Coffee Tongue

Note: This is just a bit of fiction I wrote to test the waters. Flex some long-dormant muscles. It could be part of a novel but I haven’t decided if I want this scene in it or where it should go. At first I was thinking this would be the opening few paragraphs but I don’t think it’s strong enough for that. But since it stands enough on its own to be a vignette, I thought I’d share it with you.

The scrawny man stared at Jack over the silver rims of his glasses. Wispy hair flared in all directions from his head. He wore some kind of charm in a small leather pouch around his neck. It was black with age and grime. Jack looked back up to the man’s face and the grim straight line of his mouth.

“Well?” said the man. Jack blinked.

“I’m sorry, what?” said Jack.

“Psyllium husk,” said the man, “in bulk.”

Jack wordlessly guided the man to the correct bulk bin in the bulk section of the Green Gourmet, the natural food store where he was a shift manager. Jack bowed and flourished towards the bulk bin, a pantomime of sarcasm which could make the guy get even more huffy but he seemed like the type to not pick up on such things. Too much of a straight man. Jack turned away from the man and pushed up his own glasses with his middle finger as he walked away. Fuck you, buddy. Later, he would wish he could’ve thought of a joke to make about psyllium husk and bulk.

The rest of the shift dragged on. It wasn’t that Jack didn’t believe in natural food. Seems one could hardly argue against it. But why did natural food fanatics have to be such insufferable assholes? Weed not mellowing them out enough?

He made his way over to the coffee station to grab another cup. Marjorie, a cashier, appeared beside him and pulled a cup from the stack. She pushed her glasses higher up the bridge of her stubby little nose with her thumb and forefinger and brushed her over-dyed red hair away from her round moon face. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw her glance his way twice while he added way too much cream and sugar to his coffee.

“Hey, Jack,” she said.

“Hey,” said Jack.

“Wanna do something later?”

What? She can’t be serious.

“Ah, no, I have plans already,” he said. He tried to get a lid for his coffee but of course he came away with small stack of them all stuck to each other. Now he had to pry apart the stupid things while trying to figure out what to say to her next, inevitable question.

“Okay, maybe some other time, then,” she said, a little too nicely and turned to walk away.

“I just—I don’t go out with coworkers. It’s a… personal rule of mine,” he said, grimacing slightly to indicate to her how much he hated to have to say it, but there you go. You know how it is.

She blinked and Jack thought he could almost hear the gears shifting in her head. “Oh,” she said, “Okay,” and she glided away, looking into the distance as if she could see the horizon through the walls of the Green Gourmet. Jack took a sip of his coffee and burned his tongue.

Great. Now he was going to have fuzzy coffee tongue all night. He ran his fingers through his long hair as he plucked his closing shift checklist clipboard from its hook on the wall outside the office. A pen taped to a length of string dangled from it and bounced off his leg.

If he told her the truth, she wouldn’t want to go out with him, anyway. It’s not like he really had to lie. Well, he wasn’t really lying. He did have plans. Except most people wouldn’t consider logging into an online game and playing it all night “plans” anymore than if he might say he was going to stay in and watch television.

But it was more than that, even. Because she might be on.

photo credit: david_shankbone via photopin cc

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