weather by ingridf

21 Feb

Alfred held court on a chair outside of Green Bean café every morning through the summer between nine and noon. In the winter he took the booth inside, just inside the door. He raised his hand in greeting as all the locals and regulars passed. He pronounced the weather holding up his small transistor radio as his symbol of authority.

“Rain, rain today,” he would say, “Don’t forget your umbrella.” Everyone knew him but didn’t know him. He was a part of the urban landscape but no less necessary or comforting than that first coffee of the day. He was a smiling face, a friendly greeting, but he was also a bit frightening in his lonely intensity, his need.

His favorite was Maggie, the young waitress who worked in the café. She was unfailingly kind to him, and would fill up ketchup bottles and sugar containers on his table. He told her tall tales that left her smiling and she would tease him, “Tell me another one, Alfred,” and would wink saucily at him.

There was some business with her father who had shown up one day, watched her for a week and then blown out just as quickly. Weeks where she had arrived at the cafe, her eyes red and her face patchy with crying, and he felt real rage at this man who would hurt her. He believed that Maggie would be the ideal daughter: thoughtful, loving, kind and funny. She reminded him of his first wife and of the hopefulness he had felt.

Lately, she had started dating a young man named Paul who made young Maggie smile like he had never seen her do. Maggie slid into the booth across from him, “Alfred, do I have a proposition for you,” she said beaming to him.

“Oh darlin’. You are lovely but I fear yer a bit too young for me,” he said, winking.

She laughed and touched his hand, a crafty look in her eye, “How would you feel about a double date?”

“Oh dear. You need a date for a father-daughter thing?” he asked, “I’d be proud as punch to do that. I would be good father.”

For a moment, she said nothing. She smiled, her eyes welling with tears and she held his hand. “Oh Alfred. You would.” She wiped her tears away and said, “But I…,” she blushed, “I have someone I’d like you to meet. Her name’s Margaret, she lives in Paul’s building, she’s awesome and she makes the best apple pie you’ve ever had. Better than anything you’ve ever had.”

“Oh… I don’t know. I don’t know about that,” he said. He looked down his own weather-worn hands, the egg stain on his knitted vest and then up at Maggie, who was looking at him hopefully.

“It would … it would mean more than I can say. I want you there,” she said.

Alfred found his heart pounding in his chest. No one had wanted anything from him but a forecast of blue skies for many years.

“Please,” she asked.

Alfred didn’t know what to say, but found himself smiling and nodding… Unable to say a word. He felt blue skies ahead after years of rain.

***

links to stories “coffee” and “the smell of cinnamon

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8 Responses to “weather by ingridf”

  1. mpeonies February 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    I love the playfulness, but sincerity of the two characters. What a sweet story. Great read!

  2. juleshg February 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    I love the connection between the two of these characters. They both seem somewhat adrift and looking for someone to latch onto. I wonder if Maggie is looking for Alfred to complete Margaret’s life or her own.

  3. jadamthwaite February 21, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Lovely! I wonder how Margaret will react when Paul tells her about the double date. I can’t help thinking she’s going to be horribly disappointed. Poor Alfred. I really like the character you’ve created for him. And I especially like this line: No one had wanted anything from him but a forecast of blue skies for many years.

  4. jmforceton February 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    Question; Writing, I’m often torn between past and present tense.

    She laughed and touched his hand, a crafty look in her eye, “How would you feel about a double date?”

    “Oh dear. You need a date for a father-daughter thing?” he asked, “I’d be proud as punch to do that. I would be good father.”

    versus

    She laughs and touchs his hand, a crafty look in her eye, “How would you feel about a double date?”

    “Oh dear. You need a date for a father-daughter thing?” he asks, “I’d be proud as punch to do that. I would be good father.”

    What are you thinking when you chose between the two?

    • ingridf February 25, 2010 at 12:36 am #

      What a good question. Sometimes present tense feels too immediate to me. It feels like I’m intruding or listening in. I think it also sometimes raises the sense of urgency. Past tense, I think, raises a sense of nostalgia and somehow changes the timing and pace…

      I like both when reading, but I do think I’m a bit more selective when writing. I’m not really sure what is “right”.

  5. jmforceton February 25, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    Interesting answer. Thanks

    • ingridfnl February 25, 2010 at 12:56 am #

      I’m not at all sure if it is a “right” answer. Just my gut feeling.

  6. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    I really liked the connection back to your previous posts. Gives me hopes for a happy ending for a whole host of characters. 😀

    Alfred’s response to the “proposition” made me grin, and I enjoyed his willingness to step in as a father since he knows she can’t rely on her own.

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