Green Tracksuit Pants

 Green Tracksuit Pants


He ran like Cliff Young, the sixty-year-old marathon runner with bucket loads of determination and an unusual running style.  They called it a gumboot shuffle.  Everyone stopped in their tracks to watch him. A red and green beanie covered his head, but his long hair protruded from all sides.  It was dull and matted.  Brown in color.  His face was red from the sun and from the exertion.  Although he was trying hard to go quickly he moved more slowly than normal walking pace.

Everyone stood and stared.  They stepped aside to let him pass and shook their heads when he ignored them.  The grey cardigan he wore was two sizes too big for his slight frame and it was ragged around the edges.  Only two buttons were fastened as the others were missing.  Underneath the cardigan was a thick brown jumper and he alone knew what was inside that.  When he reached the fruit shop he stopped.

Onlookers muttered among themselves.  Some amused, others shocked by his appearance and demeanor.  Those closest to him moved away as the stench from his unwashed clothes and body penetrated their nostrils. The fruiterer held his breath as the man reached for an apple on display at the front of his store.  Halfway to the shiny green fruit he withdrew his hand, pushed it down the back of his pants and scratched himself.

An elderly lady gasped as she caught sight of his white buttocks and realized that he was not wearing underpants.

People were fascinated and horrified.  Time had stopped.  The man was the only show in town.  His green tracksuit pants were faded and holey, ripped at the knees and frayed at the cuffs.  They were so baggy the crotch was level with his knees and it was a wonder they stayed on at all.

When he finished scratching he returned his attention to the apple.   Swaying slightly, he appeared to be losing his balance, but nobody moved to help him.  They were all inching away.  With his small wrinkled hand again halfway towards claiming the prized apple he crumpled slowly to the ground, deflated like a tire with a nail in it.

The fruiterer left the safety of his counter and reached down to help the man to his
feet.  Everyone gasped in disbelief.  The man seemed disoriented initially but recovered his senses and gratefully accepted the fruiterer’s assistance.
‘Thanks,’ he said quietly.

 ‘No problem,’ replied the fruiterer as he wiped his hand on his pants.

 Suddenly the man noticed he had an audience and as he turned his head to see the crowd gathered around him they all blushed and looked away.  It had been like watching television or a gripping movie.  They watched as if he was not real.  Not a person, just an actor.  They were embarrassed, but nobody moved.
Still teetering on his flimsy blue thongs, he hitched up his pants and straightened his stance.  He was not embarrassed, nor was he angry with the onlookers.  The man was curious.  Clasping his hands together in front of his chest he cleared his throat and began to speak.

‘Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you very much indeed.  For my next trick I shall pull down my pants and display my genitals.’

The sucking-in-of-breath could be heard a block away but still they stayed.  The man was bowing and clapping his hands and a few people laughed but they were quickly chastised by the others for encouraging him.  Deciding this had all gone on long enough the fruiterer intervened.

‘So, you want to buy an apple?’

The man shook his head and appeared reluctant to halt the performance.  It was fun, but he was hungry.  He had not eaten for twenty-four hours.

‘A final farewell, if I may?’ said the man to the fruiterer who nodded.

‘Ladies and gentlemen.  I am terribly sorry, but I cannot continue.  I must eat.  Thank you once again for your kindness.’

Taking a final bow, he stood up tall with his chest stuck out.  His left hand removed his beanie to reveal a bald patch the size of a dinner plate.  A few people tittered trying to suppress laughter while others merely smiled.  After replacing his beanie, he returned to the crate of apples and as he did so his shoulders rounded into a stoop once more and he shrunk significantly in stature.

‘How much?’ asked the man while scratching at the gray stubble on his chin, ‘Are your apples?’

‘Forty cents each,’ replied the fruiterer knowing full well the man did not have four cents let alone forty.

‘Would it be all right if I paid you tomorrow?  I’m a little short today.’

The fruiterer smiled.  ‘All right.  See you tomorrow.’

‘Thank you, kind sir.  Good bye for now.’

Turning to leave, he noticed his ardent fans still lingering and felt it would be wrong to leave them without a suitable finale.  So, he pulled his pants down to his ankles and lifted his oversize cardigan up to reveal all. Then he stood on his skinny legs for a minute before pulling his pants back up and shuffling off down the street.

D.A. Cairns

Heavy metal lover and cricket tragic, D.A. Cairns lives in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had over 50 short stories published (but who’s counting right?) He blogs at Square pegs and has authored five novels, Devolution, Loathe Your Neighbor, Ashmore Grief, A Muddy Red River and Love Sick Love which will be available in November, from Rogue Phoenix Press.

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