Another Sad Cafe


Published in the BLINK Short Story Collection, Paper Journey Press.

Another Sad Cafe

I'm sitting here in a toxic, greasy spoon just off the interstate near Sioux Falls where I sometimes stop for a quick indigestion fix on my way to Kansas City. It's the first day of spring but everything smells like rotten peaches and gasoline. I don't notice her at first but when she sits down at the next table I think I must be seeing things. She looks exactly like the girl I'd dreamed about last night. She's got the same sad beautiful eyes and she isn't even real. At least not to me she's not. How can she be? Like I just said, she's only a girl in a dream. The same sad girl.

I have no idea what to do about it, so I decide to do nothing. At least that's a start. Buys me time to think things over. Maybe I saw her somewhere before and had the dream about her afterwards. That could happen. But you'd think you'd remember a girl like that: wild Palomino hair flailing away in the breeze, wary eyes giving off sparks that dance with the shadows on the wall, skin tanned smooth as spun gold. No way she's real. Jesus, what have I been smoking? They must have put something in my coffee. People do that: muggers, thieves, sodomites. I've heard about shit like that.

She gets up to go. She hasn't even touched her sandwich. Probably noticed me staring holes in her face and thinks I'm a serial killer. I gotta do something fast, so I go take out a pen and go over to her table. "That'll be six ninety-five," I tell her, "but I'll give you a break since you didn't eat your sandwich. You want pie? They've got great pie here."

Really laying it on, big smile. She's looking at me like I just ran over her cat with a Zamboni. I don't know if she's got a cat but that's how she'd look if she did. She gets up suddenly and flees like I'm a plague of locusts and doesn't look back, another dream shattered. But what else can I do? Who'd believe a story like that, finding a girl in your dreams eating a sandwich in a café by the side of the road in South Dakota? I sure wouldn't.

I run outside to see if I can catch up to her, but she's doing ninety in high heels and I doubt I could get a word in anyway after the chest-pounding chase she's giving me. Fortunately she's so terror stricken she can't remember where she parked her car, so I tell her, "I've got a eighteen-wheeler parked in the the lot, you want me to bring it around? We can drive around looking for your car. No charge."

She's in full retreat now but stops long enough to pull off one of her high heels and fire it at my head. It doesn't miss by much.

OK, I know my approach is a bit unorthodox, but I've got no time to come up with a game plan. Shit like this doesn't happen to an average guy like me every day. And what can I do? I throw up my hands and back off. "Hey," I tell her, "I'm just trying to meet you. I saw you in a dream last night and wanted to say hello."

"Well, how the hell come you didn't say something," she says, lowering the other shoe that she's got aimed at my head. "I get that all the time. I must have one of those faces. Everybody thinks I'm somebody else. You got a name?"

She's coming around pretty quick if you ask me, but what do I care?

"Uh, yeah, I got a name, but I don't think I should give it out to somebody who'd buy a story like that."

"Suit yourself. Mine's Doris. Like in Doris Day," she purrs, batting her eyes. "The movie star."

And that's how we met. Who says you need to sign up for one of those online dating services to meet people. You just gotta stand up for your own damned self and move your lips.

Unfortunately Doris and I didn't exactly work out. Turns out she's an ex-carnie grifter who trolls the interstates picking up suckers like me, and then fleecing them out of their life savings. But that's a whole other story. At least I met somebody. And I don't even own a computer.