baguettes & monsters

The way it’s worked out, I’ve had to take an early lunch break. I’m more than happy with that, though. It was an early start and I haven’t had anything since breakfast. Even if I wasn’t hungry I’d want to get outside. The sun has come out and the wind eased off. There’s a wild garden opposite the hospital cafe in the mental health annexe. I can’t think of anything better right now than to sit on a bench seat under a tree with a cup of coffee and half an hour to read.
The cafe is empty, only one other person, a briskly-laundered manager, tapping on his laptop, taking large bites of his sandwich so abstractedly he’s in danger of eating his Blackberry instead. I go over to the counter, chose a filled baguette and a packet of crisps, then slide straight up to the till to pay.
The woman serving has the look of someone who’s suffered a great deal. Her features are drawn and pale, her fingers raw, her gray hair stranding out of a blue-net hat.
‘Can I get a cup of coffee as well, please?’
She leans forward and whispers: ‘It’s self-service, I’m afraid. You’re supposed to help yourself.’ She nods back in the direction I came.
‘Oh – don’t worry then. I tell you what. I’ll have a can of coke instead. Easier to carry, anyway.’
She smiles at me, fiddles with her hair, then starts ringing up the stuff.
But then suddenly she stops, reaches over and picks up my library book. Frankenstein.
She looks at the cover, turns it over, reads the blurb, then looks at me.
‘I remember this,’ she says. ‘Years ago. We read it. For A Level.’
‘I’m really enjoying it,’ I tell her. ‘I mean – some of it’s a bit dull, but it’s amazingly atmospheric and very creepy in parts.’
She hands it back.
‘It’s amazing to think that Mary Shelley was only about twenty when she wrote it,’ I say as she finishes totting up my lunch.
‘Was she?’
‘I think so.’
‘It was a long time ago,’ she says, tapping the little display that shows how much I owe: four pounds thirty-eight. I poke around in my wallet for the change, then give up and hand over a tenner. She takes it, holds it up to the light, then rests it on the top of the till whilst she slides the change out.
‘All I remember is how sad I was for the monster,’ she says, dumping the change in my hand then slamming the drawer shut. ‘There you go! Enjoy your lunch!’

8 thoughts on “baguettes & monsters

  1. Hi Jim, i’m Lindsay/L from Blogger. I noticed you requested access to my WordPress blog but I don’t use WordPress any more. I only logged in to comment here as I love your writing. I might create a new blog at some point as I have a public one on blogger.

    Keep posting, I look forward to reading more!


  2. Thx Corina! Yep – job’s fine. Lovely people – which helps! I’m a little worried I won’t be able to update the site as often as I used to with SV, but we’ll see. Thx for the comment, C. Hope all’s good with you.


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