[a short story – by Sha’Tara
“Beautiful day, huh?” The slim brunette in the sleeveless black pantsuit doesn’t even look at Steven as she pours the coffee into the ornate, obviously home-made mug and hands it to him, taking his “toonie”[*] and two quarters for payment. He waves the change and walks to the window, to the only small table left unoccupied. He sips the hot dark roast and scans through his paper.
As many experts at reading the once bulky commercial dailies will tell you, there’s a certain art to this, one I’ve never bothered learning. You don’t actually read news or stories. You go through it page by page taking mental notes of relevant items to get into later. You skip the fashion, cars and trucks, and entertainment or sports sections if these are not your thing. Later, during your next break or back at home, you attack the pieces you hope will hold your interest long enough to provide a “shift” or a time of forgetting.
“Mind if I sit here?” A tall man in a grey suit points at the only seat left in the entire Java Hut coffee house.
“Not at all.” Steven points to the empty rattan chair. “I don’t own the place although at the prices they charge here I should have shares in it by now.”
The tall man sits down, puts his paper cup down. “If you don’t like these prices why don’t you go to Tim Horton’s down the street?”
“And do line-ups? I value my time. Beside I like to be able to taste coffee, not just hot water and sugar.”
“Ah, the very reason I frequent this establishment. Interesting mug you have there. Your own, obviously?”
“You’re either a lawyer or an investigator, sir!”
The grey suit laughs. “I do a bit of both actually; lawyering and sleuthing that is. I have a traffic case at 11:00 today as a matter of fact. Can’t really discuss it, you understand. But that mug is fascinating. It has a story: I can almost hear it speak.”
“A touch of home, sir, uh, ah?”
“Sorry. Al. My name is Albert Delisle, attorney at law and at large.” He laughs again and extends a strong tanned hand, impeccably manicured. Steven extends his and the handshake is firm, almost too eager; the grip of a professional golfer.
Steven continues, “I’ve had this mug for twelve years now as of yesterday. My daughter Katherine made it in a pottery class she was taking as an extra-curricular activity in her last year of school…” Steven stops talking and holds the fading white odd-shaped mug with both hands, hands of a man old before his time. Tears begin to flow from his eyes and the lawyer touches his arm.
“Sorry to stir up painful memories my friend, uh… no, don’t tell me your name. You must be Steven Baillie.”
Steven appears shaken and startled by the mention of his name from someone he’s never met. “That’s right. That’s my name. How did you know…?”
The lawyer stops him. “Sorry to startle you as well as upset you. If you tell me the story of this mug I’ll explain how I know your name.”
“Ah, yes. Twelve years ago my wife Jean went to pick up our daughter Susan at school to take her shopping for a grad dress. On their way home after shopping a drunk driver ploughed into the mini van. His vehicle, an old Ford 4×4 was totaled but he was thrown clear and didn’t get a scratch. My wife, they said, died on impact. Susan lived for one month of pure agony afterwards but the burns were too deep… The only thing that survived from the wreck and the inferno of the mini van was this mug. She was bringing it home for me after cleaning out her locker.”
“I’m so terribly sorry sir,” says the lawyer. “The driver of the other vehicle, his name was Gerry Felton?”
“Yes. That was his name. But how can you know this, or remember these details after such a long time?”
“Research. The man I’m defending today is that same driver. He’s charged with running over an old woman crossing the street in the dark, killing her instantly. He was driving while under the influence of alcohol and a mixture of prescription drugs. These details are in your paper.”
“I know. That’s an article I’ve been reading every day for twelve years.”
[Note: a “toonie” is a Canadian $2 coin]