Sunday, 16 July 2017

In the Café
by Sherri Turner

He was talking to himself. Or, rather, he was talking to someone who wasn’t there.
Every now and then he laughed, or raised his eyebrows, or made some other acknowledgement of a silent comment. When his coffee was finished he stood to leave, leaned forward, whispered into an invisible ear.
The next day he returned and did the same. Every day for a week he was there.
On the last day he looked over to where I stood behind the counter, mouthed ‘goodbye’ and I never saw him again.
Until today, that is. The café is still here – I suppose it had to be – though it is more egg and chips than coffee and cakes now, not as posh as when I worked here.
He enters and looks around for an empty seat. I call him over to my table and he raises his eyebrows in query.
“Do I know you?” he asks.
“Not yet,” I say. I don’t try to explain. We have all week for that. Not that I can explain, not really.
He sits down and smiles.
“The chips look good,” he says, “but I think I’ll have a coffee.”
Just as well, as there are no chips on his menu.
He is a good talker, a good listener, too. I kind of understand why he is here, just not how.
When his coffee is finished he leans forward and whispers into my ear.
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I reply.
I ignore the people in the café who think I am talking to myself.

* * ** *
"In the Café" was originally published in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2015 A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed.