The little girl scurries across to the huddle of toys in the corner and the man flops onto a seat nearby.
He’s wearing a red football top with a name on the back and the number 11. I could pretend I think he’s the real Mo Salah and ask him for his autograph, but all I’ve got to write on is Dad’s repeat prescription. I could ask Dad about Liverpool’s prospects this season, but he’s turned off his hearing aid against the jangling muzak, and me.
The little girl shuffles pans on the hob of a red plastic cooker. Her shock of curly hair is almost too big for her, like Crystal Tipps from long-ago children’s TV. She turns to Mo Salah, a wide grin revealing the gap in her front teeth. “What do you want?”
My dad’s breath rattles in his chest. Her dad stays mum.
“Do you want tea?”
“No,” says Mo Salah.
No manners, no warmth, but neither any irritation. Flat. His gaze anchored to an empty space beyond reception, he’s so secure in his refusal he needn’t invoke the superior power of his phone or the small ads in the local rag.
“What do you want, then?”
What, indeed? I steal a glance at Dad. Thankfully, his eyes are closed. It would be embarrassing to witness this together, take me back to being a teenager squirming at sexual innuendos on family TV.
“Peace and quiet,” says Mo Salah.
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