By Stephen Marriott
A young man, wearing a faded soccer team shirt, is sitting on a bus stop bench and reading a newspaper. The sun is shining and a tree beside the bus stop is green with leaves. The man looks up from his newspaper and sighs.
“United, United,” cheers a cheeky young man in a shiny new soccer shirt, in-between rhythmic clapping and salutes of his hands.
“Keep the racket down!” Said the man in the faded shirt. “Sparky, can’t you see I’m trying to read.”
“Aren’t you excited Dave?” Replied Sparky.
“Course, playing the champions first game of the season and back in the big league, who wouldn’t be.” Said Dave as he folded his newspaper. “Just preparing myself, you got a smoke?”
“I don’t smoke anymore.”
“Yeah yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
Sparky sat next to Dave, and Dave routinely removed a packet of cigs from his pocket and handed Sparky one. He lit himself a smoke and then Sparky’s.
They puffed away meditatively, occasionally making the odd remark about the passers-by. After a while, Dave looked at his watch.
“It’s not like Jarvis to be late?” He said.
“It’s a bit weird but he’ll be here,” acknowledged Sparky. “He’s never missed a game.”
A few minutes passed before the bus approached. They stood up and Dave looked anxiously around.
“He’s gonna miss it!”
Sparky stretched his neck and looked down the road and suddenly in the distance, he saw a man running towards them.
“Hold the bus,” said Sparky. “There he is,” he continued pointing to their friend.
They begin boarding the bus and Jarvis arrived moments later.
“Did you make the sarnies?” asked Dave turning back to face Jarvis from the door of the bus.
“I didn’t have time,” stammered Jarvis panting like dog.
Dave grumbled under his breath and Jarvis boarded the bus. The doors slid shut.
Leaves blew around the feet of Dave, Sparky and Jarvis sitting at the bus stop, hidden behind their newspapers.
Dave huffed, folded his paper and said, “Gate prices are up and United haven’t won in ages. Not to mention the price of their shirts.” Turning up the collar of his faded soccer shirt, he continued, “It’s taking the piss!”
Jarvis looked up from his paper and responded, “I see they’re advertising for bus drivers – you could drive part-time and earn some extra money. Have you seen how much bus drivers earn these days?”
Scoffing Dave said, “And when would I get to see United, I’d likely miss their evening and weekend games if I drove a bus part-time?!”
“Just saying, was thinking of applying myself?”
“You can’t keep a wheelbarrow in a straight line,” said Sparky through a smirk as he rolled his newspaper.
“Besides you can’t drive and they don’t employ hippies!” interjected Dave.
Jarvis folded his paper and mumbled, “I told you before, I learnt when I was at College!”
“That college you only lasted just a term at. Yeah, I’m sure you were as dedicated to getting your license as you were to studying!” Jeered Dave sarcastically.
“Twat,” replied Jarvis not knowing what else to say.
Sparky jumped to his feet and waving his newspaper in the air chanted, “United, United, Take me home.”
Then he tapped Dave on the head with his newspaper and with a grin said, “Mate, you’ll get your new shirt.”
The bus arrived and the friends climbed aboard.
Dave, Sparky and Jarvis are sat below a leafless tree at the bus stop. Snuggled into winter coats they are sharing a flask of tea. Dave had a final sip from his plastic cup and then put it away into a small backpack.
“Top my tea up,” said Jarvis shivering and turning to face Dave.
“No!” replied Dave.
“‘Cause you never make the tea anymore, let alone the sandwiches. Think it’s only fair Sparky and me finish the tea.”
“I’ve got a lot on at the moment!” Responded Jarvis.
“Dong the crossword in bed isn’t a lot on. Don’t give us that bullshit.”
Jarvis looked over to Sparky and muttered, “Yeah, but he doesn’t make the tea or sarnies either!”
“Yeah, but he always gets the beers in!” Responded Dave.
Sparky shrugged his shoulders and said, “Drinks will be courtesy of my credit card today, hasn’t been the best of months.”
“I’ll do my bit. When I’m earning again,” responded Jarvis.
“Change the record mate, how many times we heard you say that, or you’re just waiting for the right job to come along. Jobs don’t just grow on trees! I should know I’ve been looking around for a new one and there ain’t much about.” Dave glanced at Sparky, “They’ve cut my overtime; at this rate, I can forget about travelling to away games and I’ve given up on getting this season’s shirt.”
Sparky finished his tea and handed his cup to Dave and Jarvis did the same.
“I’d give you mine mate, but it’s becoming my lucky shirt,” said Sparky.
“Lucky shirt?” Retorted Dave.
“United haven’t won since before Christmas!” Added Jarvis
“I’m not talking about that,” replied Sparky with a wink. “I score with the chicks every time I’m wearing it!”
Dave and Jarvis turned to face each other and burst into laughter before Dave turned to Sparky and said with a grin.
“Mate, it’s not your shirt, it’s all those drinks you ply them with.”
“It’s the Sparky charm, you’re just jealous. You’ll see – it won’t be long before I meet the girl of my dreams and we’ll move to Spain and it’ll be happy ever afters. They’re desperate for good electricians out there. Anyway, I’ll see you alright don’t you worry.”
Sparky leaned in to hug Dave, but Dave pulled away.
“What is that? You smell like one of those freakn hipsters?”
“Aftershave mate. You should try it sometime, ladies appreciate a well-groomed man.”
Dave and Jarvis smirked at each other and then they all jumped to their feet as the bus arrived.
The tree is in full blossom and Dave is sitting alone at the bus stop…
PART TWO TO FOLLOW SOON.