Die, Mug, Silence

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Dinosaurs and Jesus

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
576 words

I picked up Saul after work. He was standing outside of a hole-in-the-wall Taqueria, smoking a cigarette. He got in the car and we headed to his girl’s trailer home. 

            “While I was standing out there a cop rolled by and stared me down.” Said Saul.

            “That’s always annoying no matter what you’re doing.”

            “Yeah and I was smoking. Loma Linda has a ban on smoking.”

            “Jesus, they’re making weed legal and banning cigarettes all in the same state.”

            “Someone told me there was a proposal to ban cigarettes or all nicotine stuff in the military.”

            “There’s no way.”

            “Yeah, some health nut politician.”

            “And replace them with what? Prayer beads? Crystals?”

            “I can barely walk outside without needing a cig, I can’t imagine sitting in a foxhole, bullets flying, you die right next to me and I’m not supposed to smoke?”

            “If that’s not the time, then when?”

            “Right.”

            He pulled out another smoke just as I pulled up next to the trailer home.

            “I just need to give this money to Paula’s mom.” He said, his lips pressed around the cigarette. Then he disappeared around the corner of the motor home.

Saul was in town for a few days before he moved out to Santa Barbara. He traded in his TV and PlayStation to get Paula a guitar. His plan was to find a campsite, set up and tune out. Off the grid. She would panhandle while he looked for a job. Her disability checks were also mentioned.

I was envious. The thought of my girl, some trees, cigarettes and booze were better than any heaven I had been told about in school. And those were the same people who denied the existence of dinosaurs while standing in front of the nearly intact skeletal structure of a Triceratops, their imaginations must have been out of this world. But Saul was looking everything right in the face and saying no.

He came back around the corner and hopped back into the car.                                                        “Jesus, not another second with her.”

            “You’re my hero.” I said, shaking my head. He grinned.

We had talked about shutting off the world many times and he was a few days and a couple details away from freedom. Tracking time in cigarettes and answering only to his bodily functions.

I changed the subject.

            “Stell?”

            “Sure, I could go for a cup of coffee.”

I made a right. We laughed at all the things we passed and listened to classic rock. Too soon we walked into the coffee shop. 

            “A mug?”

The lady got it right but today I was unusually optimistic. 

“A mug and a cookie, please.”

Saul ordered a beer and excused himself to the restroom.

Saul and I met in rehab. We got sober together. A few months after, Saul had jumped off the wagon.

Would they really take away cigarettes from soldiers? How would they cope with stress? I couldn’t imagine a soldier right after a battle also needing to fight off a craving. It was not likely to happen.

Our drinks slid onto the counter. I grabbed them and took a table outside. Saul came out, lighting a cigarette as he sat down.

I restrained my need for nicotine.

            “You still not smoking?” said Saul.

            “Yeah, but it’s a horrible feeling.”

He took a long drag.

            “Good for you man.”

Saul’s going to live off the grid. He’s winning the war.

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.