Become a Fan
By Ian D Gilmour
Friday, January 05, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
A piece that explores the comic possiblities of diversity in a cafe' one night.
Outside the light above the door flickered and buzzed, threatening to be extinguished at any moment. A moth circled and weaved about it in darting motions occasionally hitting and deflecting away to return to its random flight pattern. A thrush in a nearby tree watched with astonishment. It was long past the time that it should have had its head tucked well and truly under its wing but how could anything sleep when such a drama was about to unfold? Would the moth finally give in to the overwhelming temptation to rest on the bulb and be burned alive or would the bulb self-destruct first? It was fascinating and the thrush knew there would be no sleep until the drama had run its course.
Inside the smoke floated like a haze above the cliental. A guitarist fought to be noticed above the hum and sweat ran down his back as the heat of the fire beat on his back, the flames doing their best to encourage him to take five, have a drink, go home early and leave everyone alone.
"You're hurting them," the flames would call.
"Leave them to deal with it themselves. Who said you could help them? You're only making it worse for those who can be bothered listening."
"Shut up you fool," he would retort through his strings. "I'm to be their saviour. I know them better than they know themselves. If they would only listen they would know and everything would be right. They must be given the chance to hear. They can't do it on their own."
"It's not them who need saving is it? Without them you are waste. Fifteen years learning to talk with your fingers but they don't speak the language. You didn't realise that you needed them when you started and now you won't believe what you've discovered to be true . You can't do it on your own. You need them .... Hard luck."
"I told you to shut up." He stopped in the middle of his melody and put the fire screen across. It would have to shout to taunt him now.
"That bloody guitarist has stopped in the middle of something again," the owner sneered to his waitress. “I’ll flaming sack him if he doesn't wake up and do what he's paid to do."
"You haven't been paying him for two weeks anyway.”
"No, I suspended him. He's on probation."
"Why the hell does he still come?"
The owner tapped his fingers on the counter and licked the corner of his mouth. He picked up a spoon and began manually filling a sugar bowl, spoonful by spoonful, out of a fug bowl. Each time he carried the spoon across he dropped half the contents on the counter. The waitress knew better than to notice any strange behaviours in the man who paid the wages. You could be suspended for that.
"Why the hell does he come indeed?" continued the owner. "Because I let him. Because nowhere else would have him anyway. Because he's out to get me."
"Bullshit!" thought the waitress. "Really?" said the waitress.
"Really. Oh yes. He says he comes for them but I know. He's no missionary. He wants me. He’s not the only one either. "
The owner started to pan the café with his eyes, taking in the faces of the customers. He stopped when he reached the face of the young waitress next to him. She held his stare only briefly then, with well concealed anxiety, averted her eyes and clutching cloth began to wipe the counter earnestly. In doing so she accidentally cleaned up the mess that he had made with the sugar. Realising what she had done she contemplated sprinkling fresh sugar on the now clean counter. She decided that would be too obvious. She'd try and pretend she hadn't done it.
"They're out to get me too," he continued. She breathed an internal sigh of relief. He hadn't noticed. Her crisis was over. She gathered herself.
"Who? The customers? They love you. They love it here. That's why they come."
"They love here more than they love me and there lies the problem. It's the regulars we have to watch. They've become too attached. I know what they're planning. One of them is going to fall on those stairs. There'll be a court case. I'll lose and they'll bankrupt me. Then it'll all be theirs." The waitress nodded sympathetically.
From behind her the owner's son put his head through from the kitchen. He was the chef and he had blue hair.
"Is he rambling again? What is it this time? Rude old ladies blocking the door?"
The waitress leaned back to the chef with blue hair and whispered in his ear.
"Conspiracy to take over the business."
"Not by me Dad," he said to the owner. "I don't want to take over."
"Not you. The customers," he answered. "Haven't you noticed the same ones showing up? Every night it's the same. A few faces from the night before and then new ones too. They're building a power base."
"What have you been smoking Dad?"
"Nothing. If anything it's the coffee. They've got to the coffee. "
"You don't drink the coffee!"
The owner turned and looked at his blue haired son and tapped his finger against his nose.
"Exactly. See how strong it must be?"
