Luka walked home with a dozen large eggs in a green plastic shopping bag. The name of the supermarket was emblazoned on the side of the bag in big white block letters. Luka swung the bag gently as he walked. The eggs sat safely within the bag, protected by the ridged grey cardboard carton they had been packed in.
Luka’s stomach rumbled and he was impatient to get home to prepare the eggs for his dinner.
Finding the money in his coat pocket had been a stroke of good luck. He had had such rotten luck at the betting shop. He had lost all his pension on good odds. He thanked the Lord for giving him a second chance, and he crossed himself.
In the time it took for him to walk the three blocks home he had considered every possible way to cook his eggs. He settled on soft boiling them and eating them with the stale bread he had in the breadbox in his kitchen, buttered with some salted spread. He imagined dipping the dry crusty bread into the warm gooey yoke before he ate it. His tummy rumbled.
Luka stopped at the bottom of the hill and looked up. The last leg of the journey was always the hardest for Luka, up the short but steep incline to his apartment.
Halfway up the hill, he had to rest. His face was flushed, his breath laboured, and a heavy sweat ran down his neck and stained the collar of his shirt. He stopped and placed the bag with his eggs down on the grass verge. He took out a small bottle from inside his jacket pocket, removed the grubby cork that stoppered it, pressed it to his lips, and took a sip.
The liquor washed into the back of his mouth and soothed his throat and settled his beating heart. He sighed contently.
“A little relief, a little longer,” he mumbled.
The sun glinted off the half-empty bottle as he slipped it back into his coat pocket. Renewed, he started off again.
He took hold of the rail that ran the length of the stairs and pushed forward, his pace slow but steady. His face set in grim determination, Luka laboured forward.
"Luka," someone hollered. "Is that a refuelling stop, aye?"
Luka did not turn around to inspect who it was calling out to him. He could tell that voice anywhere.
Sasha Pine stood at the base of the incline, both hands curled into fists, rested on his hips. A cheeky smile addressed Luka.
"Wait up. I don't have my key," he called to Luka. He started up the incline, a slight limp disrupting the rhythm of his walk. Luka pressed forward.
Today was not the day he would be tricked again. Luka willed himself up the path. He did not look back, but only at the front door of the apartment building. His breath became forced, and he gasped for air. His chest heaved with each step.
In the short time, it took him to reach the top of the stairs, sweat ran freely down his face and stung his eyes. Five, four, three, two, one. He was finally at the entrance. He inserted his key into the lock and turned. The door clicked open, and Luka slipped inside and pushed the door closed. He did not look behind. Clunk, the door slammed shut.
“Bravo” gasped Luka.
He feebly punched the air with his fist in jubilation. The excitement of his victory swept over him.
“Ha-ha,” he spluttered.
His lungs burned, and he fought for breath.
He finally cast a glance at the entrance. The frosted glass of the front door was bright, and no visage of Sasha clouded the glass.
"So slow in old age Sasha," Luka chuckled to himself.
As he stood in the lobby of his apartment building, the elevator bell dinged, the doors rumbled open, and an empty elevator awaited him. What luck thought Luka as he shuffled inside the small conveyance.
The doors closed, and he slowly ascended to his floor. As the elevator rumbled its way up, Luka had a sinking feeling. Something was not right. A sense of trepidation arose in Luka's chest, sucking away the joy he had won from his victory over Sasha. Three, four, five…
The realization hit him hard, like a blow to the body. His knees buckled and he grabbed the wall to steady himself. He had forgotten all about the eggs. His eggs.
You idiot. You utter arse he berated himself. His heart pounded. He pushed the elevator buttons.
“God damn it,” he roared.
The elevator came to an abrupt stop. The doors slowly opened. Luka punched the button repeatedly.
“Down now,” he pleaded.
The doors rolled closed again. Luka stamped on the floor and pushed the buttons frantically.
“Come on, come on,” he said.
The small elevator shook and then began to gently descend.
Long moments passed on the downward journey. Luka's heart raced.
Would they be there? Had he lost them?
Three, two, one. The elevator jolted to a stop and the doors opened.
Sasha stood before the open doors of the elevator. In his right hand, he held the green plastic bag that contained the eggs.
"My eggs," yelled Luka. He thrust out his hand and half-heartedly tried to grab the bag. Sasha retreated and moved the bag behind him.
"What eggs?" said Sasha.
"M-m-my eggs," stammered Luka, pointing at the partially concealed bag. "They're mine."
"Oh, these eggs. Yes, I found them. Outside, just now," said Sasha. "Abandoned, apparently."
"Those are my eggs Sasha, and you know it."
Sasha lifted the green bag in front of him, so it hung in the air between the two men.
"I may suppose Luka, that that could be true," said Sasha.
Luka stepped out of the elevator and sided up to Sasha.
"Of course, they are mine."
"I am guessing now that you mislaid them?"
"No, I did not mislay them. I left them there. On purpose. They were heavy, and I planned to return for them later."
"The bag is not heavy, Luka. Are you sure you did not mislay them?"
The corners of Sasha's mouth curled into a smile.
Luka turned away. His shoulders slumped and a tired sigh issued from his lips.
"You were always such an arse Sasha," Luka said.
"And you aren’t?" replied Sasha. He lifted the bag and offered it to Luka.
The green plastic bag with its bold white lettering swung in the air between the two elderly men, like a pendulum counting time, in an ever-decreasing arc.