Author : g.a.harry

Such heat. Wave upon wave. Through air thick as tapioca. Brutal oppressive. Under the awning, the shade makes it worse. Adding weight, piling on heavy. A bead of sweat starts to form on his forehead. Welling up till gravity pulls it down the side of his head to dangle itching on his chin.

The waitress brings him a glass of frozen tea. Leaves boiled, sifted, separated, the run-off poured into a glass and put into the freezer over night. He watches it melt. The water in the air condensing, making a little puddle, darkening the wood of the table. The wait is unbearable. When enough has melted he slurps at it greedily. The ecstasy of cool. He bites into the ice, impatient.

The next table over, a man, lank skinny, sits, tapping a finger on the table, mumbling some kind of devil voodoo through the solid air. The words come soft, unintelligible. Edges dulled by the soupy breeze. His leg jiggles. The fear of god in his eyes. They flick wildly around. Paranoia written all over his face, a terror of everything.

The waitress comes over, carrying his drink on a small, round, cork-bottomed tray. As she sets the drink on the table, his eyes widen with fear. His hands are at his head. Scratching, pulling,

“Get ’em off me!”

He stands up, jerks vertical, the table tipping. The menu flickers, goes out. The glass of tea smashes, the ashtray dumps ash and butts all over the stone. The people around him stand up, backing away, afraid. It might be catching, borne from his stinking mouth on the moist air, to infest their blood, bring the madness down on them.

Falling to the ground, writhing screaming. Kicking. His skin, torn by glass beneath him, wet from the expanding puddle of melting tea, begins to bleed. Slowly at first, until he is a flailing red mass of lank hair sticky sweet tea.

When the van arrives, medics spill out wearing latex gloves, medical facemasks, he is picked up bodily. Dragged screaming onto a stretcher. They shoot him full of something. Finally he subsides, the animal violence dulled to an occasional twitch. He is put in the velo and taken away.

The matron, thin emaciated, emerges from the cafe pushing a mop and bucket. She struggles to get the small castors over the uneven stone. Her tiny arms, withered thin, look like they might snap under the strain. She grunts, breathing heavily.

As she slowly sweeps the mop across the flags, diluting the bloody tea, spreading it out more evenly, she sings to herself. A song from her childhood, maybe, that her mother used to sing. The melody a memory of happiness, a youth now long gone. Words from an old language spoken to the tune of three little notes.

She notices him watching her, gives him a friendly smile. He can see the shape of her skull through the sagging skin of her face. Watery grey eyes, a hint of jaundice yellow around the iris. She replaces the mop in the bucket, coming over,

“I am sorry. He is a lonely man. He got lost some time ago never managed to make his way back.”

She leans over, taps the menu in the table,

“Order anything you like.”

He looks down at the table. Everything heavy. Meat potatoes rice. He orders the gazpacho.

She smiles, returning to the mop bucket and struggles it back inside. The patrons return to their tables and are reabsorbed by the air. They appear gelatinous, thick custard statues, moving slowly. Sipping their cold, sweet tea.


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