Soup and a Penance
Blanchard asked me to have lunch with him.
‘We’ll go to the Good Earth Store,’ he said, brightly.
I recalled the place. It reminded me of a sanatorium for tuberculosis-sufferers.
The restaurant was full of earnest, middle-class women and bearded men. Children ran around the tables, making a terrific din on the stone floor.
The soup of the day was carrot, coriander and marrow.
‘Don’t they do proper soup?’ I asked Blanchard.
‘Only one soup left,’ said the cashier.
‘Couldn’t you open another tin?’ I asked.
Grumbling, I ordered the soup and Blanchard decided on something far more expensive; a panini sandwich of goat’s cheese, dill and parma ham. The bill came to ten pounds ten pence. I remarked bitterly:
'I didn’t see that coming.'
There was an awkward silence whilst I waited for Blanchard to offer to go halves. His jaws remained as tightly shut as a bull terrier’s. Eventually, I handed over a twenty-pound note from my dwindling store.
Blanchard said: ‘I can help.’
‘Hallelulah,’ I breathed.
‘I’ve got ten pence here,’ he said. Indeed he had and he handed it over. I received the tenner change.
Blanchard made for the one vacant table.
The waiter, a bulky chap wearing a headband, sailed by twice.
‘Hoy, mush,’ I said, ‘I like my soup hot – I don’t need you to take it for a walk.’
He harrumphed, lumbered into the kitchen, returned and jammed my soup down on the table.
Amazingly, it was tasty, even if it did have some dubious-looking seeds floating in it. I didn’t much like the bread. It had the consistency of a carborundum block.
As we left, Blanchard said: ‘I enjoyed that. We’ll have to do it again sometime.’
I gave him a telling glance as he reached in his pocket for a toothpick.
© R.T. Hardwick