Written by: Griffin

It was late morning, and there were scant customers at Deb’s Café.

Powell entered. The space was large, presumably due to rents being lower here in a country town than in some trendy part of a large city, the sort that he normally lived in.

He spied his table from last time, with its metal support and sizeable round glass top. There were other tables set back in a further recess, in addition to some pavement furniture.

The two girls in black were there, behind their handsome display cabinet. The taller one, Miss Day, had a pretty, young alert face and wore a simple pony-tail which made her face look not unpleasantly long. Her cheeks had a rosy hue. Powell thought, 'A young woman in her prime—she is not yet of an age where a girl needs to do something more elaborate with the hair-style. No doubt she lets it down for her boyfriend.'  The shorter one was wearing the black fringe he remembered from a week ago. Today she wore the same serious expression as then.

Miss Day said to him, “Hello, how are you?”  It sounded as if she remembered him. He could never get used to the idea that he had a face that was not plain at all, in fact, one that could be called distinctive.

“Fine, thanks,” he said, and wondered if he should be making some token conversation. He was never good at small-talk with waiters and serving-girls. “A flat white, thanks.”

“Have here?”  — In the old days, we didn’t have to go through this. Take-away was a special request.  “Yes thanks. Do you make the pies here?”  The pasties in their rows had wonderful flaky pastry. There were piles of meat pies and vegetarian ones. You could tell they were going to be pretty good. “Yes, Deb makes them out the back.” —“Everything?” There was a section with caramel slices and melting moments. “Yes, all of it,” replied tall Miss Day matter-of-factly.

He took up his seat and commanded the view. Outside, an ancient person trundled past in a motorised wheelchair. He turned and surveyed the pleasantly-rounded curve of the glass front of the display.  Miss Pamela was giving the grill a clean.

A tradesman came through the swinging glass door. At least, Powell took him for a tradesman because of the neon-orange upper garment.  He was in his twenties, with a full face and a close-shaven beard.

“How are you love?” said tall Miss Day. A spontaneous conversation ensued. Powell thought, “He must come in every day for his bite to eat for lunch. He may even know her cousin, or some such.” And then, “He is lured in here. He could do just as well at Kate’s Place, but he likes to have a chat with one or other of these pretty girls in black.”

“Yes, she’s just about better thanks. Must have got it from one of the kids,” he heard the man say.

Greg Rochlin (Australia)

Writing order: Greg Rochlin (Aus), Anna Zhigareva (Scot), Hemali Ajmera (India), Rosemary Wakelin (Aus), Linda Alley (Aus), Linda Alley (Aus), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Hemali Ajmera (India), Leif Rennes (NZ)


Writers can book two chapters for this serial.
On re-reading this starter I realise how apparently understated it is and how cleverly crafted. The descriptions of Miss Day and other staff are superb and the way the tradesman is 'lured' in to the cafe gives the title currency. Beautiful in that it is an excellent example of 'less is more'.
Thanks Suraya!