people rise and scatter, the suicide bomber settles into the seat by
the door. He has only just come in, wearing a tatty old windcheater
about which are strapped sticks of gelignite. The
café is now empty apart from the table in the corner where an
woman with thick white hair cut over her ears like a helmet, sits
reading a book.
the window the bomber sees a crowd surge forward, then away from him.
A woman with a pushchair runs, dropping a trail of shopping across
the square. He sees people shouting into mobile phones and then no
sandwich board outside swings and comes to
says the old woman. She closes her book and places it on the table.
“Would you credit it, but a little girl was sitting opposite me,
just there,” she points to the table next to her, “Just
you came in. And do you know what she said to me? She said, You’re
very old. Why aren’t you dead yet?
And I said to her, Well you know, I
expect God still has an important job for me to do.”
suicide bomber stares impassively. He had an old mother once.
ninety-four, you know. And the thing is, there’s no one here now,
but you and me. If you’d really wanted to hurt people,
set the thing off standing there in the doorway. Maximum impact.”
The old woman blinks twice. Then she removes her glasses and starts
to clean them. “I’ve always lived in the capital. Always
completely safe. My neighbour says you
don’t ride on the tube at night, surely not.
And I say, why not?”
The old woman shrugs. “What’s the worst that can
bomber keeps his eyes on the old woman as his fingers feel for the
detonator in the windcheater front pocket.
and I bought our first home in Highgate at the end of the war.
finished the translation contract at Bletchley Park. We paid three
thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds for it. A celebration really,
of him coming through alive. A year later he was knocked off his push
bike by a young woman opening her car door. Didn’t think.
think to look. He never regained consciousness.” The old woman
takes a sip of her tea. “So of course I never had the children I
wanted. In the end I adopted a boy from the Borstal near us. Peter.
Some trumped up charge. He was a good boy underneath. He died last
year in Turkey. Developed peritonitis whilst on holiday with his
wife. Forty years married. They were on an island, you see, no
the square, the bomber sees flashing blue lights. He hears the
look a little like him, you know, around the eyes. I expect you think
I’m trying to, what do they call it on those police dramas, talk
you down. Well. I suppose you could
look at it like that. You think I’m trying to get you to
that life is unfair, that’s what you think, don’t you?
whatever cause you are fighting for, it comes down to fairness,
doesn’t it? And you feel cheated.”
old woman pushes back her chair. She rises from the table with some
difficulty and makes her way across the
cafe. She is wearing slippers and her ankles are swollen. She
shuffles towards the bomber.
I’m not going to say that. You know that already. What I want to
is show you kindness. I want to embrace you and I want to give you my
house and everything I own. I’m not leaving it to cats and dogs
the National Trust. I want to leave it to you. Will you accept
old woman approaches the bomber and she bends down and reaches her
arms around the old windcheater and the sticks of gelignite, and as
she does so there’s a crack
as the glass is punctured by a single bullet which lodges deep in the
bomber’s forehead. His eyes are open as if he is still with her
he doesn’t see her close her arms around him and sob as if her
heart would break.