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James Cogswell

As the scent of freshly baked pastries reached Dr. Moreham’s nose, he soon realized that his vow to persevere through the layover without making any further purchases was destined to be broken.

                A quick tap of plastic was all that it took to complete the doctor’s surrender to temptation. He gave the woman behind the counter a quick nod before briskly walking back towards his gate with purchases in tow. Moreham’s left hand carefully clutched the handle of a steaming mug of coffee, which in fact was hot enough to cause a fair amount of discomfort. His right hand held both a rolled up edition of the day’s paper and the seductive prize which had led him astray in the first place: a bag of fresh biscuits.

                Moreham’s passive expression twitched into a frown as he realized that the table he had vacated mere minutes ago was now occupied by both a mother and her two wailing infants. The doctor was just about to resign himself to standing when an opportunity entered his field of view.

                Quite near to the edge of the seating area was a table with only one gentleman present. His tan-shaded fedora was pulled low over his face, giving him the appearance of being at rest. Furthermore, he seemed a decent, presentable fellow. Moreham slowly slid into the opposite seat and placed his purchases on the table.

                Still doing his best to be as quiet as possible, he reached into his coat pocket and extracted a tiny packet of sugar. With a quick tear the vessel was opened, and a stream of sugar flowed down into the coffee to join the single dollop of milk added at the coffee shop.

                Just as Moreham was raising the mug to his lips, his eyes swivelled beneath his thick glasses, his gaze coming to rest on the flight status board overlooking the gate. He set down the drink with a moan as he took in the crimson colouration of the word every traveller dreads: DELAYED.

                Everything else was briefly lost in a haze as the doctor realized what this entailed. He had scheduled several appointments only a few hours after he was supposed to return. Now he’d have to call his secretary and…oh God, he’d have to call his secretary! She’d told him not to book those appointments, and Moreham was not prepared to deal with any snide remarks. Perhaps if…

                A sudden rustling sound permeated into the doctor’s consciousness. His surroundings came back into focus just in time for him to witness the stranger’s hand withdraw from the now opened bag of biscuits. Out of the corner of his eye, he continued to observe the man nonchalantly raise the delicacy skywards and plop it into his mouth. The noise he made when he swallowed the biscuit seemed to reverberate throughout Moreham’s skull.               

                For once in his life, Richard Moreham had absolutely no idea what to do. Surely this must be some sort of misunderstanding. The doctor was just about to speak up when memories which hadn’t surfaced in years suddenly and harshly rose to the surface of his intellect.

                He thought of his initial semester at medical school, day after day of putting up with taunts from his fellow classmates, jabs at his rural upbringing, jeers for his reliance on tuition support and thefts committed by individuals who took joy in watching tears roll down his face when he realized that his painstakingly taken notes were destroyed.

                Moreham was not about to give this creature an ounce of satisfaction.

                His face blank, he purposefully reached out his hand, latched onto the largest biscuit of them all, and drew it back into his mouth, emphasizing each and every chew. Moreham observed his opponent in his peripheral vision, watching as he paused for only a second before removing yet another biscuit. The audacity of this man!

                The nearby passengers sat in blissful unawareness as a silent duel was enacted in their midst. Neither man backed down, both scarcely giving the other a chance to swallow before claiming their spoils.

                Finally, the battle progressed to its final bout, as but a single biscuit remained. Moreham struggled to maintain his composure. Heart racing, sweat pooling down his back, he at last made eye contact with his adversary, goading him, daring him to make a move.

                In a single breath, the other man pulled back his chair, stood up, and quickly marched away.

                Basking in euphoric victory, Moreham pinched the final biscuit between his fingers and dropped it into his  mouth.

With a smirk on his face, he lifted up his paper, planning to turn it over to read the financial section. His eyes widened in almost comedic fashion as he observed what lay beneath: an unopened bag of freshly baked biscuits.