Three men and a woman sat at a table in the far corner under the shadow of the mezzanine floor. They each held a fist full of cards, neatly fanned out in traditional fashion. They stared intently at the cards in front of them. All had puzzled looks but one.
"Ronald, I can't see the sense in poker with the cards round the wrong way," the woman complained. "I know we said we wanted to see the world from a different perspective but this is bloody stupid."
"Georgina, you're letting convention and years of social conditioning get in the way of a far greater prize."
"And what was that far greater prize Ron?" one of the others asked. "Just to clarify things again."
Ronald rolled his eyes in an over dramatic gesture. He placed his cards face up on the table so that the others couldn't see the back of them and began to count on his fingers the key aims of their creed.
"First and foremost freedom from everything that has been forced on us as children. Concepts of normality, accepted codes of behaviour, fear of being radically different and so forth. Secondly, to capture the spirit of exploration. To conquer the greatest frontier of all, the mind and finally..." He paused for effect then his eyes narrowed as he delivered his final point. "Sexual freedom."
Georgina dropped her cards on the table and put her face in her hands.
"Oh God, 1 knew it."
"Georgina we can all see the back of your cards," Ronald protested. "We'll have to deal again."
"I don't remember the sexual freedom bit Ron," said one of the others. "When did that come in?"
"When you and I started going out I imagine," said Georgina before Ronald could answer.
"That's a typical distortion of the facts Georgina," he protested. "It's an example of just the type of conditioning I've been talking about. You've been conditioned to think more into what I've just said than what was really meant."
"What do you mean then Ron?" asked Georgina's boyfriend, not at all aggressively but with genuine curiosity.
"As we become more aware of our conditioning..." Ronald proceeded to explain cautiously, "...and as we become more able to suppress that conditioning..." He was struggling to make this explanation flow, "...we will ... appreciate more fully ... just what I meant."
He stopped and looked the others in the eyes one by one to assess the success of his reasoning. There was an awkward pause while the two men appeared to be digesting the facts.
"Well that seems reasonable," said one.
"Yes, quite. Now how do we play this game?" said the other.
"Unbelievable!" said Georgina,
A couple seated themselves at a small table in the middle of the café. He was blonde, rugged looking and appeared slightly awkward in his jacket and tie. He clearly didn't feel awkward. He held an expression that betrayed a certain air of confidence. He was clearly amused by the unfamiliar surroundings about him and didn't hide his fascination. He looked right around the café, twisting in his seat to take it all in. The woman was obviously ill-at-ease. She sat very rigidly in her seat and looked nowhere for the time being but at her partner across the table. Her face was tight with the discomfort of the situation.
"Oh, let's go darling. I know this was a bad idea. We should have stayed home and had a night with the telly. "
Her voice was hushed and he didn’t hear her. He was still spinning wildly on his chair taking in the sights. "Darling!"
"This place, it's a mistake. It's for students not for us.”
"Nonsense darling. It's fabulous. Nobody here cares who we are." He continued to look around. "There's some really interesting people in the world aren't there?"
The woman shifted on her seat then leaned across to speak to the man in an even lower voice so as not to be beard by the next table.
"Didn't you find that episode at the counter strange?"
"What? The confusion over the type of coffee we wanted?"
"Not just that. Did you see how he reacted when I asked him if the stairs were hard to tackle with a full tray?"
"Well yes, I must admit he did freeze up a little but he's probably been working all day. I think he's the manager or something. Probably got a lot to worry about. Besides, it's that sort of bloke that helps give a place like this its character. "
"Character? Is that what it is? I suppose the dreadful guitarist is character too?"
The man turned and watched the guitarist for a moment. The guitarist noticed this straight away and smiled
frantically at his potential appreciative audience. The couple smiled nervously back, the woman now wishing she'd never mentioned it. The volume of his playing rose noticeably and it was apparent that he was now playing especially to them. The man smiled foolishly while the woman, too embarrassed to look away, tried to smile too but the corner of her mouth began to twitch uncontrollably. She brushed her face in a panic to try and stop the contortions but it only made it worse. They were both saved from the ordeal when the waitress tried to put another log on the fire and the guitarist protested violently, letting his guitar crash to the floor and leaving it resonating chaotically as he engaged the waitress in a fight over the fire screen.
