The newspaper vendors tried their best to be heard over the multitude of buskers, great and small, that carnivalised the pedestrian precinct. To help sell their wares at their mobile kiosks the street traders had special extras to entice Mr and Mrs Public into buying their news. Free Mars Bar with today‘s paper, screamed the headline emblazoned over the front of their wheeled booth. As offers you can’t refuse go this one was a fence-splitting four faulter: small size of bar, the chocolate will melt in the afternoon heat, probably out of date and it is not fried. The declining newspaper industry will have to try better than that. Who wants to pay for inky fingers when you can strain your eyes online for free?
“Well, I NEVER felt more LIKE SINGIN’ THE BLUES
‘CAUSE I never thought that I’d ever lose
Your LOVE dear, why’d YOU do me this wa-hay?”
Out of tune, off key, discordant, unmelodious and jarring were the only way, tautologically speaking, to describe this guy’s singing. Still, the show must go on and he staggered on with a boxer’s instinct for survival fighting against, among others, the Native American music performers further up the street.
Into this mish-mash of humanity materialises the neon signs of Pizza Planet. That all-powerful, all-consuming, fast food enterprise of eat all you want pizza for a few quid. The stalls are never empty in Pizza Planet. Little wonder, as every combination and flavour of pizza slices are available at the buffet counter. But the owners don’t like to rest on their ever expanding Laurels and Hardys. They know junk food retailers can be eaten up and spat out on the sidewalk if they become complacent. A wise executive decided to give all children on leaving the shop a helium balloon with the Pizza Planet logo on it. A free gift for the kid and free advertising out in the street for the firm. Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.
The gorged father leaves the shop with a young boy and girl. The children have faces like lottery winners, almost floating on air themselves, as they hold the string that is attached to their Pizza Planet balloon. Five steps from the exit door it all goes wrong. A distraction, a sudden noise, a stumble. Whatever it was it forced the little boy to adjust his fingers on the string with disastrous results. He lost his grip on the balloon and it rises to the sky. A split second later the boy starts to scream with frenzy.
His despair does not go unnoticed. Pizza Planet customers with window seats watch the event from their vantage point and continue eating. Nearby commuters look at the boy, the ascending balloon and compute the situation. Their pitied faces are of no comfort to the grieving child. The boy’s sister stands with her helium balloon, indifferent to the tantrum. I’m all right, Jack. And the father? He opts to put a positive spin on the state of affairs.
“Look, Jack? Look how high the balloon can go?”
His opening gambit stems the flow to sob levels.
“Isn’t it incredible how high it can fly?”
The boy looks to the sky at his rapidly diminishing free gift. He stops crying and eyes in wonder the blue sky with the receding dot in it.
“Fantastic.” gasps the father, faking enthusiasm, as the balloon disappears into the ether forever. And then the screams begin again.