The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The 100-year-old man had never let himself be irritated by people, even when there was a good reason to be, and he was not annoyed by the uncouth manner of this youth. But he couldn’t warm to him either, and that probably played some part in what happened next.
Bus number 202 rolled up outside the entrance to the terminal, just a few seconds after the young man had closed the toilet door behind him. Allan looked at the bus and then at the suitcase, then again at the bus and then again at the suitcase.
It has wheels, he said to himself. And there’s a strap to pull it by too.
And then Allan surprised himself by making what – you have to admit – was a decision that said ‘yes’ to life.
The bus driver was conscientious and polite. He stepped down and helped the very old man with the big suitcase to get on the bus.
Allan thanked him and pulled out his wallet from the inside pocket of his jacket. The bus driver wondered if the gentleman was possibly going all the way to Strängnäs, while Allan counted out six hundred and fifty crowns in notes and a few coins. But Allan thought it best to be frugal and so he held out a fifty-crown note and asked:
– How far will this get me?
The driver said jovially that he was used to people who knew where they wanted to go but not what it would cost, but this was quite the opposite. Then he looked in his schedule and replied that for forty-eight crowns you could travel on the bus to Byringe Station.
Allan thought that sounded fine. The driver put the newly-stolen suitcase in the baggage area behind his seat, while Allan sat down in the first row on the right hand side. From there he could see through the window of the station’s waiting room. The restroom door was still closed when the bus rolled off. Allan hoped for the young man’s sake that he was having a pleasant time in there, bearing in mind the disappointment that was awaiting him.
The bus to Strängnäs was not exactly crowded that afternoon. In the back row there was a middle-aged woman, in the middle a young mother who had struggled on board with her two children, one of them in a baby carriage, and at the very front an extremely old man.
This passenger was wondering why he had stolen a big grey suitcase on four wheels. Was it because he could and because the owner was a lout or because the suitcase might contain a pair of shoes and even a hat? Or was it because the old man didn’t have anything to lose? Allan really couldn’t say why he did it. When life has gone into overtime it’s easy to take liberties, he thought, and he made himself comfortable in the seat.
So far, Allan was satisfied with the way the day had developed. Then he closed his eyes for his afternoon nap.
At that same moment, Director Alice knocked on the door to Room 1 at the Old Folk’s Home. She knocked again and again.
– Stop fooling around, Allan. The mayor and everyone else have already arrived. Do you hear me? You haven’t been at the bottle again, have you? Come out this minute, Allan! Allan?
At about the same time, the door opened to what was, for the time being, the only functioning toilet in Malmköping station. Out stepped a young man who was doubly relieved. He took a few steps towards the middle of the waiting room, tightening his belt with one hand and combing his hair with the fingers of the other hand. Then he stopped, stared at the two empty benches, and looked left and right…