A place for reading and waiting

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A place for reading and waiting

Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

30 Aug 2013, 11:03 #1

Miller’s bar was one of the best places in the East Side. In the bad neighbourhood of Bishop City, there had to be better and worse places too. Everything in the world was relative, good and bad alike. The establishment, always full of people of various kinds, not only East Siders, had an obvious and well enforced policy forbidding weapons of any kind. This, and a few other details, made it a good place for a man from the neighbourhood to meet a woman for a drink… and a few informations which wouldn’t appear in the press in the form they had been given, if said woman happened to be nobody else than Emily Reid from “Bishop City Herald”.

For Emily, the newspaper has been her whole life lately, as it was a quieter environment than her own home. No more squabbles with her overbearing mother, no more hearing her neverending complaints… So, any opportunity to dig for an interesting article was to be warmly received. This was exactly why this late afternoon she was entering the bar, looking for a place to sit.

She was coming directly from having met an editor, and she had received, as a present from the publishing house, a little book with quotes from Shakespeare’s 37 plays, with… insults of all kind. The book seemed to be a hit. Emily was glad to have received it, and as soon as she found a place to sit, she started browsing it, while waiting for the man. She knew she had arrived a bit earlier.

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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 15:22

30 Aug 2013, 13:09 #2

Officially, he was working, assisting today's bartender as an extra set of hands. But for the better part of an hour, he'd been deeply immersed in a game of cards with one of the oldest patron, an older docks worker he'd known since childhood. It was easy, calm, quiet, normal; Snake hardly ever slithered his way into this establishment. Here he was Michael - to his present company, he was Mikey - and on those occasions where he managed to sustain the part, it was truly comfortable.

The head bartender couldn't be happier about the current arrangement; Michael's brand of "service" usually involved a few blackened eyes and broken noses, a mess he never cleaned up himself. Today, the bar was calm and still, far outside of happy hour (not that any hour was particularly happy around these parts), with only a handful of patrons scattered around the place, enjoying their drinks in peace, and small group of Italians gathered around one of their usual tables by the pool table.

Things were on the verge of change. He noticed a fairly unfamiliar face enter the bar - at this hour, the clientele was predictable like little other was, and this woman was not one of the people he had expected. His brow furrowed, attention drawn away from the finishing game of cards as he watched the stranger find a place to sit and open a book. He'd never been a fan of surprises. He'd certainly never been a fan of strangers.

"Take over for me," he said quietly, sliding his hand over to a patron that had been watching their game for a while. Neither his partner nor the new player had any complaints. Michael walked away without so much as a 'be right back,' hanging a half-clean dish-towel over his shoulder (he had to play the part, of course), heading out from behind the bar and walking toward the woman's table. (The bartender saw the course he'd plotted and sighed quietly: nothing good could come of Michael deciding to lend a hand.)

He stopped by the table and tilted his head to the side, reading the title of her book and quirking an eyebrow in reaction. "Curious choice," he stated plainly and took her in, watching her more than he met her eyes. "What are you?"


this wound cuts straight through me; I fear I shall never be whole again
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Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

30 Aug 2013, 17:25 #3

Emily was not at all in a hurry. She had to wait anyway for her date's arrival... At least they would seem so. A couple having a first or second date here. But the man knew interesting things about a corruption affair, or so he claimed, so it was worth listening attentively and making further research afterwards.

If no waiter asked her anything until then, she wouldn't mind. She had an interesting book to browse.

And finally a young waiter did approach her... but instead of asking her, professionally, what she would want to drink, he wondered first about the book (or maybe about what she might have been looking for there, but she hadn't thought his comment as being a curious choice of a bar), then he asked her directly what she was.

"I am a thirsty customer waiting to be served a Coca-Cola, first of all," she smiled, ducking the question.

One wouldn't say openly here "I am an investigation journalist trying to unfold a corruption case".

"And why would this book be a curious choice? Don't you think a woman of these times should learn any curse words? Or do you have something only against the older and more elaborate ones?" she asked, looking intrigued at the blonde-died young man.

