Escape from Monday's Diner
1289 words long
Getting involved with humans never ends well. But slinging coffee for a human seemed like a good idea at the time...
Notes from the author:
Dreams are, simultaneously, the most and the least helpful specimen of inspiration. They can be full of evocative sensory experiences, but they're kind of crap at narrative. To put it another way, dreams supply the "what" but rarely the "why."
In this dream, I found myself substitute waitstaffing for someone at a restaurant or cafe where I regularly go to write. Even though I knew I shouldn't, I kept trying to go back to my regular table and my work in progress in between waiting tables. "If you need me," I told a customer, "I'll be over there." She asked me whether I was enjoying my hobby. I responded by pointing out that the writing was a job, not a hobby; if anything was a hobby, it was the table-waiting, which I was only doing "as a relief nurse for Corey." (I have no idea why the dream specificed "nurse." It's probably symbolic of something.)
The dream also gave me the salted iced tea, which I kind of want to try now. It would be like a margarita: sweet tea served in glass crusted in sea salt.
It was the unaccustomed discord that got to me. I am fond of my creature comforts. I get grumpy when they're taken away. And when I get grumpy, I get stupid. I do stupid things.
Monday's Diner is my place. Everyone knows it. My own people know it, and they know better than to edge in on my turf. The humans, who don't even know I'm there--at least, they didn't--they know it too, in a way. I go there because it's soothing, and I exert considerable influence to keep it that way.
It's one of the waitstaff who makes Monday's Diner such an oasis for me. Her name is Corey. Listen to me being stupid. Names are stupid. They don't make sense. They're arbitrary labels that human parents choose because at best they like the sounds; at worst, they try to force their hapless infants to live up to them. "Corey" doesn't mean anything. It's just two syllables. There's no reason I should have come to think of her by name. When I first started visiting Monday's Diner, I thought of her as the cloudy one, because she had an odd psychic knack of drawing a sort of haze behind her that calmed the day and softened its edges. Well, it was an odd knack for a human to have, anyway. Trivial for my kind, of course, but it's nice sometimes to let someone else do the work. Restful. Monday's Diner was restful.
I'd been coming once or twice each seven-day, whenever the squabbles and petty intrigues of my kind drove me to the outskirts. Only if Corey was waiting tables, of course. I'd come in, and if my usual table in the corner wasn't free it would be soon. No one got sat there when I was in the house. Glamour's useful that way. Glamour's how I could rely on Corey to bring me a cup of coffee, piping hot, and keep it topped up all afternoon long, even though she never knew I was there. It's also how I got sharp-tempered staff and rude customers to stay off her case or, if necessary, get shown the door. My kind are not entirely alien to gratitude. We have our ways of showing it.
On the day I'm thinking of, the cloudy one was supposed to be there. I knew her schedule inside and out. But she wasn't there, and she kept on not being there, and Monday's Diner was not restful at all. The inner turmoil and cranky thoughts of the diners and the staff nibbled at me incessantly. "Service sure is slow today," I heard, and "Why did Julia recommend this place? It sucks." The complaints edged in on my mood, making me increasingly irritated without my entirely being conscious of it, before I finally got clued in. The only server apparently on duty, the one I thought of as the frantic one, was thinking: "Where is she? She didn't call in sick or anything. Why isn't she here?"
What I did next was definitely a mistake, but it wasn't my first. My first mistake was allowing a connection to grow between myself and the cloudy one, to the point where I'd begun thinking of her by name, and, worse than that, as mine. My Corey. I couldn't bear that the frantic one should think uncharitably of my Cory, so I got up to do something about it. I followed her into the kitchen, allowed myself to become noticeable, and said to her, "Hi, I'm substituting for Corey--sorry I'm late."
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 12, 2014. The fictionette appears in its entirety (1289 words) at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.
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