A Chance Encounter At The Mall

Carl sipped his coffee, and continued to feign interest in Janet’s tale of woe about how inept her new secretary was. He enjoyed the occasional lunchtime meal with his wife, but he had problems of his own at work and didn’t have the energy for this sort of thing. The conversation about family they had been having earlier was less boring. Janet looked at her watch and rose to leave.

“I have to get back, Carl, i’ve got a meeting. See you at home sweetheart.”

Carl smiled and said goodbye, unfolding his newspaper. He decided he’d hang out a bit longer as it was a slow day at the office and no one would miss him. He found an interesting article and started reading, but something made him look up. A couple of tables away sat an old man with a cane he was leaning on with both hands. He was staring at Carl openly, as though studying an interesting specimen.

Trying to ignore it, he buried himself in the paper, but he couldn’t resist lowering it enough to peek over the top, and sure enough, the old man was still boring holes in him. What is this guy’s problem, he thought to himself. Doesn’t he know how rude it is to stare? Maybe he’s lonely. He mulled it over some more, still trying to read the article, but finally giving it up.

Putting the paper down, he took another sip of coffee and looked at the old man. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Continuing to stare, the old man shifted slightly and then craned his neck. He looked back at Carl with a quizzical look. “You’re Carl,” he said.

Knitting his brows, Carl considered his next words. “Well, yes I am, and you are?”

“Tired. I sat down because I was tired. I’ve been walking all over this mall.”

Great, Carl thought to himself, now what. He tried a different tack. “Do we know each other?”

The old man looked thoughtful. “Well, you’re Carl.”

“Yes, I am. Where do I know you from?”

“Oh.” The old man came and sat down at the table. “I thought you would know. By the way, I like your shirt.”

Taking another sip, Carl searched his memory and came up empty. “Look, i’m sorry, you have me at a disadvantage, I…wait a minute, are you a friend of my father’s?”

The old man smiled. “Oh yes. He’s a wonderful man.”

“Ah. I see. When did we meet?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I…i’m sure Janet knows.”

“My wife? She was just here, did you see her?”

“Oh, I don’t know where she is. Shopping, I suppose. You know how they are.”

“Know how who are?”

The old man grimaced. “It’s best not to talk about them, you know. Even when they’re not here they always know.”

“Look, I can’t honestly say I remember my father introducing us. What’s your name?”

“Oh, i’m sorry, perhaps i’ve forgotten. Anyway, Do you think Jerry will get that new job he’s hoping for?”

“Jerry? Our son? How did you know about that? Did dad tell you?”

Scratching his chin, the old man seemed to be trying to recollect. “I can’t recall. Anyway, do you think he will?”

“Well, I…listen, frankly this is all a bit strange. You seem to know a lot about me, and I still don’t know who you are. Where did you come from?”

“You don’t know? I’m from right here!”

Glancing at his watch, Carl had a sudden urge to get back to the office, but he had to know what was going on. “Could you please tell me where you know my father from?”

The old man seemed to staring off into space and didn’t respond. Just as Carl was about to ask again he fixed him with a look. “I wouldn’t advise buying that new car, you should keep the one you have.”

His eyes going wide, Carl leaned across the table and grabbed the old man’s arm. “Now look here, who the hell are you, and how is it you know so much about me?”

“You should listen to Janet, she’s very smart.”

Slowly the pieces fell together. Carl grinned and sat back. “You were sitting there listening to our conversation during lunch! But why would you…I mean…”

An elderly woman wandered by the cafe looking about and then did a double take when she saw Carl and the old man. She hurried in to the cafe and walked up to the old man.

“Herman! There you are! What have I told you about wandering off?”

She turned to Carl looking apologetic. “I’m so sorry, I hope he hasn’t been pestering you. He’s got Alzheimer’s, you see?”

Suppressing a chuckle, Carl smiled graciously. “No, no problem at all. We were just having a chat.”

The woman turned to her husband and helped him up. “Well, we must be going. You have a wonderful day now.”

Carl watched them toddle off and then finished his coffee and folded his paper. Life can sure get interesting sometimes, he thought to himself.

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