Wednesday 24 August 2016

Strange Habits

Strange Habits

Jenny Palmer

Sweet Coffee

There was a dog guarding the door. It was a mongrel sort of thing. It looked harmless enough. Should she pat it and run the risk of having her hand snapped off? If only it would stand aside and let her in. For in was where she had to get. She must have her early morning coffee. She would be hopeless without it.
            A man suddenly appeared at the door. The dog owner no doubt. He ushered the dog away so that she could get past it.
‘What a wonderful guard dog it makes,’ she said. It was always best to be complimentary with dog owners.  She preferred cats herself. You didn’t have to do much with them, except feed them. And they would sleep on your feet at night. Keep your toes warm.
            She ordered her usual. A cup of coffee, to start with. Then she would see. She might have a slice of toast with marmalade on it. They did that here. They did lots of things here. Marmalade. Marmite. Whatever you wanted all served immaculately with plastic gloves. She didn’t know why they had to be quite so meticulous about it all. It set your mind wandering, made you wonder about all sorts of ghastly diseases.
            There were four tables in the place. Two of them were occupied. One was free. She could have sat on that table but the girl had smiled at her. It would be nice to have a bit of company. The girl was dressed in a woolly tartan coat and was wearing a hat and gloves.
‘Cold weather we’re having,’ she said, by way of an opening gambit. ‘I hope it isn’t going to snow.’ She found she was always cold these days, something to do with not having much flesh on her bones.
Snow isn’t expected,’ the girl said.
She could have sworn it was going to snow. It certainly felt cold enough.
The coffee needed sugar. There was a container full of condiments on the table. Which was salt and which was sugar? It was so easy to get them wrong. In the old days, she’d had perfect vision.  She used to be able to spot the number of a bus from miles away.
The girl handed her a sachet. Fancy putting sugar in a sachet. It meant you got less and she would have to use at least four of them, to make the coffee palatable.  The other two containers were salt and pepper. You had to check everything these days. Double check.
The trouble with this cold weather was it made your nose drip and she’d forgotten her tissues. She would have to use her gloves. It couldn’t be helped. The girl was staring at her now. Which would you prefer – a dripping nose or me using my gloves? she wanted to say. There’s no law against it, as far as I know. But it was no good antagonising people. It only made matters worse.
The girl was on her way to work.  Friday was her favourite day because it was nearly the weekend.  Funny. She could have sworn it was Sunday. When you were retired every day was Sunday. That was the glory of it.
The morning had been a rush. She’d hardly had time to get dressed. In the end she’d gone for the pink hat, to match the grey coat. And lipstick. You couldn’t go out without your lipstick. Some people were colour blind. They mixed orange with pink. She’d chosen a ruby lipstick to go with the pink hat. She’d learnt these fashion tips when she was on the stage.
The lipstick would remind her of Jim. Jim, her heartthrob, her lover, her husband, her deceased husband. She had been wearing ruby lipstick it when they first got together.  She remembered it clear as day.  It had been a Sunday like today. They’d both stayed on after the rehearsal and he’d asked her to go for a drink. He worked backstage. He’d admired her from afar but never had the nerve to ask her before. It had been Sunday too when Jim had proposed in that pub at the back of the Lyceum, the night before her debut. Sunday was her lucky day.
Was it the ruby lips he had fallen for, or her acting talent? She’d never been sure. She’d accepted of course.  At the end of the season they’d got married and that had been it - the beginning of a happy marriage and the end of her acting career. After the children had left home she’d never returned to the stage. She’d lost the knack. And she couldn’t leave him by then. He’d needed round-the-clock care.
They’d had a good life.  It was just a pity that Jim had passed away first, that was all.  She missed him. She had to get out of the house. It was worst in the mornings.
This café was a godsend. It was very good for breakfast. And they didn’t mind how long you stayed there. There was another cafe for afternoon tea. It was further down the High Street. That one was altogether different. You had to be feeling pretty sound for that one. It really made you appreciate your stage training when you went in there. It was lively. You had to put on a good show.
The girl was saying goodbye. Why on earth was she going to work on a Sunday? Some people had strange habits. It was better not to interfere though.
‘Bye. See you next Sunday, dear,’ she called out.

About The Author
Jenny Palmer has self-published two memoirs and a family history book and is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Published 24 August 2016

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Twisted Heart

Twisted Heart

Peter Sandling

Hot Water

I thought I’d lost her at one point through the market but spot her entering the local tube station. I run across the road. I know the trains go north and south so she only has two ways to escape. As I reach the middle of the stairs I see her. The woman who has destroyed my life. I instinctively move my right hand to touch the scald scar on my left cheek. Being drawn in completely by her beauty had negated any caution in me with only regret and anger left to fester. This trauma and evil needs to be exorcised. She needs to be punished. 

I see her brush her long auburn hair back with her hand in a casual playful manner. I try unsuccessfully to blot out the vision of her naked, tanned, slim figure sitting astride my body making me shudder with pleasure. Her cries and gasps of breath as she called out my name in passion still causes lines of perspiration to trickle inside my shirt collar.
            What a fool I’ve been. Manipulated and stripped of everything. It had all been deliberate, pre-planned, cynical. Not only had she taken what was mine but unbeknown to me my sister’s inheritance, using her as she had me. How many others had fallen foul of this degenerate. To think I loved her so much. When I angrily confronted her she responded by throwing boiling water in my face. 

The tube station is full. I slowly work my way towards her. She stands in front of me, her toes protruding over the yellow safety line. I can do this. I have no thought of the future, my life is over. I look at the nape of her slender neck and see the small rose tattoo. One little push and the wait will be over. The train is entering the station, it’s now or never. If I lose her on the train or in the crowd I may never fulfil my revenge. I move my shaking hands instinctively towards the middle of her back. I see the driver at the front of the train as it rushes towards us. Suddenly she turns and I look into those beautiful brown eyes.
            “Hello Lewis, not today,” she says and moves past me. I think about following her but the knife she’s pushed into my stomach causes me to collapse to the floor. I watch her moving through the crowd and hear somebody scream as my vision darkens.

About the Author

Peter is a short story writer and a poet who runs one of the writing groups on Canvey Island and is an active member of another. He likes to try out different styles and recently has been experimenting with different voices.

Published 17 August 2016 

Monday 8 August 2016

100 Worder: That FridayNight

100 Worder: That FridayNight

Roger Noons

Just plain Orange Juice

A unique cabaret, just after ten o’ clock on that warm summer’s night. All the street came out and the pubs emptied early after a Midland Red bus became wedged beneath the railway bridge, just yards from Cradley Station.
            ‘Novice driver, mustn’t know the route.’
            ‘Careered past my window.’
            ‘Is anybody hurt?’
            ‘The driver’s run away.’
            Sergeant Bills rubbed all his chins, wondering what to do.
            Behind No. 20 Cokeland Place, William Clift, no bus driver, but a chain maker by trade, didn’t even have a licence, was counting out ten shilling notes.
            He enjoyed a wager did Uncle Bill.

About the Author
Roger Noons contributes regularly to the CafeLit site and his stories have been published in the Best of series (all to date) including having one chosen again for the next anthology due for publication in November 2016.

Published August 08 2016