At the Marigold, Grenshaw took a seat on a sidewalk stool. The diner was alive. No “out of business” sign, no chairs tipped over and piled in a corner, and no lack of customers. Once he caught the chef’s eye, he smiled.
“Hey there, chief. How’s it goin’?”
“Great,” Grenshaw said. “How are you?”
“Can’t complain. Can’t complain.” He set a glass of orange juice down on the countertop.
“Hey, you know what? The other day, I had the strangest dream and you were in it.”
“Is that so?” The chef leaned on the countertop. “Tell me about it.”
Grenshaw took a sip of his orange juice. “Well,” he began, “I was looking down this alley at these glowing eyes and I asked you if you saw them.”
The chief nodded.
“They seemed like a scary set of eyes to me, but you were really casual about it. You said it was a mirror.”
“And was it?”
“Yeah. That’s all it was. It was just a mirror. I was looking at myself.” Grenshaw shrugged. “Kind of anti-climactic,” he added, but the chef didn’t seem to hear him.
“See?” he said to a passing waitress. “I’m always right. Even in other people’s dreams.” He laughed and served Grenshaw a plate with bacon and eggs, and said, “It’s on the house, chief.”
Grenshaw was astounded.
The chef laughed. “Hey, you know, chief, with that dumb look on your face, we kinda look alike – speaking of mirrors. We could pass as brothers.”
“You think?” Grenshaw said. As he ate his bacon and eggs, he glanced at the chef and toyed with this new possibility. Could it be? Did he have a long-lost brother he never knew about?
Nowadays, anything seemed possible.
Still, it would be mind-boggling. All these years walking this city alone, past throngs of people heading to work, past shopkeepers arranging window displays, past children chasing each other, making up the rules to their games as they go, past street vendors hawking discounted merchandise, past nighttime apartment windows glowing with life – and just to think, one of those anonymous faces might have been his brother. Crazy.
Grenshaw turned on his stool and looked at the people passing by. He felt oddly connected to them all. That woman approaching him now, the one with her head hanging down – was she a sister? Or that young man in the suit carrying the brief case and weaving through the pedestrian traffic skillfully – another brother? A cousin?
In that moment, Grenshaw felt an odd affinity for the entire city, even the mice scurrying down the alleys and the flying advertisements zooming overhead.
He left a hefty tip for the chef, who was occupied on the other side of the kitchen, and headed towards his bike. He called the office.
“Mary, Grenshaw here.”
“How are you feeling?” She seemed concerned.
“Better. Much better.” As he spoke, Grenshaw paced absent-mindedly down the sidewalk. He looked like a man talking with a friend. “Listen, Mary, I’d like to lower the price on orange juice for all of our small business customers.”
“Yes, sir. Any particular reason?”
“They’ll be surprised, won’t they?” He paused, looked up from his feet, and found he was facing an empty alley. “Tell them it’s a Christmas present.”
“A Christmas present. Okay. So this isn’t a permanent thing?”
“Oh, no, it’s permanent. That can be a surprise too.”
“Very well, sir. Will that be all?”
“Yes, Mary. Thank you.” He paused before hanging up, perhaps sensing there was more to be said.
“Sir?” Mary offered.
“Take care of yourself, sir.”
“Thank you, Mary,” he said. “You’re too good to me.” After Mary hung up, Grenshaw considered the scene before him. The alley was dark, but not so dark that he couldn’t see to its end. “And thank you, Tommy,” he said to no one.
He turned to leave, but not before noticing a figure in the distance, slowly approaching. He squinted into the dark and saw the man’s face; he recognized it. It was his father.
to be continued . . .