Today’s Special (March 4)

“Don’t faff around, Sally! She’s harmless, I tell ya!”

It’s a perfect spring day, shining like a new penny and smelling like a wild honey wind. On such days, sunlight reflects into people’s eyes, they’re late to work, and everyone falls in love at a glance.

Two young waitresses chirp near the back door of a little café. Cigarette smoke blends with the aroma of coffee and the smell of fresh baking. A big cat sprawls in delicate sunbeams, sharing a timeworn bench with some perky sparrows. There’s enough sun to go around!

“Hey you, young ladies! Quit slacking off! Come on, get busy!”

The manager’s shrill voice crushes this idyllic scene in the space of a clap. It shatters into a myriad of tinkling colourful pieces. The waitresses flit into the café. The sparrows scatter away like spilt sugar dragées. Only the cat continues to enjoy itself, correctly supposing that it’s busy enough anyway.

“Look! Look, Molly! It’s her again!”

Sally tugs on her girlfriend’s sleeve. Molly brushes her hand away. The new barista with his bright sapphire eyes and dazzling smile is working his magic near the old coffee machine. No one understands how he manages to get such a divine taste from third-rate beans. Every day, Molly’s all eyes and bated breath, spying on him. It feels so very close, but again and again the secret slips past Molly like a cheeky little Casper to hide in the vanilla steam puffs. The barista flashes her a wink and places some cups on a tray. Order’s up!

Molly takes the tray and rushes out into the street. She’s almost skipping. No one wants to sit inside a café on such a wonderful day!

She’s here. An old woman in a worn coat and a ridiculous straw hat, standing near an empty table. Some visitors have just left, and there are empty clay cups, dirty saucers and cutlery on the table. There’s also an ashtray with two stubs, and one of them has left a tip. The old woman carefully sweeps something from the table into a handkerchief, which she then folds and puts in her pocket. Molly looks at her. The old woman notices Molly, offers a shy smile and a nod, and walks away.

Molly stands there for a little while longer, enjoying the sweet air and its symphony of vehicle horns, then goes over to the table. She places the empty clay cups onto the tray, as well as the dirty saucers and cutlery, changes the ashtray, and drops the coins into her apron pocket. After ensuring that none of the other visitors needs her attention, Molly goes back inside the café. And just in time to see the barista grinding a new portion of coffee beans too! Another chance to distill his secret…

Sally and Molly walk down a sleepy street, eating mint ice cream and talking a mile a minute like they haven’t seen each other in ages.

“No, Molly, I can’t make it out. What is up with her?”

“Silly chickadee! I tell ya, she’s sweet. I’ll prove it to you. Let’s go!”

The girls turn into a narrow side street. It is adorned with small lanterns, sweet peas in big garden pots, and clotheslines. Sally and Molly approach a tilted shabby fence and find a hole to step through. Of course, the gate is right there—only a brick throw away—and it’s wide open, but who cares about gates when there’s such an alluring fence hole?

The old woman is here. She’s writing something on a scruffy blackboard. When she steps back, Sally and Molly see… a menu. It reads: ‘Madam Maganti’s Bird Pastry. Twenty kinds of the freshest every day cake crumbs!’

Sally stands open-mouthed. Molly smiles, pulls a small package from her pocket, and approaches the old woman.

“Twenty three, ma’am.”

Madam Maganti nods, and goes to the kitchen to put the kettle on the fire.

Day rolls under the bench, jumps one more time, and settles itself in the cozy warm dust. If you ask the cat, it tells you that the day lays tails-up. However, no one really cares.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2019