Howard writes most of what appears in this blog about Agincourt. After all, he lives there; I don’t. But now and then he doesn’t mind a mouse in the corner.
A sixty second romance
Marge opened the Koffee Kup at eight that morning, a sleepy Saturday shift that should have ended two hours ago. But her replacement, Brenda, was late; waiting for a babysitter, trapped at her farm when the storm last night washed out some county roads. Maybe the sitter should take her shift! Until then, Marge is on overtime.
The lunch crowd was average—for a Saturday in October—a handful of regulars, a few new faces, a couple of travellers who had asked specifically for the rhubarb pie they’d heard about from friends. But by four, the “long, dark tea-time of the soul” had set in; Marge and her two customers were each lost in private thought.
The most recent arrival had taken his glasses off at the door, fogged from the cold, and felt his way to the counter, perched on a stool and buried his head in the menu. It was only when Marge had taken his order and stepped back to the kitchen that he noticed someone sitting on the other side of the “U”: another guy, buried in a book, lazily stirring a cup of something warm. He wondered: Isn’t that what’s-his-name’s new book, the guy who was born in Spain but lived most of his adult life in Columbia or Argentina, where he got jailed for insurrection—one of the friggin’ ‘disappeared” or “invisibles” or I don’t know—but they must have starved him, ’cause there was a picture in Time and a feature on CBS ‘Sunday Morning’ when international pressure forced his release and he’d lost fifty pounds, for krisake, and then he died six months later, when a lot of his work got translated into English for the first time and now he sells more books than when he was alive, so it doesn’t surprise me to see a copy in here, of all places; and this guy’s really into it, isn’t he, kinda cute too, a little like my old college roommate, only older, of course, and a little taller, I think, but won’t be able to tell unless he goes to the rest room or leaves, which I hope he doesn’t do soon, until I’ve had a chance to say ‘hello’ at least and maybe introduce myself, ’cause he’s not from around here, maybe just passing through (dammit) unless he’s new in town, which would be fantastic, ’cause I could show him around and introduce him to some of my friends and get to know one another. But all he could find the strength to say was “Good book?”
At the other side of the counter, the guy looked up, surprised that someone else had come into the restaurant—so engrossed in this new book—grinned and answered “Really good! Do you know Nuñez? He’s fantastic or at least his translator is,” and thought, Nice smile.
Half an hour later, Brenda arrived cold and breathless, but the restaurant was empty. The two guys had walked out together, wrapped in conversation about some Mexican author.