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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 15:22

12 Sep 2013, 14:50 #4

His head stayed tilted, his eyes still watching her, unresponsive, after her initial reaction, her response and her questions. For several seconds he didn’t answer, while all but his eyes stayed perfectly still and he studied her further.

She certainly wasn’t an East Sider. She lacked the aura, the proverbial filth under her fingernails; she was an outsider, no doubt. But beyond that, she could have been anything; any number of crimes were still laid out on the table, ready to be examined and held up in comparison. Time would prove a snitch in the end, as usual.

His brow arched again. “If anything,” he started, and slid into the seat opposite her, “the nature of the book is the most commonplace aspect of your presentation.” He shifted, reached into his back pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes with a lighter tucked into it.

“You come into Miller’s to read,” he glanced up at her midway through finding a cigarette, “No one comes into Miller’s to read.” He returned his eyes to his cigarettes, continuing his slow progress towards selecting one and bringing it to his lips. “Reading is an uncommon pastime in our establishment; most of our clientele are not avid readers.”

He brought the cigarette to his lips and lit it, inhaled deeply and plucked it away from his mouth, holding it between index and middle finger. “Some, one could say, if your preference is Shakespearean, have a plentiful lack of wit,” a pregnant pause followed, and he looked in the direction of the group of Italians gathered around their usual table, laughing raucously at some joke or another. A second later, he returned his attention to the woman. “Though literary prowess is hardly a guarantee that one wouldn’t.” He exhaled the remainder of the smoke, lifted the cigarette and drew from it again.

“As for curse words, I am sincerely indifferent to what a woman of these times chooses to learn. If you’ll be addressing our patrons as sanguine cowards, swaggering rascals, scurvy companions, elf-skins, dried neat’s tongues, bottle-ale rascals, or the like…” The ghost of a smile flitted across his lips, he pulled the ashtray on the table closer, held the cigarette above it and tapped it twice, “That would be your problem, not mine.”

He brought the cigarette to his lips again and inhaled, paused as he drew it into his lungs, exhaled to the side a moment later. “In any case, I’m not getting you a fucking Coke. If you’re thirsty, ask for water. We’ve got that on tap.”


this wound cuts straight through me; I fear I shall never be whole again
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Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

23 Sep 2013, 16:42 #5

For sure, Emily had seen many waiters in her working years, but this one was strange. Or maybe, despite his attempts, he was not a waiter? Her imagination started running to her stories. He looked interesting. As interesting as he might become one of the characters… But what was he? A bouncer? She had seen the bouncers… probably. A relative of the pub keeper? Who knew? Anyway, this was the most peculiar waiter she had ever seen… and interesting exactly for this reason.

“I didn’t come here to read. I came to meet a gentleman. And until he arrives, yes, I am passing my time with reading. What is wrong with this? At least, until you bring my drink.”

As he said that most of his clientele weren’t avid readers, she shrugged.

“Well, I am one. Exceptions confirm the rule, isn’t it?”

She started laughing at his attempts to paraphrase the Shakespearian style, but the cigarette he had lighted made her wonder loudly:

“Are you allowed to smoke on the job?”

He hadn’t seen waiters allowed to do it. Ever.

His answer was… delicately insulting too. Matching the book, and somehow calling her stupid, without her being able to act on it, because he didn’t actually… yet.

“I know how to behave in society and I wouldn’t use such curses… or any other,” she said, still unsure if to get angry or not.

But then, he cursed, and told her openly that he didn’t want to serve her.

“Where is your manager? I want to report you then, and tell him that if you don’t learn not to curse and not to smoke while on duty, and to actually bring the customers’ orders instead, he will lose other customers who might have come more often and bought more than I do,” she told him on a stern tone, still without raising her voice.

She surely hadn't come here just to be insulted.

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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 15:22

31 Oct 2013, 00:46 #6

She’d come to meet a gentleman, and that was peculiar in and of itself. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen anything of the sort entering Miller’s - save, of course, James, his father, his uncle, his patron and saviour. The man epitomised the concept; in Michael’s eyes, no man - or member of any other gender, for that matter - could aspire to be his equal. But he couldn’t be the gentleman in question; he had a standing appointment on this particular day, one of his more philanthropic endeavours. A local youth centre, if he wasn’t mistaken. They both had their ways of attending to the broken city’s young and vulnerable.

