When he fell to the ground clutching his wallowing chest, she almost told him he wasn’t funny. But it was the fingers—something in the color and the hue. She’d seen them before, in her mother. They were heart attack fingers. She didn’t know why she asked if anyone was a doctor. It was silly in a place like this.
Cheap Bob, he called himself, to promote his car lot. He had those sausage thumbs and walrus body. Every time he sat in Mary’s section. She hated the way he wheezed as he spoke, as though reciting lines. He smelled funny, too, like greasy breakfast and spicy cologne. But he tipped well.
She was walking towards him as it happened, swinging the pot in that lazy, diner way, hanging limp in her fist. Bob was smiling at her, had opened his thick, moustached lips to speak. Maybe to comment on the sun, “Nice day for the brim of a hat, eh Mary?” Had he known then, maybe instead an apology for his wife, for their fight that morning, for every fight they’d ever had, for never getting to the café in the postcard—the baguettes all in a row and the Tower so nonchalant. But he gagged on the first word. He lolled out of the booth and into the aisle.
Mary ran to him, her diner heels clacking against the startled tile, sloshing coffee to the floor. She knelt beside him, checking his wrist. She’d seen this on a tv show, a vague shadow from nursing classes at the local college, years ago. There on the floor, trying to find a pulse, anything to count, she could see the rust along the bases of the barstools, ten stools in all. She stared, this metal slowly turning to oxygen, the coffee steaming on the tile, all these things turning into air.
Christopher Newgent stomps around in Indianapolis. His work floats around in Poetry East, Copper Nickel, Freight Stories, and wigLeaf recently liked it for their Top 50, which was, "Wow. Really? I mean. Wow. Okay. Cool. Thank you." You can blogstalk him at www.theidiom.net.