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April 1, 2020

Fiction: Automat


Fiction: Automat

She has been sitting there for an hour and a half. Not really wanting to stay and yet, she is not quite ready to leave. Leftover coffee in her cup has started to coagulate. Soft, warm air exudes from the radiator nearby. It has been a quiet evening. Almost as if people here are afraid to speak too loudly.

Across the room in the glass, a pale face stares back at her. Is that her? When have she become so frail? Why does she look so... lonely? She pulls the tip of her hat a little lower.

All around her, everything is automatic and yet so human: the bowls of fruits artfully arranged here and there; the colorful posters announcing specials of the day; the white coffee dispensaries all lined up in a row; and the vending machines with their bright lights and buttons covered in faded finger smears.

Why has she started to come here for dinner every evening? What was it that made her chose this place instead of the cafe across the street? It had a been a long day at work. Afterward, she had been walking and not caring where she went. Then the bright, red sign of the automat appeared. She was inside the place before she knew what she was doing.

At first, she stood by the door just looking at the quiet faces and the half empty furnitures. Then she began to read the instruction for customers on how to order. Soon, she was seated at a table near the door. After that night, it became natural for her to come here every night.

She loves it here. But sometimes the silence seems too much. Oh how it vibrates through the large space. And yet, she lingers after her meal is finished. Something keeps her here. She cannot be certain what that is, only that she likes to be nowhere else.

The sudden ring of one of the vending machines discharging food packets makes her turn toward it. Is a wonder what people choose to eat. Almost as if they think the machines can provide everything. A man wearing a faded yellow shirt carries off two boxed sandwiches. She could not tell whether they are turkey or chicken but she recognizes the white package.

Scattered conversations wind around the space as if trying to get words to other people far away. But she never can distinguish what they are saying. She catches faces sometimes glancing at her with an almost certain awe as if she might be some extinct bird or an alien that have suddenly appeared. Then they look away trying to be casual. The faces are familiar and yet, they are still strangers to her. She cannot recall if she have spoken to anyone in here. Yet, she have not minded it. She is used to being left alone. But now and then, she wishes someone would walk over to her table and talk to her even about the most mundane things.

Daylight will soon come. Time for her to go home but they are opened every day until 3 a.m. As she stands up and buttons her coat, she shakes away the thought of company. Oh, she wants to belong to someone but the idea gives her a shiver. It would take two cups of coffee to forget it.

Behind the long, marble counter, the dish washer does his work in silence. He looks up as she places the cup and saucer down. There is the usual nod of his dark head. She smiles at him and then she heads out the door. Tomorrow. She will say something to him tomorrow.

Check out the A-Z challenge over here.

19 comments:

  1. an excellent story. But if you are still open to spelling and grammar corrections,
    paragraph 2, "when have she become so frail" should be 'did' instead of 'have';
    paragraph 4, the word 'chose' should be 'choose';
    paragraph 8, "an alien that have suddenly appeared", 'have' should be 'did'; "if she have spoken" , 'have' should be 'has'; "yet she have not", 'have' should be 'has'
    I like this story a lot and would like to read more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey River, You're totally welcome to correct my English as well. I'd love it.

      @ Lissa. Yes, mood and everything just like the painting. You nailed it. I hope you are goung to continue the story.

      Delete
    2. @ River: I welcome any advice. As I really dislike editing, your critiques are quite helpful. Thank you.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
    3. @ Charlotte: I think the painting already have a mood there. And yes, I'll probably continue this story.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  2. Lovely vignette, full of tender and complex emotion. Thanks for sharing, and Happy A-Z!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Celia Reaves: Thank you for your kind compliment. Happy A-Z to you too.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  3. Tender, wistful and lovely. I too would like to read more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Elephant's Child: Thanks & there will be more of this story.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  4. Nice story, hope she does say something to him tomorrow.

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    Replies
    1. @ Christine: Tomorrow, yep, probably a very later tomorrow.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  5. Lissa, this story goes perfectly with the Hopper painting. I love Hopper I visited his home in Nyack New York last summer - you'd love it. My father used to love to go to the Horn & Hardart Automat. In those days the machines took nickels.
    I hope she says something to him tomorrow.
    I love the AtoZ graphic you created.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Frances: I also love Hopper's work, they just seems so evocative.

      I've never been in an automat but I might actually like it.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  6. I can only hope, you'll keep the story of this lady / restaurant going, I have so many questions....

    Happy A-Z, Lissa, good to see you back :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Tamara: Yeah, I have questions too. Happy A-Z.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  7. Love the photo... and the storym of course.

    Lookin' forward to the new, fresh ones! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Hot guys: I'm glad you like the painting and story.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. @ Roberta: Actually, I sort of didn't expect the ending either. I don't often think of he ending until I have written near toward the end.

      Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

      Delete

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