The Café

In response to Indigo Spiders The Last Sunday Picture Press

Visual Prompt 2 -- Frittes by Danny Dutch

Visual Prompt 2 -- Frittes by Danny Dutch

“Just look at all that metal” thought the old man as he sat waiting for his meal. He sat and thought most of the time now that his beloved wife had departed this world two years ago this week. He came to the same café, sat at the same table, ordered the same meal, the same coffee, everything was the same as yesterday and the day before. Nothing changed apart from the thoughts in his head, though just lately even they had been on only two or three topics,

He could remember a time when traffic on this road was a rare event, maybe once or twice a week a car would travel up the street. Horse and cart being the main transport back then. Now it was clogged with cars, buses and lorries from early morning to late evening.

He had come in this café the day of the funeral. He had been on his own at the funeral apart from a couple of nurses who had attended his wife in the final weeks. When it was all over he had walked into this café and ordered a meal, this was her wake and he attended it on his own. They had had friends in their early days but as those friends had kids and growing families, he and his wife had slowly been ostracised for not having the normal family, in the end it had been just the two of them. They walked together, they talked about everything under the sun, they read the same books and lived in total harmony, without the need for outside entertainment or friends to live their lives.

Ever since they had been married they had come to this café every Sunday to have a cooked breakfast. He loved being able to treat her to this one day off from looking after the house and the gardens she was so proud of. After breakfast they would walk the mile or so to the river, sometimes walking alongside the river, sometimes getting on the river boat that went down stream on a day trip. Sundays were special to both of them, a time to get away from the work that had to be done. Time to talk about everything other than housework, the plants or his work as a solicitor.

So now he sat here at this table every day, waiting for his meal and coffee. Other regulars to the café would nod or smile at him. Staff would ask him how he was and go through the motions of giving him the menu yet they all knew what he wanted. In return he would politely look at the menu without reading it then place his order.

It was the same meal he had had on the day of the funeral, roast beef with all the trimmings and black coffee. He cannot even remember why he had ordered it on that day. He didn’t really enjoy beef or black coffee but he had become accustomed to it these last two years and felt that it would be wrong to change his order now. Some days he actually did look at the menu, there were several fish dishes that he really liked the look of but he always ordered the beef. One day perhaps he would change his order and surprise them all, but not today.

He looked out of the window once again, watching all humanity pass by. This area had once been a small town on the outskirts of the city, now it felt like it was the heart of the city. High office blocks blotted out the sun, vehicles of all sorts filled the air with their fumes and people rushed everywhere never taking a moment to look at the monstrosity the small town had become a part of. He could not even walk the river banks anymore! Smart flats and offices had been built on the open fields that were once the playground of youth. The land now being classed as private property where once footpaths had led for miles alongside the river. The riverboat had gone never to be replaced so now he never went down to the river, it had become just another trading artery within the big city. There was little pleasure left by the river now.

He ate his meal, not really enjoying it, tipping the waitress his usual ten percent and left the café. Even though a café had stood on this piece of ground all his life it had changed beyond recognition from the first Sunday he and his wife had entered for Sunday breakfast. Then it was just a small, single story building housing the café and not much else. Now it was a tall office block with shops either side of the café which itself was a new building and not the small beautiful little café he once knew. It was still owned and run by the same family though, nowadays it was the grandchildren that ran it but he felt he knew them all and was happy to bring his custom to them after all this time.

Standing on the footpath, he looked down the street towards where the river had once run freely, sighed and then turned to walk the other way, back home to tend the beautiful gardens his wife had worked so hard on all her life.

©2011 Trevor Litchfield

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12 Comments

  1. Indigo Spider

     /  June 27, 2011

    Sweet, touching story. Sad that he is alone, that his wife is gone, but beautiful in remembering the life they shared together. I wonder sometimes how much different the world will look when I’m older, how the neighborhood I grew up in will change. You captured the change of neighborhood, the life they shared, his loneliness without his wife, all of it so well. Perfect. Thanks.

    • You’re welcome Indigo Spider and I’m glad you enjoyed my little tale. It has been a while since I’ve written a short and I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one for you.

  2. I really liked it! It was a really sweet glimpse into the character’s life, mind, and personality.

    • Thanks for reading and especially commenting Jinx. I’m glad you enjoyed it too.

  3. I haven’t been reading much fiction lately but this caught my attention because it was one of Indigo’s prompts. It was the first sentence that got me and when I clicked on your page and saw the nice large type it persuaded me to finish the story. I like the new look but the glass rings are kind of weird!

    Anyway I really liked the story. A sympathetic but straightforward observation into the life of a lonely man, with good scene description without being overdone. Yes it’s sad. That’s life. Well done Trevor.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Find An Outlet. It has been a while since I’ve written fiction as well, so I’m glad you enjoyed the read.
      The glass rings are coffee stains and are supposed to represent my coffee stained mind 🙂

  4. Very good character driven story. Poor chap. I really want him to go back and order the fish next time! It’s funny how the man sees the world change around him because I’m sure some of us have experienced that too, more so as we get older. Even though he seemed lonely I admire him for going back there every time, holding on to part of his life he shared with his wife. He doesn’t do it for the food or the surroundings but for the love of his wife. I’m sure there are people who really do this, they should be silently cheered for keeping that sacred memory of the good times alive.

    • Thanks noobcake,
      The picture ‘spoke’ to me straight away so the story was quite easy to write once I’d spent an hour thinking about the old fella. When I’m writing I often find myself in the mind of my characters, therefore it reflects something about how I might behave given this situation. I was silently wishing he would order the fish as well, it just didn’t seem right though.

  5. This is a poignant, lovely story. It reminds me of my Dad since he lost his wife, my Mom, two and a half years ago. Her memory is everywhere and sometimes when I ask why he does things a certain way he will stop, look at me, say he doesn’t really know and then add “Your mother did it that way so it just seems right”.

    Some things we just can’t let go and maybe we shouldn’t!

  6. I enjoyed this tale Trevor. Very poignant.
    You paint a great picture of an old man hanging on to the past and his memories while everything around him is changing.

  7. Aww, this is a very touching and poignant story! I could feel the loneliness of the old man.

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