His thoughts didn’t make themselves immediately apparent; he simply sat there, quiet and still, watching the embers at the edge of his cigarette as they began to lose their glow. As far as anyone could tell - the exception being those who knew him well enough to see the subtle changes in his demeanour, that is - he was indifferent to what she was saying, detachedly paying attention. He listened like a man concentrated on the words being spoken, but without getting engaged; a subtle eavesdropper, simply stopping by her monologue before carrying on with his day.

The first outward reaction came to her question, the near-accusing ‘are you allowed to smoke on the job?’ that indicated that she suspected he wasn’t, and intended to remind him of this. He quirked a brow at that, and lifted his eyes from the cigarette to meet hers, but didn’t speak. He suspected she wasn’t finished yet.

His suspicions were soon confirmed; she wished to report him to his ‘manager,’ to kick up a fuss about his rotten vocabulary and even more rotten lungs, not to mention his poor service conduct. It was almost enough to make him smile, and for a moment, he actually considered it, before he finally thought the better of it.

For a moment more, he was quiet, letting the silence sink a bit, letting the ringing in the air from the sound of her words die down - he always imagined an echo, faint and delicate, in direct correlation to a person’s voice - before he opened his mouth.

“You know how to behave in a society,” he corrected, and his tone was almost gentle, not at all admonishing.

He weighed up the rest of her words in a split-second calculation to determine which of them struck him as most deserving of response. It was an easy decision. “Do you bring a book with you wherever you go?”


this wound cuts straight through me; I fear I shall never be whole again
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Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

02 Nov 2013, 17:23 #7

For Emily, gentleman was the normal word of respect a man deserved. And one who offered her a subject for an article, was, no doubt, a gentleman. Exactly how the waiter in front of her wasn’t, just because he didn’t behave like one.

The correction didn’t make any sense for her. She thought it was grammatically correct how she had said it – to behave in society. But she wasn’t there to teach him grammar; she just raised a brow.

“Yes, I do know,” she shrugged. “My mother is a teacher. I have been raised properly.”

”And spanked or punished when I didn’t behave, until I understood how to show respect to the other people,” she further thought, considering the waiter merely a young rebellious man who didn’t care about proper behaviour.

The atmosphere and the discussion were strange, surreal, worth being in a book… not one of the romance adventures she was writing, another kind of novel. Her impression in this direction was reinforced by his next question, about the book, which happened to fascinate him.

“Not wherever I go. But if I happen to buy or to receive said book that day, yes, it is with me. Today was such a day.”

She wasn’t too clever in slipping up, in her annoyance, that sometimes people offered her books. It was as if putting a label on her forehead, in this neighbourhood, that she was a journalist. But if he noticed it, she would find another explanation to this fact.

“And you, do you often question your customers before serving them with what they had ordered?”

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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 15:22

03 Nov 2013, 00:29 #8

They were trapped in two separate worlds; he could almost make out the veneer that served to divide them, glistening between them. I have been raised properly, she declared, and with each syllable, it grew thicker, stronger, practically giving off sparks with each plosive consonant she uttered. He thought he could feel it too, like a fog of cold with outstretched tendrils reaching toward him. If he lingered too long, he suspected those tendrils would wrap themselves around him and try to subjugate him.

(Her diction was impeccable, he noted. She spoke with authority, as though she alone had unlocked the secret to controlling language, that otherworldly It that kept the world tightly in its grasp. He could almost believe it, if he wasn’t so confident it was impossible.)

Buy or receive; he supposed it barely mattered. They were alien to one another, but they both occupied this safe haven, this port between worlds, where it shouldn’t matter. Not really. It did, of course. It always would when one was invariably considered the superior; even in equality, they stood apart.

“No,” he answered simply and plainly at her question, and nothing could be truer; he’d rarely waste his time on them.

“And now you,” he continued, taking a last draw from his cigarette and putting it out in the ash tray. It was only half-smoked, but he found himself distracted, lured in; he leaned forward and rested his arms along the edge of the table, one atop the other.

The tendrils were closing in on him. He could feel them nipping at his skin.

