A Scone Named Freckles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Review Chain


A chance meeting in a cafe turns out to be not much of anything, really.

Submitted: August 14, 2018

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Submitted: August 14, 2018

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A Scone Named Freckles

 

by Harris Proctor

 

I was looking out of the corner of my eye at the paunchy bald man inches from my right elbow when I heard her voice.  It cut through the hideous coffee-slurping going on beneath the bald man’s moustache.

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

I did mind, but I had a mouth full of blueberry scone.  It’s quite difficult to chew in silence, sip a double latte quietly, listen to a lunatic and cobble together the gesture for “piss off” at the same time.  I made a sweeping motion at my laptop and scone followed by an authoritative finger point to my headphone.  It was only then, with arched eyebrows that I actually looked at her.  She was beautiful.  Movie star beautiful.  Maybe not enough to launch a thousand ships, but certainly enough to motivate a fleet of ten-speed bicycles.

“Good,” she said corralling her skirt and slipping into the chair across from me.  “I appreciate it.  It’s impossible to find a place to sit in this place.”  She had a macchiato and a chocolate croissant.

I tried not to choke on my mouthful of blueberry scone.  I failed to say anything and merely gestured like a limp orchestra conductor.

“What kind of a scone did you get?” she asked.  She was so forward.  It was intimidating and refreshing at the same time.  I was trying to remember the word for “blueberry” when it occurred to me that she might be this way with everyone.  That’s when the voice on my headphone chimed in.

“Did you say something about a scone?  Is someone else there?”

“Sorry,” I said into my mic.  “That was the television.”

“Wait,” said the voice.  “Are you watching television?”

“No, no, no,” I chuckled compassionately.  “My cat is a trained service animal, but sometimes she inadvertently steps on the remote control.”

“I hate it when things happen inadvertently.  Life seems so cruel and inadvertent sometimes.  Nonsensical.  It can be nonsensical.”

“Tell me more,” I said and silenced my mic.

I looked up at the beauty across from me and held up my scone.  “It’s blueberry.  This place really has the best scones.  Not dry at all.”

“There it is again,” the voice said.  “Again with the scones.”

“Sorry,” I said.  “Down Freckles!  Away from the remote!  Down Freckles!  Bad Freckles!” Most of the café was looking at me. I lowered my voice.  “Please continue.  You were talking about your father.”  I muted my mic for real.

“Yeah,” said the voice as it began to sob.  “I don’t think he ever loved me.”

“Excuse me,” the bald man chimed in.  “Is your scone named Freckles?”

“No,” she said to him while looking at me.  “His imaginary, seeing-eye cat is named Freckles.”  She had a Cheshire grin, like that of an imaginary cat that just ate a canary-flavored scone.

“My cat isn’t imaginary,” I said.  “Her name isn’t Freckles, though.  It’s Persimmon.”

“Then it’s your remote control that’s imaginary?” she asked.  She seemed genuinely interested.

“I suppose.  I don’t own a television.”

“Yes you do,” the bald man said and slurped his coffee.  “Look there on your screen.  You have a tab open for Cab Stand!  That’s a television show.”

“He’s got you there, Pinocchio,” she said.

“Mind your business,” I said to the bald man.  “This isn’t your conversation.  Quit looking at my laptop and go back to your slurp-fest.”

“He’s on a suicide-prevention website,” the bald man said.

“Oh,” she said.  She seemed genuinely concerned.  “Are you hurting?”

“Me?  Lord, no.  I’m great.  I am volunteer.  I mean I do volunteer.  I am an volunteer.  A volunteer.  I volunteer.”

“That’s really cool.  That says a lot about you as a person.”

“Well,” I began, feeling sexy.  I leaned forward, placing a hand on my keyboard and inadvertently un-muting my microphone.  “I am a really good listener.”

“What makes you say that?” the voice in my headphones asked.

“I, uh, just wanted that out there,” I said.

“That’s weird.  And it seems untrue given that I’m talking about walking in on my parents getting uber-freaky.  If you were a good listener, you would have said ‘wow’ or something. ‘Yikes.’  Something like that.”

“I apologize,” I said.  “I was trying to be reassuring.  I meant to say ‘wow.’  And that is super freaky, and it’s no wonder you have struggled when you’ve been so overwhelmed.  Please, keep talking.  It’s ok to get it out.”

“You’re not going to jump in with something weird, are you?” the voice said.

“No, of course not.”

“Is your cat near the remote?”

“My cat is nowhere near the remote.”

“His cat doesn’t exist,” said the bald man.

“No, his remote doesn’t exist,” she corrected him.

“His cat’s name is Persimmon,” the bald man said.

“Yes, and his scone is named Freckles!”

“What is that?” the voice shrieked.  “More scones!”

“Wait a second,” she said as horror washed over her face.  “Is that someone calling for help?  Is that someone on the verge of killing themselves?”

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” said the voice, loud enough for the bald man to hear.

“He said ‘yes.’  The guy in his ear said that.”

“How could you?  You sit here eating a scone and slurping on a coffee while this poor, sick bastard cries for help?”

“He slurps the coffee,” I said pointing at the bald man.

“I’m not a bastard,” said the voice.

“He says he’s not a bastard.  The guy in the ear.”

“That’s right,” she said and thumbed at me.  “He’s the bastard.”

“Okay, wait!”  I yelled.  “Everyone stop for one second!”  The entire café fell silent, save for the sound of the cappuccino machine’s steam wand squealing like a caffeinated banshee.  “Listen.  This building used to be the office of the suicide prevention center.  But then the neighborhood got all hip and the rent skyrocketed.  We couldn’t afford this space, and it got taken over by this coffee shop.  So the center decided to create a virtual office.  Every volunteer works on a laptop.  The first time I came to this café, I was going to let them have it.  Tell them what a bunch of capitalist bandits they were for ruining something as perfect as the center.  Then I smelled the coffee.  And I tasted the scones.  And I hated myself for coming here over and over again, but here I am.  Again.  And I hate myself.  And I spend my free hours listening to miserable voices and hope that I can ease their pain long enough to keep them from making a horrible mistake.”

“Why didn’t you say so when I sat down?” she asked.

“I tried to, but my mouth was full.”

“Plus he likes you,” said the bald guy.

“Hey, I’m still here,” said the voice.

“I am too,” I said.  I looked deep into her eyes.

“I just needed a place to sit,” she said.She rose from her seat.  “Good luck with everything.”

“May I call you sometime?” I asked.

“No.”

“Will I see you here again?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“What’s going on?” the voice yelled.

“She’s leaving,” the bald man said.

“Goodbye,” I said.

“Goodbye,” she said.  She hesitated and then leaned in.  “You should know.  Your headphones aren’t plugged in.”

I looked down and saw the jack sprawled across my lap.  I picked up the cord and watched it dangle.  Limp.  Like a bad hypnotist’s watch.

“I think I’ll go too,” said the voice.  “I’m feeling much better.”

“Good,” I said.  “Happy to hear it.”  I closed my laptop and placed my headphones on the table.  The bald man slurped his coffee.

“Hey,” he said.  “I’m still here.”

I nodded.

“Good,” I said.  “That’s good.”

 

The End


© Copyright 2018 Harris Proctor. All rights reserved.

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