Desperation smells like a coffee shop at 3 am. It’s raining so there’s a hint of anxiety as well. The rhinoceros at the end of the counter nearest the register sits there every night now, calm like a bomb, nursing his black cup of sleeplessness and staring straight ahead. He’s a homeless vet; the only evidence that betrays him are a pair of thick lens BCDs, worn out surplus boots, and the same old mustard colored corduroy jacket he never takes off. He doesn’t tip, but it’s not expected.
In the back office, behind the kitchen and walk-in fridge, the night manager is a greedy goblin; doing the books; counting pennies. He rarely makes an appearance, but a corporate suit spent the day here so it’s only a matter of time before he makes his rounds.
Booths along the front window are empty until the club dregs float in hoping to sop up the beer and alcohol with stacks of pancakes. Some want cheeseburgers, others hot fudge. It’s obvious there’s something missing. The laughter has an edge. They place orders without saying please. Eat. Leave. Some don’t tip.
Is it too much to ask for some fucking change?
As the dregs roll out, the goblin skulks out to man the register. With a scowl he nods towards tables that need clearing. He canned the busboy weeks ago after the last suit visited and there’s no telling who’ll fall under the axe this go round.
Someone has to wait.
Someone has to cook.
Someone has to count.
Someone used to clean.
The rhinoceros knows this. He uses a single cup. No milk. No sugar. No spoon.
Robb Dunn enjoys unraveling life’s mysteries thread by fragile thread, then reweaving these into odd bits of fact and fiction. Sometimes the line gets blurred. Find other fragments clinging to the web at such places as Unbroken and freeze frame fiction.