Superlatives


Tall, Grande or Venti?”

“Give 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 me.”

“Room for cream?” The barista smiled at Alicia.

“God, 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.”

Alicia removed her lid and spilled a half-inch of her coffee into the trash. She added cream and replaced the lid.


“Alicia!” Rebecca called, waving.

Alicia took a wooden stirrer and headed to the table.

“I thought you gotten lost!” Rebecca laughed. “Sugar?”

Alicia 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.

“What the hell are you doing?” Rebecca stared. “You're supposed to remove the lid first.”

“It's a diet trick,” Alicia said. “You get less sugar that way.”

“So 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 overdue.”

Alicia 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 proceedings.

“But when I looked at Dad's check register I saw that he'd already paid the bill.”

“Oh, no.” Alicia allowed her face to fall in what she hoped was a sympathetic expression.

“I 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.”

“You know how to get out of that loop?”

“No.” Rebecca looked at Alicia. “Do you?

Alicia smiled, pleased to know something that Rebecca did not. “Just push all of the buttons at once. Run your thumb right across the entire keypad.”

“Does that work?”

“Like a charm.”

“You know what I do?

Alicia and Rebecca looked over to the next table where a man was sitting alone and, apparently, eavesdropping.

“Ignore him,” Rebecca said from the corner of her mouth. “Creep. He can see we're not wearing wedding rings.”

“When I get stuck in the telephone loop, I just pretend I'm a foreigner. I speak all kinds of gibberish into the receiver.”

"Really?” Rebecca leaned forward in her chair. “That does it?”

“Oh, yeah.”

Rebecca dug her cell phone from her back pocket and began punching in a number.

“What are you doing?” Alicia said.

“Calling the electric company. I want to see if this guy's just trying to pick me up.”

“So what happened with your father?” The barista called, over the whirring of the expresso machine.

“Oh.” 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 receiver.

The man stood and approached the table, listening and smiling, nodding at Rebecca.

Alicia, 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.”

“No,” Alicia said. “She's pretending to be a foreigner.” She looked up; noticed the woman's skin tone. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean...”

But the woman wasn't listening. She was watching Rebecca mutter into the telephone.

Suddenly 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!”

The man smiled and returned to his table.

“What did you say to the person who responded to your call?” The woman inquired.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What did you say, to the human who picked up your call?”

“Oh. I...Well, I didn't say a thing. I hung up on her.”

The woman shook her head. “That was a cowardly thing to do.”

“They put me on hold all the time. They deserve it.”

“You know? There are three types of cowards in this world.”

Rebecca put away her cell phone and began looking her her purse.

“The good coward,” the woman went on, “admits his cowardice.”

Rebecca shifted in her seat.

“The better coward admits his cowardice and tries to change.”

“I am not a coward,” Rebecca said.

“But 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.”

And the woman turned and left the coffee shop.

“Did we ask for her opinion?” Rebecca said.

Alicia shrugged.

“Finish your coffee. We need to go.”

And 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.



For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Azara at http://inthetesseract.blogspot.ca gave me this prompt: He was the best kind of coward.

I gave Sherree at http://fictionalgraffitti.wordpress.com this prompt: Ninety-nine candy bars. What to do?

Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Superlatives

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Superlatives


Tall, Grande or Venti?”

“Give 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 me.”

“Room for cream?” The barista smiled at Alicia.

“God, 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.”

Alicia removed her lid and spilled a half-inch of her coffee into the trash. She added cream and replaced the lid.


“Alicia!” Rebecca called, waving.

Alicia took a wooden stirrer and headed to the table.

“I thought you gotten lost!” Rebecca laughed. “Sugar?”

Alicia 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.

“What the hell are you doing?” Rebecca stared. “You're supposed to remove the lid first.”

“It's a diet trick,” Alicia said. “You get less sugar that way.”

“So 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 overdue.”

Alicia 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 proceedings.

“But when I looked at Dad's check register I saw that he'd already paid the bill.”

“Oh, no.” Alicia allowed her face to fall in what she hoped was a sympathetic expression.

“I 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.”

“You know how to get out of that loop?”

“No.” Rebecca looked at Alicia. “Do you?

Alicia smiled, pleased to know something that Rebecca did not. “Just push all of the buttons at once. Run your thumb right across the entire keypad.”

“Does that work?”

“Like a charm.”

“You know what I do?

Alicia and Rebecca looked over to the next table where a man was sitting alone and, apparently, eavesdropping.

“Ignore him,” Rebecca said from the corner of her mouth. “Creep. He can see we're not wearing wedding rings.”

“When I get stuck in the telephone loop, I just pretend I'm a foreigner. I speak all kinds of gibberish into the receiver.”

"Really?” Rebecca leaned forward in her chair. “That does it?”

“Oh, yeah.”

Rebecca dug her cell phone from her back pocket and began punching in a number.

“What are you doing?” Alicia said.

“Calling the electric company. I want to see if this guy's just trying to pick me up.”

“So what happened with your father?” The barista called, over the whirring of the expresso machine.

“Oh.” 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 receiver.

The man stood and approached the table, listening and smiling, nodding at Rebecca.

Alicia, 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.”

“No,” Alicia said. “She's pretending to be a foreigner.” She looked up; noticed the woman's skin tone. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean...”

But the woman wasn't listening. She was watching Rebecca mutter into the telephone.

Suddenly 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!”

The man smiled and returned to his table.

“What did you say to the person who responded to your call?” The woman inquired.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What did you say, to the human who picked up your call?”

“Oh. I...Well, I didn't say a thing. I hung up on her.”

The woman shook her head. “That was a cowardly thing to do.”

“They put me on hold all the time. They deserve it.”

“You know? There are three types of cowards in this world.”

Rebecca put away her cell phone and began looking her her purse.

“The good coward,” the woman went on, “admits his cowardice.”

Rebecca shifted in her seat.

“The better coward admits his cowardice and tries to change.”

“I am not a coward,” Rebecca said.

“But 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.”

And the woman turned and left the coffee shop.

“Did we ask for her opinion?” Rebecca said.

Alicia shrugged.

“Finish your coffee. We need to go.”

And 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.



For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Azara at http://inthetesseract.blogspot.ca gave me this prompt: He was the best kind of coward.

I gave Sherree at http://fictionalgraffitti.wordpress.com this prompt: Ninety-nine candy bars. What to do?

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

At November 8, 2012 at 2:49 PM , Anonymous Leslie Collins said...

Love the message about cowardice vs bravery. The difference in font size kind of threw me... is that subliminal actions speak louder than words?

 
At November 8, 2012 at 2:49 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

No. Laziness.

 
At November 8, 2012 at 3:22 PM , Anonymous Supermaren said...

I love how you are so good at showing different kinds of characters. I can see these people so well: I've MET these people. :)

 
At November 8, 2012 at 3:26 PM , Anonymous Azara said...

I liked the suspense of this - the story kept going in a different direction than I was expecting. Nice character development.

 

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