Writing on the wall

Posted: April 10, 2014 in Short stories, starts & writing, Writing on the wall

Coffee cup on grey background (seen from above)

“There’s writin’ on the wall,” he said, swallowing away the waxy residue of tacky black coffee, before adding, “Sayin’ God bless ya, honey.”
He was serious. She misread his gravity, thought it was sarcasm.
Breathing out a thin cloud of tobacco smoke she said, “Well, that’s just the way it should be.” Thinking of better times, all long gone now, she brought the cigarette back up to her mouth, hesitated, and went on, “But, ya know, it’s hard to make the good things last.”
He wasn’t on the same page. Not even the same story. She sucked deeply on the filtered cigarette and, as his cup clinked on to the saucer in front of him, he said, “It’s the way it’s meant to be.”
“Hah!” She coughed, thinking “Such fatalism. Where did this suddenly come from?”
“I wanna take your hand,” he said, standing up with a flourish and putting his hands on hips. It made the pockets of his dull brown jacket stick out at his sides, exaggerating his pear-shaped build. Then he raised an arm and reached out to her, one side of the pear collapsing, waiting for her to take his hand. What was he talking about?… It began to click. “Ah, just sit down will ya?” She tapped ash from her cigarette and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, dropped his hand to his side, the other still on his hip. “I’ll just sit and stare into the night then, shall I?”
Wires uncrossed, she got a jolt, a spark of anger. “Oh for the love of God! It’s the way it’s meant to be? It’s the way it is. “It” is not meant to be. You said so yourself. Sit down.”
“You know that’s not what I meant, Doll.”
“Sit down, Arty. Don’t let’s ruin this, huh? Come on, sit down will ya?”

She leant forward and took a long nervy drag of her cigarette, squinting against the smoke. He was struck by what he thought was her callousness, suddenly saw her physical flaws in a new light. The smeared lipstick, lurid eye-shadow and mascara-caked lashes showed her up as the cheap floozy he had until this very moment thought she couldn’t possibly be, but that he also found kind of sexy. The wrinkles and acne scars, the sagging cheeks, all seemed more prominent now, and growing old was something he planned to put off, “deny” if you like, for as long as possible.

He looked up at the grimy fluorescent lights bisecting the grid of sagging chip-board ceiling panels and sighed theatrically. Then he looked down at his brown, scuffed and unpolished shoes, put his hands in his pants pockets – which always made him feel self-conscious and uncomfortable because it stretched the fabric taut across his backside and, he was sure, just made his butt look all the bigger – and began jiggling his keys and loose change. A prickly expression came over his face as he stared over her head at the lights moving about out in the street.
“Oh, come on, Arty. Don’t make a scene.”

Dolly knew – she wasn’t as deluded as all that – that time was passing her by. The chances of landing a husband were… Well, if it had got to the point where she hesitated before deciding to turn down a proposal from Arty Lubovitch, then there was no denying the fact; she was getting desperate. Chances were slim. But there was desperation, and there was the desperation of someone that still had an ounce of self-respect. She looked him up and down, and like she was seeing him for the first time, she saw the way his shirt buttons strained over his belly, saw that Tom Selleck-wannabe moustache, saw the Bi-Mart badge on his shirt. And then she saw herself stuck in this depressing little town for the rest of her life. With him. Wishing to hell she could be anyplace else.
“Come on, Arty. Sit down,” she said.
She still had her self-respect.


  1. Suzanne Killmister says:

    First thought: Perfect. No other thoughts follow.

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