Table Scraps

 

“Morning Cathy,” Patrick mumbled as he walked through the glass door.
Cathy looked up, smiling.
“Usual coffee and muffin Pat?” 
“Just a coffee thanks Cath, I’m not all that hungry today.”

Patrick hauled himself up the creaking staircase. Reaching the top he stopped and pondered his daily dilemma - where to sit. The room was always the same.  A mix of city grime and smoke gave the walls a greyish hue. The paint below the air-conditioner was peeling off in strips like the after effects of bad sunburn. Two medium size windows at the back were closed, the sun’s entry restricted by roughly hung and threadbare drapes in cream and maroon. Six round laminated tables were scattered about, each with identical burnt orange seats that looked like the 1970’s love child of a beanbag and an office chair; they were neither comfortable nor functional. Yellow fluorescent lighting made the room perpetually late afternoon, but the coffee was good; Cathy really knew how to make a proper cup and that made all the difference.

With a sigh, he headed for his usual table. No point in pretending he would change. Trudging over the scuffed floorboards he thought about the latest rejection: “Nice work Patrick, just not enough drama in it for us…”

A bump from behind startled him, spilling some coffee.  A scruffy man in stained overalls pushed past and plonked himself in the seat Patrick was almost at.

Patrick looked down incredulous. A puddle of coffee on the floor was bad enough, but his suede shoes were splashed as well. A hot flush began to creep up his neck.

“Hey! I was about to sit there,” Patrick tried to speak with some authority, “and look at my shoes, you idiot.”
An unshaven, weather-beaten face looked up at him.
“Well, you should have gotten out of the way.”
As his shoulders tightened Patrick ignored the voice inside telling him to stop.
“You pushed past me, buddy, show some damn respect.”
“Get over it,” said the man, putting up his newspaper.
Patrick’s face burned red and hot.
“I will get over it, as soon as you get the hell out of my spot and get me another coffee.”
The man looked over his paper and fixed him with a stare.
“Buddy, you were not sitting here, so piss off and find another seat.”

The man’s building site appearance should have sent out a warning, but in Patrick’s wide eyes all he saw was another injustice.

He took a step towards the man, this was his coffee shop and that was his table.
“Who the hell do you think you are, you spilt my coffee and took my spot, now bloody well get up before I make you.” 
Patrick banged the remaining half of his coffee on the empty table next to him, spilling what was left. The man stood up and angrily threw down his newspaper. Patrick realized he was not standing to give up his seat. Words were not going to solve this now. The man bared his nicotine stained teeth and Patrick took a reflexive step back.

“You’re going to regret the day you were born,” the man hissed.

Backing away, Patrick started to sweat but his mouth was bone dry. He was in way over his head. This guy was much bigger than him and the ham size fists he had at the end of those muscle bound arms spoke clearly of an ability Patrick was sadly lacking. He watched in horror as the man came charging towards him.
Patrick threw up his hands and turned his head. His eyes screwed firmly shut. His stomach twisted in a knot, waiting for the blow. Instead, there was a crack and a sickening thud.

Cathy burst into the room. Patrick stood there as white as the walls should have been, arms still half raised in shock.
“What happened Patrick?” She cried as she grabbed a handful of serviettes and pressed them to the large cut above the man’s eye.
 “The bloke slipped on a puddle of coffee,” he stammered, “I was just about to see how he was.”
Avoiding Cathy’s stare, Patrick tried to at least sound concerned.
“Best I call an ambulance, poor fellow is out for the count.”

Patrick sat in the uncomfortable chair, laptop open on his table.  Cathy had mopped up the coffee and blood; just a small strip of bandage left by the paramedics gave any indication of the mornings events.  A tingling sensation and slight breathlessness persisted as he tried to compose himself.

With a fresh coffee to calm his trembling fingers, Patrick began to type:
“Group Captain Alex Mitchell strode into the Golden Tulip Bar. The German spy, von Richter, was sitting provocatively at Alex’s usual table; there was going to be trouble in Casablanca tonight…”

 

Tim Connolly

 

 
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