Old Habits

Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

The bench seat complained loudly as Thom7 lowered his armoured bulk into it.

Waitresses hovered near the cash register nudging and whispering to each other before one, having apparently drawn the short straw, ventured over.

“Would you like anything?” She didn’t offer a menu and kept what she must have assumed was a safe distance.

“Coffee. Black. Large mug,” he swiveled his head until her stunned visage was mirrored perfectly in his visor and added “to stay.”

“Sure, ” she stammered slightly, “anything else?”

“No.”

If he’d been hungry, there were intake ports for everything he could possibly need, and the waste material, what little wasn’t recirculated and recycled was burned deep in his furnace as fuel. His kind didn’t usually bother with places like this.

He just wanted coffee.

She brought the large ceramic mug empty, and it rattled against the table as she set it down, hands trembling. In her other hand she carried the steaming pot with which she filled the mug, stopping just before she spilled over the top with a practiced flourish.

“Thank you.” His reply terse, his gaze now simply focused on the cup as he wrapped massive kevlar and steel fingers around its warmth.

The register chimed on the counter as he narrow banded payment directly to it through a cracked open interface. The waitstaff still gathered there jumped visibly at the unexpected sound.

“If you need anything else, I’m Doris.” She forced a smile and backed away.

“Thank you Doris.”

Thom7 lifted the cup and held it just below his visor. He had been able to smell the coffee from the street, but this was what he needed. Proximity. Familiarity. Routine. Shifting his weight, he again felt the booth protest. It was used to two hundred and fifty pound dockworkers as they shoveled down sausage and bacon and fried eggs, but his four hundred pounds of armor plating and gee rated chassis was a load it had no reason to ever endure.

His kind didn’t eat, didn’t even sleep, not really. He sure as hell couldn’t drink coffee, or use it to wash down a slice of cherry pie.

Not now.

Not anymore.

He sat until the mug no longer radiated any heat, and the beverage’s aroma changed from the pleasing promise of warmth and alertness into the disappointment of a nearly forgotten memory.

Then he placed the still full mug back on the table, and with a grace at odds with his size and bulk, stood and moved towards the exit.

“Thank you, Doris.” He turned towards her as he reached for the door.

“Was the coffee not fresh enough?” Doris puzzled, not understanding.

“No,” Thom7 replied softly, “it was exactly as I remembered it.”

The memory hung in the air between them as he turned and shouldered his way outside into the night air.

9 Comments

  1. cmh8133

    I think a properly brewed cup of coffee would be one the the earthly things I would miss the most too.

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thanks Jae!

  2. SimonJM

    Nice and poignant.

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thank you Simon!

  3. tenebrous1

    “… the beverage’s aroma changed from the pleasing promise of warmth and alertness into the disappointment of a nearly forgotten memory.” That line gave me a jolt of sorrow as I read it, but then I’m old, and full of nearly forgotten memories. 🙂

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thanks very much! It was a melancholy piece born from a melancholy place.

  4. Bob Newbell

    Excellent story!

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thanks Bob!

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