Friday, September 2, 2011

It Happens at a Cafe

Happy Friday of Labor Day weekend!

I recently submitted this story to two contests and thought you might like it. Contests are a great way to practice writing skills and be judged. My goal is to get some type of recognition from a contest where the judges are agents or other publishing professionals. I don't need to win I just want to know that I've learned something. I need to be graded!

The first contest is from Bo's Cafe Life. Ever seen these funny comics about writers in a cafe talking over their coffee cups? They are hilarious! And the contest was to write a story about cafe life in 1000 words or less.

Brainstorms and Bylines' Barbara Tyler led me to "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader" for a Flush Fiction submission call to be in a compilation of entertaining short stories. I could be in bathrooms across the country! Hope you enjoy =)

It Happens at a Café.

I serve the soothing hot beverages that enhance people’s need to reveal their innermost secrets at  a small corner café in a small Midwest town. It’s not as exciting as New York, but not necessarily boring either. To help me get through the day, I tend to embellish on what I see.

Towards the back you can hear the cackling “book club mamas” who ignore their toddlers in our limited child section once a month. That reminds me, we need more Clorox wipes. I doubt those women read very much because their conversations tend to drift towards housewife blues and one upping each other with “Guess what Johnny did?” stories.

Later they will be replaced by the text-set teenagers who come in and drink their frapps while they giggle and gossip with each other, via their fast finger phones. What ever happened to actual talking?

And see that couple? He’s Mr. Nonfat Macchiato. I call him Skinny Mac. He’s been coming in once or twice a week with a different girl every time. I sense a story behind it with an unhappy ending.

Ah, here right on time is my buddy Todd. I’m pretty sure he has a crush on me because he is clockwork the way he always arrives at the same time on my shifts. Plus he’s a great tipper. Too bad I see nothing in him that way, but I do like talking to him. Could be the coffee.

As I watch Skinny Mac and his girl of the week exit and walk down the street, Todd reaches me at the counter to place his regular order, which I’ve already started making. I answer Todd's greeting with an impatient "Wait a second!" look when I notice a pair of women come up on the other side of the café. One is pregnant. They enter and stand behind Todd.

It looks like the pregnant lady is holding back tears and her friend is comforting her. I listen to them chat while they wait for me to complete Todd’s order. The sad, pregnant lady says, “I know it. I’ve been wondering for a while, but my neighbor told me she saw them.”

No way! What a jerk! Her husband is cheating on a pregnant wife? That is terrible! I slam Todd’s Triple Threat on the counter and he looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I recompose and give him a quick smile. He shrugs and goes to his table.

After I take care of the ladies’ order, the downtrodden pregnant one pays with her credit card. I swallow a gasp. It’s the same last name as Skinny Mac!

When I get through taking care of a few more customers, I go sit with Todd and tell him about Mr. and Mrs. Skinny Mac. He laughs at me! He says I’m too suspicious. I scrunch my face at him and give him a “Humpf!” What does he know?

A few days later, Skinny Mac is back with the same girl from the week before. That’s a first.

As soon as they sit at his table, Mrs. Skinny Mac slams open the doors and stomps over to confront him and his java jezebel!

I sneak into a seat at Todd’s table to get a better view. All the patrons pause their own conversations to take in the scene.

Skinny Mac stands up and looks surprised but greets her with no fear. The nerve! Mrs. Skinny Mac points and makes her accusation. He is astounded that his wife thinks he’s been cheating on her. She is carrying their child, for heaven’s sake! His face drops in disappointment as he claims the girl with him is a nanny and that he’s been interviewing them secretly for weeks as a surprise for her. How convenient.

Mrs. Skinny Mac looks at them. You can see she believes his story and feels ashamed as she slinks down into a chair and the waterworks and apologies begin to flow. He hugs her and strokes her hair. But wait. Did I see him look at the nanny and give her a wink?

I run this by Todd. I tell him Skinny Mac is getting away with his escapades! And now his chosen girlfriend will be at his house on a regular basis! What a louse!

Todd laughs at me again. He tells me it’s my imagination on caffeine and I should mind my own business. Then he suggests I apply to write for a soap opera.

I look to the ceiling and consider the possibility. I won’t admit it, but Todd might be right. Maybe I should ask him out.


Laila Knight said...

I like the story. It's amazing what you can learn from people watching...especially the variety that go in and out of a cafe. She should date Tod. :)

unikorna said...

I am a very inpatient person, so, the fact that I enjoyed every word I read I suppose it means your story is lovely :). I also like its pace...
You definitely know how to play with words.

Tara Tyler said...

Laila, thanks. Maybe next I'll do, Cafe girl gets promoted to the mall.

Unikorna, that is quite a compliment! I am impatient myself, so I know what you mean, but wow! thanks!

Fida I said...

Love it! If this wasn't a short story, I'd keep on reading... like wanting to know more about the couple, skinny mac, and the main character's relationship with Todd.

Awesome job and thanks!
Fida (:

Angie Cothran said...

Loved it Tara! I also think you could expand this into some funny chick lit :) This makes me VERY excited to dive into your WIP!

Arlee Bird said...

Could be the makings of a situation comedy.

Tossing It Out

Heather Henry said...

Wow, Tara, that was really awesome! I was waiting to the end, to see how it all turns out, but you left it up to the imagination. Which is always a fun way end a story, keep them wondering...
I love it! :)

Liz Fichera said...

A slice of life. I think you captured it perfectly. :)