"My goodness, look over there." The man was now distracted by the card game at the far table. The woman turned around almost with dread at what she might see. She was relieved to discover what appeared to be nothing alarming.
"A card game. Very nice."
"Yes but look."
"What? Oh my lord. They're mad too. Let's leave.
"No, we can’t yet. We haven't had our coffee."
The woman became tight lipped and braced herself in her seat yet again. They sat for a moment without saying anything. The sound of the guitar could be heard faintly behind the general chatter again and the odd noise from the kitchen also. Suddenly the woman's attention was caught by a mirror high above the kitchen. Without further hesitation she was on her feet and hurriedly collecting her coat off the back of her chair.
"That's it. I'm going, coffee or not."
"What's the matter now?"
"Look!" she almost screamed, pointing at the reflection in the mirror. "The chef has blue hair."
"How many cards do you want Georgina?"
"How should I know? Whether I take one, two or five it doesn't make a difference to what I've got. The backs are all the same."
"But that's just it. It does make a difference. Only you can say how many cards you want. Only you need to know why you chose that many. That's the whole point." Georgina looked at Ronald in disbelief at the case with which he was able to justify his ridiculous game. Then she looked to her boyfriend who was studying his cards intently.
"What do you think about all of this?" she asked. He looked up as if he had only just noticed she was there.
"Oh, I think I’ll take three cards."
"Three cards? That's what you think about this is it?"
"Yeh. I'm pretty sure. Three."
"Great" Resignation was clearly in her voice. "Give him three and I'll stick with what I've got."
"Wow! You must have a great hand," said Ronald with genuine admiration.
"Fabulous," she said. "Absolutely stunning."
There was confusion in the kitchen. The owner came through the door holding a tray of coffee and muffins.
"It's just as I thought. That woman who asked about the stairs. She's gone and she didn't waited for the order."
His son with the blue hair turned away from a hot grill just as the flame burst into life around a pan. He looked at his father with suspicion.
"Have you scared off some customers?"
"Do you think I wanted them to leave? If there's one thing I know it's that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer... or something like that anyway. The best place for them is here where I could keep an eye on them, learn of their evil intentions and thwart them."
"Have you been drinking?" asked the blue haired son.
"No. I haven’t touched a drop since your mother left me. You know that."
"That's a pity. I wish you would. I could explain you more easily then."
The owner looked sternly at his blue haired son then shook his head.
"No. You don’t mean it," he concluded.
The door to the kitchen burst open and the waitress burst in. She was looking a little hot under the collar and dropped the empty tray she was carrying on the bench knocking a glass into the sink and breaking it. She didn't seem to care too much about the glass.
"That's it. There's only so much I have to put up with. I've just been told by a clown playing cards backwards that I am sexually repressed as a result of years of social control and that he was willing to show me the freedom he had discovered... for no charge. "
The blue haired chef burst out laughing and hugged his sides as he sank to the floor.
"What does he mean free of charge?" said the owner. "Has he started a business in my café?"
"Yep. This is it," laughed his blue haired son. "The revolution of the smooth operators. What a great line."
"That's the scary thing," said the waitress. "I don't think it was a line. He meant it."
"I'll fix the bloody little entrepreneur," snapped the owner. "Nobody starts a business in my café right under my nose and doesn't agree terms with me first."
"I think you're missing the point Dad."
"You don't need to worry anyway," said the waitress, jumping in to stop the owner charging out and starting a riot. "The woman that was with them flew off the handle at the lot of them. She chased them out swinging and kicking the whole way."
"I wonder why she did that?" said the owner with suspicion in his voice. As blue haired son, who had recovered to his feet again, looked at his father with a blank expression then turned back to the grill shaking his head. The waitress began to pick up the pieces of broken glass and tidy the bench. The owner just stood there looking off into nowhere.
"I wonder why?"
The light flickered and danced, one moment dim then instantly brilliant again. The moth continued to pound the glass bulb but never landed on it. The thrush watched without distraction, positive that at any moment his vigil would end with either death or the end of illumination. The moth darted across the light once more. The thrush held its breath. He wouldn't sleep tonight. The moth hovered above the light once more and time stood still. The waitress turned out the light, locked the door behind her and walked off down the street.
"Bugger!" thought the thrush.
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