Dinner for Two
“Please, sir, I’d like to buy a ticket.”
The railway clerk didn’t seem to hear the tiny voice. The crowd pushed and shoved, almost knocking Alfie over. Then an old woman brandished her umbrella, clearing a path.
“Didn’t you hear the gentleman? He wants a ticket. You there, lift him up.” A brawny young man picked up the youngster and held him level with the ticket window.
“First class ticket, one way.” The little boy handed over a handkerchief stuffed with money.
“Where ya going?” the young man asked.
“Meeting my grandfather.”
The train pulled into the station, and Alfie peered into the well-lit dining car as it slowly passed. There he was, that handsome man with the white hair and the silver cane, sitting at a table with linen napkins and cut-glass crystal, just as he did every evening. The little boy had watched him for months, squirreling away coins and bills until he had enough for a ticket. He stepped onto the train and wove his way to the old man’s table, calling “Grandfather!” He made sure everyone in the car heard him.
Gerald Fitzsimmons looked up in astonishment. He’d never married, had no children, no family life. How dare this gutter snipe claim kinship? The two of them eyed each other warily, as the diners watched in fascination.
Sir Gerald had made his fortune in business with his infallible intuition. He felt a sudden admiration for this resourceful urchin, probably raised on the streets, living by his wits for all of his six or seven years. He sensed the two of them were more alike then most blood relatives. He had succeeded by making brilliant, split-second decisions. He made one now.
“There you are, my boy! Just in time for the Beef Wellington!” The other passengers heaved a sigh of relief. They had been afraid it was all a con.
The aristocratic old man leaned over and whispered to the boy, “What’s your name, sonny?”
“James Alfred, sir.” The co-conspirators grinned, enjoying their newfound mutual sense of belonging. The train hurtled through the night toward home.