coffeeshop fragment #1

“So, how’s it.”

She looked at him hunched forward in the seat, forearms on the counter. He hadn’t taken his coat off and it was bunched up around his upper arms.

“Eh hey. It goes, yeah.”

“You’ve been better.”

He heaved himself back against the stool back and looked up at the ceiling tiles.

“It’s like, it’s like everything else. I got some stuff going on. I have to get my stuff together.”

“You and everybody else.”

She walked along the counter straightening bottles: ketchup against mustard, salt against pepper. She replaced an empty bottle of Tabasco and tossed the empty in her left hand a few times, and hefted it, reflectively and slowly.

“You always have some girl you’re after. That’s what this is, right?”

“Well sure.”

“So she doesn’t like you? Or what.”

“I quote: emotionally or otherwise unavailable. What she says she is. Her deal, her explanation.”

The waitress backed up in mid step, setting down the ketchup to lift a plate from the cook’s hand and slide it down a few spots.

“Chicken-fried steak, mash potato, what else can I get you huh? Okay, you just holler.”

Turning back to him, left hand on her cheek:

“So that just means no? Or what does that mean.”

“I am not the authority, ma’am. That’s her words and then basically we didn’t talk any more that night.”

“I’ve never said that to anyone. I’m available or I ain’t, or I don’t like you.”

He picked the coffee cup in both hands and rolled it back and forth, and didn’t talk for a minute or so. Up above the tiles, somewhere, there was Boz Scaggs going on.

“People get into the psychology talk when they don’t want you and they don’t know why,” he said. “If you’re going to let someone down easy? You know? Like the nice way. You just use a little psychology talk.”

“Sure. I’m not into psychology, though. It’s just talking for money. You want a warm up.”


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