“Received or purchased?” he continued, reaching out a hand, tapping her book once with his outstretched index finger. He withdrew his arm after that, placing it again atop the other.


this wound cuts straight through me; I fear I shall never be whole again
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Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

03 Nov 2013, 18:28 #9

So, he answered her that he didn’t question everybody. It meant that she looked special to him – and no, she wasn’t as vain as to give any distinct meaning to this special. He seemed intent to remain to discuss with her, and Emily didn’t mind it at all. She was rather sociable… just thirsty.

“I might enjoy talking to you… but not on empty. Bring me the Coca-cola I ordered, and after a few sips I can discuss any subject you wish.”

She didn’t actually want to make a complaint about him to his superior; only that she wasn’t accustomed to order something and not receive it – and she needed that Cola.

This time, he asked if this book was received or purchased.

“Received,” she couldn’t lie. “It just happens that I know somebody at the publishing house.”

True, she knew people at several smaller publishing houses. And they gave her books, knowing she would write about them. It was a good advertising. But it could have been different. She could have got only an admirer among the small clerks there. Well, in her rich imagination, she could have done lots of things… Her characters were doing them instead.

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Joined: 29 Sep 2007, 15:22

03 Dec 2013, 01:16 #10

“How quaint,” he responded and fixed her with a gaze both unmoving and unmoved. She knew someone in the bowels of publication, and he supposed that was enough of a sign of something, or of her being a Someone. An untouchable, then, for the likes of him, and just as well. She had a pleasing tone to her voice, whether her words were to his liking or not.

He narrowed his eyes at her and observed her with visible scrutiny. Several moments passed in which he was unsure which course of action he would ultimately end up taking. There wasn’t much consideration being done, not really, simply a fumbling around in the dark recesses of his Self to discover which way he was most inclined to go.

In the end, it came to him with a shrug and a quiet sigh, and he leaned back in his chair. “Unclear why I should acquiesce. You’ve been… Sufficiently accommodating on empty, in your own words.” Another moment of scrutiny passed. “In the name of courtesy, then.” Quaint, again, this notion of courtesy, which had him locking eyes with the bartender and motioning for her.

She approached them rather tentatively, looking from Michael to the customer and back again with a certain touch of reservation, as though a cataclysmic event might unfold if she didn’t tread carefully. Michael handed her the cloth hanging over his shoulder, and she breathed a quiet sigh of relief; his shift had officially ended.

“The customer would like a Coca Cola,” the disdain in his voice was palpable as he spoke the name of the drink, “And I would like you to bring it to her.” He met the bartender’s eyes, now widened in mild surprise. “She also mentioned wanting a word with my manager.” He turned his eyes to the older woman sitting opposite him again, and quirked a brow at her. “I’m sure Lisa can pass along any complaints you have. I’d prefer to get it out of the way before we continue.”


this wound cuts straight through me; I fear I shall never be whole again
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Joined: 25 Aug 2013, 18:24

06 Dec 2013, 08:59 #11

This young man was strange, she could see it. But it made him more intriguing in Emily’s opinion. A character worth introducing into one of her stories, perhaps not as the protagonist, still somewhere in an important role. An anti-hero perhaps, because he didn’t look exactly like a villain. And the way he was looking at her, at his turn, made her wonder if he wasn’t pondering about the same thing. What if he wrote too, and she would end a character’s prototype in his story? Probably one never to be published, exactly like her own…

Emily didn’t know if to smile or not at his words:

„Maybe, but I am thirsty,” she answered, being rewarded by the appearance of a bartender.

The way he behaved also with the bartender made her understand that he was not a simple waiter. He must be someone of influence, she thought. Nevertheless, it was not this idea which made her give up the initial threat.

„Since I am going to get my drink, I have no more complaints,” she said. „But, as a general remark, I’d say refusing to serve customers, especially when it isn’t about drunk ones wanting a refill of their favourite liquor, might be not so good for this establishment."

She had stated this because he was younger and he would meet people less peaceful than her in the future. It was something he should learn, getting along with everyone.

...And it seemed her waiting time had ended. Emily could see the man she was waiting for, heading to her table. There will be news in the press tomorrow...
- THE END -

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