Chester liked to flop out in the little square at lunchtime, when the office workers came out to bask in whatever sun the tall buildings allowed to permeate. The office workers would sit on the pale grass, undo their ties or hitch up constricting skirts a few inches and open up their sandwiches and takeaway coffees. They’d try to ignore Chester, his grime, his rags, the blackened toes protruding through his cutaway hobnail boots. If they couldn’t ignore his surly presence, they’d awkwardly hand over a coin or two in the hopes of watching him stumble away to leave them in peace.
Chester made a reasonable living out of their embarrassment, a bottle of cheap wine, a lung kebab, a plug of black tobacco. And so he kept to his glowering routine.
He was nonplussed when one day an attractive young woman sat down deliberately beside him and produced two separate lunch bags. She handed one to him, saying “There you are. Prawn salad, tiramisu, iced tea and a candy. Bon appétit.”
He stared at her uncomprehendingly.
“There’s a towelette in there and a plastic fork and spoon,” she added, “Better keep the cutlery for another time.”
With that she ignored him, and ate her lunch, looking idly about her as the other regulars came and went. Chester ate the prawn salad in silence, and the tiramisu. He drank the iced tea and ate the chocolate truffle though he’d never liked them. He made what he felt was an appreciative grunt, but she ignored this.
Finally, she got up, brushed down her dress and walked primly away. Chester watched her in amazement, daring to hope that perhaps this was the start of a regular thing.
Ten minutes after she’d left, the agonising stomach cramps began.