Martin came to a cross roads, turning right he was greeted by the green of football pitches edged by young trees and coated metal fencing. After two hundred yards the fencing gave way to an entrance and an inviting tarmac covered path led down to three benches twenty yards apart. The furthest bench was occupied by a young Asian woman with four young children, the other two benches free. Martin sat at the first. He removed the sandwich from its bag and took a bite. In front of him the grass banked down providing a grandstand view of the pitches. Front left was the football clubhouse, a smart new building of brick and ironwork. To the right a row of terrace house. The fields themselves were empty.
As he ate Martin thought of this mornings meeting. I'm too old for this shit. No I'm not, I'm fucking good at my job. I make this company a lot of money. I'm not a kid, I should be treated with respect. I certainly don't deserve fat wankers like Stefan fucking Hollingsworth pissing about with my business.
His train of thought of was interrupted by two small boys who had moved away from the family on the far bench. The eldest, about six or seven, was dribbling a small football with some confidence, the other, presumably younger sibling, two or three years old, followed, his face lit up with delight. Elder sibling approached Martin's bench then gradually arced round to the left, increasing his pace still keeping the ball expertly under control. Younger sibling also wheeled left but struggled to get near his brother. The taller boys run took him to the middle bench. He looked over his shoulder as younger brother stopped, his shoulders slumped and his chin on his chest. Elder stopped and turned. “Come on Jayan,” he shouted with a smile and tapped the ball softly towards him. Jayan's face lit up again and he ran towards his brother and the ball. As he got ten yards from him, elder brother stepped forward and passed the ball to the side of Jayan and sprinted past him laughing. The younger boy stopped, turned and looked at his tormentor sullenly. The elder came within a few yards of Martin's bench and stopped and turned. “I'm sorry Jayan,” he shouted sincerely, he picked up the ball and bounced the ball in the air with his hands. “Your turn now, come on,” throwing the ball up and catching it. Jayan walked towards him slowly. “Come on mate, here you are.” Smiling, Jayan grinned and started running. This time he let him within five yards, then he dropped the ball and volleyed it high past Jayan and with a loud laugh ran in the direction of the ball, back near the middle bench. Martin watched as the scene was repeated over and over. Each time the tormentor managing to convince the naïve younger boy he was had a chance to get the ball, only to be frustrated each time.
Martin turned his gaze to the far bench, The young Asian woman was seated talking to another small boy while pushing a pram back and forth. He stood up and walked back along the path to the road. On the opposite side was a local supermarket. He was just about to cross when a vehicle approaching from the left grabbed his attention. With a blue and yellow paint job, silver stars and large ice cream cones on each top front corner, the ice cream van did exactly what it was meant to so, stand out. Martin held his hand high as if hailing a taxi. The driver smiled and pulled in. He slid out of his seat and disappeared from view, a second later the side windows slid open and the white coat and smiling face reappeared. “How we doin' boss?”
“Top notch my friend, top notch.” He scanned the menu on the window. “I'll have a super deluxe cone with two flakes please.”
“Coming right up. Juice on that boss?”
“Yes please.” Half a minute later Mr smiley placed the large cone into one of the metal holders. The vast portion of brilliant white whipped ice cream accommodating the two chocolate flakes with ease, the raspberry sauce completing the mouth watering creation.
“Anything else boss?”
“Yeah, a plain cone.”
“Medium or large”
“Small cone coming up. Juice boss?”
“Just a touch please.”
He slid the small cone into another metal holder, next to El Magnifico. Little and large of the ice cream world.
“That's four ninety nine please boss.” Martin placed a five pound note on the counter and picked up the two cones.
“Keep the change.”
“Too kind boss,” the smile still in place. “Have a good day boss.”
“I will thanks, you too.” He turned and headed back down the path.
As he approached the first bench he heard, “catch Jayan!” The younger boy stood in front of the bench facing his brother behind it, he watched as the ball looped high over his head. “You missed it Jayan,” laughed his brother as he ran past him and caught the ball.
Martin walked up to the bench and sat down. Both boys looked at him, at the ice creams.
With an almost imperceptible nod of the head he beckoned the boys forward. They approached slowly, the taller boy on Martins left facing the “Super Deluxe.” The sun shone brightly, but it was not hot enough to yet melt the ice, allowing the iced masterpiece to gleam in resplendent glory. Jayan faced the smaller treat. Martin extended his arms towards them. Jayan didn't move, his brother reached purposely for the large ice. Martin withdrew his right arm and immediately moved his left towards Jayan, the boy's eyes widened, eyebrows high. Martin raised his, smiled and nodded. The boy reached out and took the monster cone with both hands. His face erupted with a wide smile. Martin maintained his smile and nodded again. The boy took a step back and licked the ice, he smiled again, his gaze never leaving his benefactor. His brother watched, wide eyed and open mouthed. Martin turned towards him, his smile gone, he looked into his eyes. He extended his right arm towards him and held the small cone six inches from his face. The boys eyes fixed upon it. Martin moved his arm forward, tilting his wrist and softly pushed it right between his eyebrows. His eyes widened even further, a white droplet ran down the side of his nose and stopped between nose and mouth. Holding the same slight pressure Martin moved his hand up slightly, then across above the boy's right eyebrow then back drawing a line of ice cream and raspberry sauce across his forehead. He moved down the side of his face, under his chin and back up the right of his face back to his forehead leaving a trail of white and red around most of his face. He turned the cone and brought it down ice first on the top of the boys head. Still holding the cone, Martin leaned forward, his face inches from the boys. “Do you know what torment means?”
The boy shook his head.
“Do you know what tease means?”
The boy nodded.
“I bet you do. Well listen. Big brothers are supposed to look after little brothers. Not tease them, not torment them. Look after them. Understand?”
He nodded again. Martin pushed down, slowly squashing the remains of the cone flat on his head. “Good. Now go and tell your mother you've been a naughty boy.”
He stood up and both boys took a step back. Jayan looked at his brother, melting ice cream ran down the side of his head, a drip hung from his chin, the remains of the cone on the top of his head, the pointed end stood up like a dishevelled party hat. The younger boy switched his gaze to Martin who gave a thin smile, the boy smiled back. Martin turned and walked up the path.