That Morning

Contributed by on 06/09/08

The fat old man sat at the table, idly watching the patrons of the small coffee shop as they entered, ordered, consumed their fare, and exited.

He was a regular patron, always arriving around ten in the morning; always staying about ninety minutes. The waitresses – for it was a coffee shop that held to the old traditions, despite only having been in business for twenty years – liked the old man. He tipped well, for one thing. And given their location, and the type of clientele that frequented that area of the city, he was polite. Never obsequious nor affected; merely… polite.

He washed as well.

This set him apart from many of the other customers, some of whom seemed to view personal hygiene as an optional extra during this portion of their lives. Not the old man, though. Every morning, he’d… arrive. None of the waitresses, had they thought about it, ever remembered him walking into the coffee shop. Nor, had they been asked, and correctly recalled, had any of them seen him leave. Oh, they could remember him pushing his chair back, recall him patting his right trouser pocket and the brief smile every day as he discovered enough change to pay for the toasted rye bread and the cups of tea he’d ordered and duly consumed. They would enjoy the moment as he found he had just enough change to leave a generous, though not overgenerous, gratuity. He always had just enough change. And as they moved towards the counter to pick up one of the pink and grey towels to clean the table, they would ask themselves why every customer wasn’t like the fat old man.

That morning, the fat old man had been sat at his table (he always thought of it as his table) for a little over an hour, enjoying the flow of people. Business had been slow in the coffee shop, but in the primary reason for his being there, the red painted wooden fronted store with the garish yellow sign across the road, trade was brisk. And with every purchase made, the old man shuddered almost invisibly. As every patron entered, he smiled. As every customer left, he smiled. Not quite as widely. But he smiled nonetheless.

The door to the coffee shop opened and a shadow fell over the old man and his table. He knew who had entered without looking up. And he frowned. No one could have detected the frown, but then he had perfected the art of invisible expression when he had been young, when none of those present (apart from the newcomer) had known him. And even had they known him, it was unlikely that they would have recognised him in the dowdy suit that had seen better days, and the faded brown overcoat.

Then the shadows moved, and the newcomer followed them. A large man, in that way that mountains have of being large, walked to the old man’s table and without waiting to be asked, sat.

They smiled, genuinely pleased to see each other again, though equally concerned at what point the other might lift a weapon or in some other way indicate unhappiness.

It could be argued that gods rarely spend time in coffee shops; it is an argument one would lose. And whether that is because of the nature of gods or the nature of coffee shops is a hypothesis best not considered.

But as the patrons filed in and out of both the coffee shop and the sex shop, the Greek god of pleasure and the Roman god of war discussed demarcation.

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