Respect

The elderly couple were out for a walk, they had just set out on this pleasant day because it was their way to go for walks on pleasant days. Make the most of the weather and the fresh air was one of their many mottos. Well you have to live your life by some creed and they had succeeded in making up their own.

Although they lived in a high rise urban development and had done for many years, they had created a life that made sense to them, their escapes in to the world outside and not dwelling too long on things that upset them had made their life meaningful within their own minds and they continued on their way trying not to make waves but at the same time protecting their own space and looking after themselves by whatever means they could.

Some looked on at them and branded them foolhardy, walking around this neighbourhood at their age. Sensible people caught the bus to a nice place after all. But they continued in the belief that if they didn’t make waves then they would continue to float along in life.

As they passed the second bus shelter on this pleasant day, the one with the broken glass, the torn advertising hording, a young man bumped past them to reserve his place at the front of the bus queue. The wife gasped a little and from outside it would have been interpreted as fear. The elderly man opened his mouth to speak, he looked towards his wife, she looked back and her eyes said OK.

The young man was engrossed in his music and looking cool or sick or whatever the latest term was for a confident gregarious person.

“Excuse me!” said the old man. He had turned towards the young man and raised his voice so that he would not be misunderstood.

The young man looked up “Eh, are you addressing me?”

“Yes young man” replied the older man resolutely. “It’s traditional to say excuse me when you bump in to somebody, it’s a pleasantry that allows society to get along and respect one another and live in harmony without descending to the rules of the wolf pack”.

The young man’s eyes narrowed as he took in the sentence. He breathed in in disbelief. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“No I don’t and I’m not sure that I want to know someone who doesn’t’ have the least knowledge of simple social rules.” Went on the old man. “In fact I would go further, I think at this point excuse me isn’t enough, you should apologise to my wife and I for causing such an upset to our day”.

The young man had that look of a minor celebrity who had failed to be noticed, you know the ones who have been built up by a TV company to make them feel special and then they have to deal with the rest of the world and they find nobody really knows who they are.

“It’s not safe out here for an old man with an attitude like yours.” The young man was rising from being slouched and leaning against the bush shelter. He was rising to what he perceived as a challenge. But the source of the challenge was a complete mystery. Why would an old man risk himself and endanger his wife in this way unless he was stupid.

As he stood the old man started to unbutton his coat. Then he took it off and handed it to his wife who fussed around it and folded it neatly across her arm, securing it in place by putting her other arm across it.

“What are you doing” said the young man.

“I’m getting the feeling  that it’s too late to walk away, so bearing in mind it’s such a nice day I’m preparing for the fact that you might not be willing to offer your apology. It’s too warm and I don’t want you to tear my coat.”

Still confused the young man approached the old man and stared. It was his way. Staring down an opponent was his way of seeing off most of his potential challengers. But this was stupid. “Why would I hurt you old man” He said.

“Well the way I see it is that your friends over the road have been watching”.

The young man turned and his body stiffened.

“And you now have little choice than to defend what you see as your honour. Although I’m still quite happy to accept your apology and be on my way.”

The young man was now wary. The old man had called it correctly, while it was a one on one it was possible to get away with banter and posturing. But with witnesses present he had his standing in the community to consider.

“Now, we can stop right now and shake hands or whatever is your custom. But it’s important to me that you realise that manners cost nothing and in fact they engender a more lasting respect than violence ever did.”

Before the young man could get a word in he continued. “I fought in a war and it wasn’t pleasant but at the end I had to make my peace with my enemy and my own government, and get on with my life. A life that just revolves around violence and killing is not a life to be proud of. We can still part friends.” His voice betrayed no fear, no malice and no edge. Just straight forward talking, words that he believed and thoughts that he lived by.” The old man looked towards his wife and nodded. She nodded in return and took a pace back, protecting the old man’s coat and fussing around the pockets.

“you don’t get the apology old man, I could have let you walk on by, but not now”. He stepped in to the gap between the old man and his wife, dividing and conquering but being aware of the main threat.

He reached under his coat and brought out a machete. The old man’s eyes narrowed, he wasn’t sure until now but it was now clear to him.

As the young man adopted the posture of a confident fighter the old man took a small step towards him and he was slightly caught unawares, such a foolhardy step was not part of any tactics that you use against a man with a bare blade. The young man took a small but perceptible step back to establish a firmer base from which to strike his confusing foe.

The young man raised his weapon with accomplished ease. Behind him the old woman stepped up to him and he went rigid, dropped his weapon and he fell.

Quick fingers applied the plastic cable ties to his wrists and ankles. And there he was trussed up like a chicken ready to be plucked. Ready for whatever would befall him because he was still out cold, but the breath was returning to normal.

The wife put the black box back in the old man’s pocket and she called the police to report a suspicious man in the area while the old man fiddled with the young man’s music player.

Then they continued on their walk with a spring in their step.

The police didn’t rush. They never do when neurotic old women call. They get there in half an hour or so because that’s how long it usually takes for them to calm down.

They were confused to find the oven ready young man, packaged neatly, weapon fallen at his side, but they lacked evidence to convict him of anything. They were doubly confused to hear what was looping on the music player.

The young man had been listening to the voice of the old man on his music player from the moment he came round until the police arrived, and then some.

He couldn’t provide a description about the people who did this to him. The onlookers never mentioned it because there was something just a little too clinical about the way the old couple dispatched the young man.

He remembered it vividly but really couldn’t remember who had done it, and he was a changed man.

Apparently, suggestions administered post-tazer, last a lifetime.

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