Grande or Venti?”
her a Venti,” Rebecca nodded at Alicia. “She's gonna' need it.
And one for me as well.” She whipped out her debit card and elbowed
in front of Alicia. “I'm buying, so don't even bother arguing with
for cream?” The barista smiled at Alicia.
no. Fill them all the way up.” Rebecca swiped her debit card and
tossed a handful of pennies in the tip jar. “I've got the sugars.”
She grabbed a handful of packets and pulled five brown napkins from
the dispenser. “Get a stirrer. We can share one. I'm going to get a
table away from the entrance.” She shivered. “Every time somebody
opens that door I get cold all over again.”
removed her lid and spilled a half-inch of her coffee into the trash.
She added cream and replaced the lid.
Rebecca called, waving.
took a wooden stirrer and headed to the table.
thought you gotten lost!” Rebecca laughed. “Sugar?”
nodded. Then she froze. If she opened her coffee, again, Rebecca
would see that she'd added cream. She tore open her packet and
carefully began to pour the sugar through the hole in the lid.
the hell are you doing?” Rebecca stared. “You're supposed to
remove the lid first.”
a diet trick,” Alicia said. “You get less sugar that way.”
then my father handed me the telephone bill.” As she watched Alicia
brush the sugar from her lid, Rebecca continued the story she'd
started in line. “He said we needed to pay it right away. It was
nodded and wiped the sugar and coffee from her fingers onto her
slacks before remembering they were not her usual jeans but the new
linen pants she'd worn to impress Rebecca. Dry clean only. She made a
pretense of wrapping her scarf more tightly around her neck, hoping
that the rest of the sugar would come off there. She wondered when
Rebecca would switch the subject to Alicia's impending divorce
when I looked at Dad's check register I saw that he'd already paid
no.” Alicia allowed her face to fall in what she hoped was a
called the telephone people right away, of course. I got stuck in the
loop. I swear it took twenty minutes to talk to a human.”
know how to get out of that loop?”
Rebecca looked at Alicia. “Do you?
smiled, pleased to know something that Rebecca did not. “Just push
all of the buttons at once. Run your thumb right across the entire
know what I do?
and Rebecca looked over to the next table where a man was sitting
alone and, apparently, eavesdropping.
him,” Rebecca said from the corner of her mouth. “Creep. He can
see we're not wearing wedding rings.”
I get stuck in the telephone loop, I just pretend I'm a foreigner. I
speak all kinds of gibberish into the receiver.”
Rebecca leaned forward in her chair. “That does it?”
dug her cell phone from her back pocket and began punching in a
are you doing?” Alicia said.
the electric company. I want to see if this guy's just trying to pick
what happened with your father?” The barista called, over the
whirring of the expresso machine.
Rebecca made a face. “They refused to discuss his account with me;
said I wasn't authorized to speak on his behalf.” She blew on her
coffee. “Imagine.” She put up a finger—one minute—and
turned away. She began uttering all sorts of odd sounds into the
man stood and approached the table, listening and smiling, nodding at Rebecca.
seeing her chance, opened her coffee and poured in the rest of the
sugar packet before recapping it quickly.
“Um...” Someone tapped Alicia on the shoulder. “I think
something's wrong with your friend.”
Alicia said. “She's pretending to be a foreigner.” She looked up; noticed the woman's skin tone. “I'm sorry. I
the woman wasn't listening. She was watching Rebecca mutter into the
Rebecca's face brightened. She glanced at her watch and disconnected
the call. “Two minutes to get an actual human.” She looked at the
man. “Great suggestion! Thanks!”
man smiled and returned to his table.
did you say to the person who responded to your call?” The woman inquired.
beg your pardon?”
did you say, to the human who picked up your call?”
I...Well, I didn't say a thing. I hung up on her.”
woman shook her head. “That was a cowardly thing to do.”
put me on hold all the time. They deserve it.”
know? There are three types of cowards in this world.”
put away her cell phone and began looking her her purse.
good coward,” the woman went on, “admits his cowardice.”
shifted in her seat.
better coward admits his cowardice and tries to change.”
am not a coward,” Rebecca said.
the best coward of all,” the woman said, “the best coward knows
he cannot change his fears. But in spite of them, he presses on. The
best coward of all is actually brave.” The woman looked at Alicia.
“My father, he was the best kind of coward.” She smiled. “That
is why I am a doctor today.”
the woman turned and left the coffee shop.
we ask for her opinion?” Rebecca said.
your coffee. We need to go.”
as she drained the last of her Venti and followed Rebecca out the
door, Alicia wondered what sort of coward she was and what she might become.
Labels: Fiction, scriptic.org