“The tapestry weaves and unweaves
The hand grips and ungrips
Time lapse to yonder
He’s making eyes around the room, but mostly he watches himself in the reflection of the window. Does he recognise himself, this faceless caricature, faux poet, and man of misspelled letters?
He comes here every week on a Tuesday, with his air of fake eclecticism in tow, and then he stands on the window bar ledge and throws his shit around the room, expecting us to eat it up off of the floor.
‘Thanks, that’s from a poem called, “Perennial days”.’
The six people in the room look around, feigning interest for a second or two, before looking back into their coffee cups.
Please, God, smite him.
‘I’m working on a novel.’ He implores to his audience with an outstretched arm. ‘It’s a kind of epic, post-hype, meta-philosophical anthology, depicting the rise of a counter-culture anti-hero, in a dystopian future ruled by bureaucratic demon-alien-androids.’ He coos at his reflection in the window. ‘It’s a work in progress, but my manager says it’s good.’
His manager is the woman who walks around town with yellow supermarket bags wrapped to her ankles and a rainbow feather boa around her waist from which she hangs a plastic cutlass.
I don’t like my job much at all. The internet doctor calls it, ‘work aversion’, my other diseases are apparently seven kinds of cancer and people.
This place attracts some less than palatable patrons, but rent exists. It’s easy to own slaves, you just offer them a base rate of extinction and they sell you the best hours of their day. I worked the night shift, and my best hours were robbed of me. As if I could afford the sun anyway.
I watch as Cecil ambles to the counter with his persistent limp, his cap pulled low over his eyes and a worn satchel at his side. He hands his thermos over the counter and spills what was left of his last drink over the stale muffins. In his seventy or so years, he hasn’t been able to grasp the concept of speaking. It’s all grunts and murmurs, with every second word being vaguely recognisable after it’s trip through the abattoir. It’s how I imagine the primitive man spoke.
He only ever takes his coffee with a flat top and a shot of hazelnut syrup, always in his thermos and never paying full price. Cecil had been coming to this same spot since the sixties, back when it was a family diner and he was pulling late shifts driving taxis.
I would have liked to of asked him what it was like, but I only ever heard every second word. He waddled back to his seat, the second table from the door, his back to the counter, always.
The minstrel on the bar is still spewing his words to the crowns of downturned heads wanting to go unnoticed.
‘Yip, yip, yip, yip,
The brakes are oily slippery
That man has arms of hickory
Pumping effluence and
Yip, yip, yip, yip’
One of the cafe kings pulls his crown up and throws a sugar container right at the minstrels face. ‘Fucking hippy faggot! Shut the fuck up.’ He moves to throw a chair and I can’t be moved to stop him.
My boss, George, runs out and grabs him, glaring at me for not stopping this. I shrug and wipe the counter down.
Our minstrel is crying atop a pile of sugar, nursing a chipped tooth and checking his face in the window. George gets rid of our martyr, and those of us who had suffered, silently revere him.
‘What are you doing letting these animals run the zoo, man?’ George is coming towards me, short but stocky, less than intimidating thanks to his height.
‘The poetry does suck.’ Simon, another regular, pipes up and saves my ass. ‘I agree with Russell’s account that he was a “fucking hippy faggot”.’
‘Yea, well you guys can allot street justice on the street! Not in the cafe!’ George’s little fists swung to slap his thighs. Emphatic. He turns and points at me, ‘Keep the beasts under control.’ I lift my chin slightly, to show I’ve heard him. He goes back to the kitchen, intoning curses under his breath.
‘Thanks, Simon.’ I throw him a muffin, topped with Cecil’s backwash. He winks and curtsies, letting the muffin fly over his head and dent the wall.
‘My pleasure. It was truly awful.’