Waiting for Pizza

by Boudreau Freret

I ordered carry out pizza, paid, and sat on a bench near the counter to wait.  Others were ahead of me.

One man about my age (but who had unsuccessfully tried to hide his gray hair with what looked like mahogany wood stain) was trying to engage a group of three fit young men.

I listened as the man slurred his words in lopsided conversation with the three boys.  He was too loud, though not yet obnoxious, and the young men were as softspoken and polite as they were ridiculously fit.  So softspoken, in fact, that if I hadn't been watching, I would have thought the comfortably numb gentleman was talking to someone on the phone.

“Football, yeah?  All three of you?  Where?  Is that a college around here? Oh, high school?!  Really?  Hey, I played football for Duke!”

At that, I laughed a little too loudly.

This caught his attention.  He turned to me with raised brow, eyes wide, and the corners of his mouth turned slightly downward.  He looked more hurt than offended, and I briefly wondered if his lip was going to quiver.

“What? What is it?” he asked softly.

I could not control the smile on my lips any more than I could halt what passed through them.

“Oh, nothing, really.  It's just that when I've been drinking, I tell people that I played for Duke, too.”