A small sweetness

“Miss, would you buy me a piece of cake?”

The tall, heavy-set man had been ambling between the rows of tables, his gaze moving slowly back and forth, from face to face. He stopped at mine.

I had been typing away at my laptop, half-way through my second coffee. Today the ideas were liquid: a smooth ebb and flow. But they lacked a container, something solid to shape them.

I looked up. His sheer size blocked the light overhead. But I could see his face. Expressionless. Tired. If it wasn’t immediately apparent that he was harmless I may have shook my head.

“Sure, just give me a minute.” I grabbed my wallet. Left my words on the screen. “Let’s go.”

He shuffled to the counter. I followed. His rumpled coat clung to his hulking torso. Long, fat fingers dangled at the end of his sleeves. He didn’t say a word.

And then, after a few moments in line. “What month were you born?” June.

“So you’re a Gemini.” No, a Cancer.

A sweetness spread into the corners of his eyes. The trace of a smile. “I’m March. Aries.” Within seconds the vacant look returned. But there was a softness to it. Like drifting back into a happy moment from childhood. A birthday. Licking icing off the spoon.

“What kind of cake would you like?”

His massive finger raised and pressed against the counter glass. Holiday Gingerbread. A large, moist fingerprint marked his choice, then evaporated.

I ordered and paid. The woman behind the counter slid the cake slice into a paper bag, handed it to him. Said nothing. As the man grabbed it, I caught the warming scent of ginger and nutmeg.

And then he was shuffling to the door. Gone.

Back at the table, my words on the screen were still there. Waiting to take shape.

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The Editors' Weekly

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