- Beg, sponge.
(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the Day, 20 August 2020)
Use it in a sentence
‘Can I cadge 20 mins. Maybe 30?’
Since time became a commodity, there were always shady characters hanging outside the office door, begging for time. Usually they were those young corporates who needed just another 10 minutes to close the deal, just another half an hour to finish a presentation, one more hour to play with the figures. Desperate creatures with blood shot eyes and loose ties. I usually just shooed them away.
But this beggar just looked like an ordinary guy. T-shirt and jeans, sneakers. He pushed his fingers through his long fringe, and puffed out a long breath, waiting for my answer. His face was drawn into a frown and he folded his arms tight around his chest.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Without smiling I asked, ‘What do you need it for?’ I’d accrued at least 12 hours using my half-hour monthly bonuses. I was saving for a whole day.
He perked up immediately, hopeful. Now he was jittery and talked fast. ‘Oh man, you wouldn’t believe how much you’d be helping me out.’
‘I didn’t say I would, yet. What do you need it for?’ I asked again.
‘Okay, okay.’ He stilled himself. ‘It’s my wife.’ He stopped and looked at me intensely, as though he were trying to decide whether he could trust me or not.
I stepped back a little, as though struck.
His eyes filled with tears as he continued. ‘Early this afternoon. She died in hospital, while I was out working. I couldn’t stop working.’ He was shaking his head, perhaps at the folly of it. He told me he was cutting lawns when his wife finally succumbed to her illness.
‘You can’t NOT work these days. You just won’t be able to eat or buy petrol. I mean, I’m only eating once a day as it is.’
I thought about the half-eaten sandwich shoved down in the bottom of my suitcase, soon to be thrown in the bin.
‘My boss doesn’t hand out any time bonuses. I’ve got nothing extra. All I want is 20 minutes to buy a bunch of flowers and bring them to her before she dies.’ He violently swiped the tears from his cheek. ‘I’ve got the money for the flowers. I got an advance. I just need the time so I can go back to this morning and give them to her. She loved them – daisies. I wanted that to be the last thing she saw.’
He grabbed at my jacket, fierce but not aggressive. Desperate. ‘Come on man. You know you can only borrow for the same day. Withdraw it, and give it to me. Come on. Come on. I’ve been standing here the whole afternoon and all I’ve heard is no, no, no.’ His eyes were wide, his hollowed-out cheeks cast shadows over his mouth.
Without saying a word, I removed his hand, but nodded. He threw his head back in relief.
‘Thank you, man. I mean, you’ll never know how much this means to me.’
We went to the Automatic Time Machine, and I withdrew six hours. ‘Here take it. I don’t have a wife, but if I did, I’m pretty sure 20 minutes would never be enough.’
Again, I stepped back as he lunged forward to hug me, sobbing. I pat his back awkwardly, embarrassed. If it was all bullshit, then this guy was an award-winning actor. Then he turned and faded out, returning to this morning for a bunch of flowers and the last few hours with his wife.