Fighting through the crowds of wannabe photographers is a tall, lean man. He walks with a slow, purposeful air but his eyes tell a different story, he is searching. The grey spots move back and forth, flitting from one to the next. A new target is found and discarded in less than a second. The seething mass of people move and change before his eyes, making his job more difficult.
He is smelling the air too, looking for a special fragrance. He does not know what it is yet but he has convinced himself he will know it when he finds it. To intensify the odour, he keeps his mouth closed. It is a pity the only smells to reach him so far would make a sewer proud. Sweat mixed with copious amounts of hairspray assault his senses.
What is it he is looking for and why must we be looking at him? Because it is with him that the future of this town rests. He has the power to hold the bored spellbound. He is the one who wants to learn, to understand. This man wants to immerse himself in the culture.
The man in question is not the first of his kind. There have been many before him and better qualified too. The only thing they have lacked is timing. Now, when interest is at its lowest and the fire in the soul of the last resident is almost out, does he appear. His furtive questioning is a glimmer in the night.
“Excuse me.” he tries in the native language.
The person he is addressing holds his head in his hand with a disinterested air. Eyes focussed on nothing as the mass changes once more.
“Excuse me.” he tries a second time.
In between, our quiet spark has taken in his surroundings. Like the man he has addressed, it no longer functions in its former state. Dust has gathered everywhere, from tables to shelves and bottles to glasses. A bare patch underneath the resident’s head is all that remains. Slowly the eyes turn upwards and registers someone is addressing him.
For too long he has been ignored. Before then he was spoken to in many languages, but never his own. Has he forgotten his mother tongue?
“I’d like to order some food?” says the spark.
The words are not perfect, far from it, but it should suffice.
The hand comes down and slaps the table hard. The mass of people jumps like a flock of disturbed pigeons. The quiet spark does not move.
“What can I get you, my friend?” the tone is flat, impassive.
“A local speciality, if you please.”
“We have your American burgers, English fish and chips, Japanese-“
The spark holds his hand up, stopping him mid-sentence.
The words hit the resident like a wave crashing on the shore.
“You want local cuisine?”
“Local to here?”
“That’s what I came here for. I want to know what it is to eat it.”
“But why don’t you want the other food?”
“I can get that at home.”
“But the others-“
“Are not like me. Now please, I’d like some local food.”
The resident looks askance at this strange being now.
“I’ll have to cook it.”
“I can wait.” the spark answers.
To reinforce his words he removes his jacket, walks over to a chair and sits down. For now the resident admits defeat and shuffles off to the kitchen. Bangs, crashes and curses emanate from the door. Time limps on like a man with a wooden leg. An hour passes before the resident returns with a steaming plate of food held in both hands, reverentially.
“There.” he says, placing the food in front of the spark.
The resident’s voice is a mix of triumph and relief. A confused look passes over his face as the spark leans over. A moment later it is replaced by one of wonder.
Looking through the window of the restaurant, the resident sees the closest of the mass pressing their noses to the glass. The aroma has performed its magic. Cautiously the door opens and a head is poked inside. The owner, on confirming the origin of the smell asks hesitantly
“Are you open?”
The resident is dumb-struck.
“Yes.” he answers, unprepared for the outcome.
First one, then three, then eleven are through the door asking for their share. It is too much for the resident.
“Please, form an orderly queue. I’m sure our friend here can’t wait to serve you. But as you can see there is one of him and so many of you.” says the spark.
Without further prompting the eleven form behind one another. Sheep could not have done a better job of being obedient. The spark smiles as the resident relaxes.
One by one they are served. The pace quickens until by the last, the resident has delivery down to ten minutes. Each one leaves with a smile and a full stomach. Turning to his new friend the resident says
“A thousand thanks to you.”
“No need. All I did was to bring a spark to what was already here, you did the rest.”
“How can I repay you for bringing that spark?”
“Keep the fire going. One day I shall return and we can laugh about the days of old.”
With that the spark rose from his seat and left. To honour his new found friend the resident renamed his restaurant ‘The Spark of Life.’