There was a thump of a napkin holder and heads turned in the café. His coin hit the box of sugar sachets and finished spinning.
“Hey!” Clicking his fingers. “Hey, how long do I have to wait for service?”
No answer. He shuffled further forward on his chair, shoulders thrown back, scowling towards the bar.
“Is that yours?” he gestured towards a nearby table. The man began to laugh. “The ashtray or the magpie?”
“The ashtray,” he said bluntly, kicking his leg out to shoo the bird away.
“Yea, I brought it from home.”
“You using it? Or can I have it?”
The man made a mock gesture of courtesy like the pair had tried to walk through a door at the same time, then dropped a great chunk of croissant out for the magpie.
Unwrapping a packet of cigarettes, he dropped the cellophane on the floor, “Ceci!” he mumbled through the end of a fag, “Ceci!”
“Sorry hun,” a waitress breezed over from inside the cafè. “Iacopo!” she said with a smile. The boy took a few rapid tugs on his cigarette and spluttered. “Sorry, I thought you were waiting on your mum.”
“On my mum? Are you mad?” Iacopo steadied his cigarette carefully on the ashtray. “I’m meeting friends.”
“Oh nice, want something while you wait?”
The boy rapped his fingers on the table, “Yea, yea I do. I want…”
“Coffee, Ginseng…” he grimaced at the thought.
“Um, a chocolate ice cream.”
“Okay, then, one chocolate ice for the boy,” smiled Ceci, deaf to the attitude. The man to his side chuckled and dropped out more pastry for the bird.
“Here,” said Iacopo, taking his coin from the table and flicking it up for the waitress.
“Ooow, hang on, I’m not much of a catch,” Ceci clapped her hands and sent the coin bouncing to the floor.
“I’ve got it, don’t worry!” started the boy, straight to his feet.
“Oh, it’s a live one.”
“It’s mine, leave it please,” said Iacopo, catching his foot on the leg of the table. Yellowed fag butts raining down around him through a little cloud of old ash as his coin gathered speed and rolled on.
“That’s mine, leave it alone,” he charged through the overturned table and off in pursuit.
It made light work of the patio, its golden back turned rejoicing under the morning light, dancing over shoes and round ankles, straight for the road.
Iacopo charged. Eyes glued to his coin moving fast between the group. “I’ve dropped my money! Move!”
A piston of air from the coffee machine, the clatter of broken cups and the magpie took flight. “Move out the way!” shouted Iacopo, untangling himself from the group of fallen customers.
By the time Iacopo had made it outside the café, the coin was 30 metres off, striding down the centre of the lanes, making light of the dark road, passing cars, barely touching the asphalt.
He made a half audible excuse and seized the handlebars of a bike just about to be set against the wall. “I’ll bring it back, don’t worry,” and battered the child’s hands away, “I said I’ll bring it back, get off.” Within seconds he had outrun the jeers and settled the bike on course, out in the centre lane.
The child’s bike lurched from side to side between the heavy pulse of traffic. The window of a family car rolled down, “Jack, Jack,” the boy and his bike pressed on. “Jack… yea, I’m telling you it’s him,” said the driver. “Jack, get out the road!” But the wind swirl and blood in his ears made him deaf to everything. He had to get that coin.
At the traffic lights a young family was at work preaching the safety of the road. A brand-new pram and the tightly held hands of the older children stood in a line waiting to be ushered out onto the crossing by the loyal call of the green man.
In unison the arms of the parents gestured up to the flashing green and the group paused for a moment to appreciate the particular music that said: Now you’re safe to cross, and they stepped into the road.
A sequinned water bottle exploded in a melee of glitter and filtered water as the coin ploughed straight through it. Dazed, the child reached down to recover what was left of its flask, to salvage the pieces of personalised name laying in the road.
“Leave it,” screamed Iacopo, rainbow streamers blown back, shooting a dry hoot of warning from his rubber horn. “Leave it!”
Punching his legs through the pedals. Pushing the bike harder, its frame quivering under the weight of the too big boy. His bike careered through the red light, “Move,” screamed Iacopo, scattering the family and flattening the remains of the water bottle. Onward in pursuit of his coin.
The fury raged through him, every time he pushed his head down, willing the bike on, the coin seemed to fly on with greater ease. “Jack!” The family car wasn’t giving up. “Jack, get out the road.” He could sense the panic of the traffic building up behind, they doubted him, they didn’t think he could get his coin back. They could go to hell, he let the shouts and the horns be lost to the whistle of the headwind. And from up above the magpie smiled and caught sight of the turning golden back of Iacopo’s coin.
The rhythm of the bike and the road and the coin was broken by a hedge. It severed the road like an iron palisade, barring anything with wheels from the lazy fields of pine beyond. The coin fired itself into the greenery, shattering leaves and branches. Iacopo leapt from his bike and sent the stripped horn and multicoloured spokes flying into the curb. He plunged his arm into the warpath of the renegade coin, snatching at the crunching of wood deep within. He could hear it, he could sense it inches away burrowing deeper into the hedge. Making one final push to reclaim what was his, he forced his body half inside. Fingers about ready to break under the strain. He stroked the golden spine, almost ready to enclose. But at the touch, the coin gained strength and burst through the hedge – straight into the beak of the magpie.