’t come
“Stan’s late,” commented Bill.
Pete said nothing.
When the ambulance pulled slowly out of Princes Street and drove quietly away Pete and Alfie exchanged an anxious glance in the mirror.
“You boys fancy anything from the chippy?” Asked Pete, his voice cracking slightly.
Alfie nodded stiffly.
“Yeah. battered sausage and a large chips for me.”
“Bottle of pop,” said Bill quietly.