Fastcat Encounter

We stood on the edge
of the disgruntled queue
waiting for the Fastcat
it was long overdue.
I was unkempt – kind of scruffy,
bohemian chic, I like to think
in October sandals, windswept hair
and my beard needed a trim.
He had a buttoned-down face,
string-thin pursed lips,
evening shadow bristling,
and clutched a harsh leather briefcase.
He was clearly a singular man
He wore scuffed black brogues
split at the heel
triple creased trousers
bagging at the knee
and a soup- drip stained blazer
no wife worth her salt
would allow out the house.
‘He’ll be a priest at the very least’
I nabbed a front seat, sunny side,
marking my territory
with man-spread legs and satchelry,
until a cough from your man made
me shift my man-bag barricade.
‘Bristles’ flicked crumbs off the seat
and settled beside me.
He wanted to talk – I didn’t much
but a kerbside drug deal
and a shop door defecation
got my goat.
I blurted the city was a god-forsaken dump
I was glad to be getting away from.
He disagreed
“It’s teeming with life and energy,
 God is at work everywhere but
you need a prophet’s eye to see it.
Or a poet’s.”
“My world’s a god-free zone.
He must have packed up,
split in disgust years ago…
If there ever was one… ”
I should have bit my tongue –
but the words were out,
stainless steel eyes glinting,
the preacher hit the ground running
warming to a biblical theme,
expounding Paul of Tarsus,
Torquemada, Martin Luther.
How Christ redeemed the souls of sinners
and quenched hell’s fires for believers –
and possibly others –
but he made no promises.
A woman in a chador – head to toe
stepped into the road waving
The Fastcat shuddered, stopped.
‘She’ll be dropping twins, any minute now’ 
The preacher took her arm, offered his seat.
She flapped a map,  
“Maternity? Maternity?”
Me, slowly and loudly,
“Do… you… understand… English?”
She nodded but didn’t.
Raising fingers, two then three,
I smirked, “The ‘baby factory?’
You want the number 23.”
The preacher tutted, helped her off and paid a taxi.
That concern for a stranger spoke louder to me
than all his silver-tongued oratory.
As the cab whisked away, he brushed the seat clean
with a flick of the wrist, rolled his eyes and snorted,
“Bloody health tourist.”

© coolhermit 2023
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