‘This is my grandson, Nicky.’ Baba spoke in English, her accent cracked like the palms of her hands.
The men were English; Nicky could tell from their clothes. One of them had his name across his sweatshirt: Ted Baker. The other had a black bag, like a doctor’s.
Ted crouched to look at him. ‘You like football, Nicky?’
Nicky nodded. He did like football, but Baba wouldn’t let him play in the house since he broke her best plate. Since he got tall, she kept grumbling about him getting under her feet. On his tenth birthday, she said, ‘No more growing, or I’ll put you out.’
‘Lots of football in
‘How about your stamina?’
Nicky looked at Baba, wrinkling his nose. ‘Stamina?’
She translated. It meant how long he could run without his chest hurting. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘Great.’
Ted nodded. ‘Better take a listen, anyway.’
His friend opened his bag and took out a stethoscope. Nicky knew what it was; sometimes his uncle used one to listen to the cows’ stomachs when their calves were coming.
‘Shirt off,’ Ted said.
The metal was cold against his skin, like teeth.
‘Good lungs.’ Ted peered at Nicky and held out a hand to his friend who put a little torch into it. Ted shone the torch in Nicky’s eyes, making him blink. ‘Great!’
Ted’s friend put away the torch and stethoscope, snapping shut the mouth of the bag.