WAITING

I watch him carefully. He stands alone, not far from me. He is waving both arms, with great, flapping sweeps, his hair springing up and down with the motion.

Around me: the others; impassive, pretending to read, yet all the time watching him. Now he turns slightly to one side and crouches - legs bent, body leaning forward, hands like a beggar's claws, fingers upward, as if presenting an object for sale; appealing, jerking spasmodically, violently. I can see the back of his suit collar, ridiculously high above his head, which he is stretching towards us. He makes no sound - just the jerking movements, and his legs like springs, coiling and uncoiling slightly, ready to jump.

I look down at my lap. There it lies - beautiful, shiny, black, freshly cleaned. Ready. My hands are moist. Soon it is time. I wipe them on a white handkerchief. Soon. Soon. I catch a quick glance, from my neighbour. He knows.

I look again at the man in front. He is springing gently up and down on his calves, body straight now. He lifts his right arm, fixes me with his eyes briefly; now I am ready; I lift my black beauty; he makes a long sweeping motion, it ends pointing at me, just as I start blowing, sweet and pure as ever, right on cue, as always.