A short-short story by E.F. Taylor
I am typing this in the Peter Jones café. Not the cafeteria but the actual café on the second floor next to the hats and raincoats. The room smells of Elnett and warm rolls and it’s packed full of mothers-in-law enjoying their Caesar Salads with a glass of house white and a view of the square. They are being careful not to gawp although I know I stand out, being on my own and quite a bit younger. But people are too polite to stare in this room where The Guardian has sat untouched in the newspaper rack since opening day.
Sipping my tea, I study the room. At one of the window tables, I spot something unusual. A man. I’m guessing 65 to 70 years old. He is sitting opposite a woman with purple hair I presume to be his wife. They’re both reading newspapers. At first, I feel sorry for him, but as I study him closely, I see that he appears content. Either he is so confident in his masculinity that lunch in the henhouse doesn’t affect his ego, or, he’s so downtrodden he doesn’t have the guts to tell his wife he’d rather be on the golf course.
The Polish waitress arrives with my pate. She smiles and asks if I need anything else and for a second I wonder if she’s thinking along the lines of a blanket or a hot water bottle. I tell her no thanks. She must see that I’m quite a bit younger than this lot. Then I turn to my plate. There are three slices of pate and the chef has served them in a way you should never serve pate. Chunky slices.
I cut off a few squares and try to hide them under a salad leaf, instead pushing them off the plate and onto the edge of the small bistro table from where they slide off, landing on top of my black suede loafer.
And then I realize why nobody is looking at me. Aside from dining alone and knocking my food off the table, I don’t look out of place at all.
E.F. Taylor is a pseudonym