A Short Story by Bill Suter
Fictional Café may be getting upstaged by the goings-on at Café Chimera, and that’s a good thing.
Calvin yawned, barely functional, as the road crew shuffled into the cafe before their morning rounds. He needed a path back to the land of the living, but this muddy cup of coffee wasn’t helping matters.
“Too strong?” the server asked.
“Chewy, but it will do.”
“I’m sorry. I’m new here.”
“Yeah,” he forced a smile, “I can tell.”
“I could always cast a spell over it,” she suggested. “I’m better at that.”
“Beer flavored?” He forced another smile in spite of himself.
“Elderberry,” she said brightly. “It’s already in the syrup on your pancakes. I just need to activate it.” She gently waved a hand over his plate and stepped back solemnly. Calvin considered the odd gesture, shrugged his shoulders, and took a huge bite of the wheat-cake, his eyes widening in surprise.
“Good?” she asked.
“Very,” he said around the next mouthful. This was certainly the best breakfast he’d had in as long as he could remember. The taste, the smell, the texture, was excellent. Even the coffee had improved.
“How do you feel?” she inquired.
“Is that a good thing?”
“Today,” he shook his head slowly, “it’s a very good thing.” He felt like a child on Christmas engulfed in wonders, his ears deaf to the cold cynicism that always whispered wonders didn’t exist. Like Christmas before discovering parents bought gifts.
“I’m glad I could be of service,” she smiled.
He slapped down a fifty to pay for his meal and slid the change across the counter. “Keep it,” he said. He rose to leave as she protested. “I insist.”
“Thank you. I pray every day is good to you from now on.”
“If it isn’t,” he said thoughtfully, “I’ll be back. And if it is, I’ll still be back. Lucia,” he said, reciting her name from the blue clip on her uniform. “Thank you again. This was the best breakfast I’ve had in probably forever.”
“I’m very glad you enjoyed it. Be safe.”
She returned his nod as he joined his crew for the long drive to the construction site. Wiping the halo of moisture from the counter where his plate had been, she was hopeful that her second silent spell would also find him, and find him well.
As the recipient of a hidden spell, Calvin couldn’t quite understand what compelled him to observe himself as if through the eyes of another, but his focus became greater and more intense, and his ambitions grew to a remarkable extent. All his desires to make wonders of nothing seemed out of place for a man who worked with his hands, but his newly minted meticulousness on each construction site led to promotions and pay raises and perks far beyond him. And every morning he spent at a small cafe eating a remarkable breakfast and chatting up a spell-cast young lady who was no more than 2720 years old.
“It‘s time to celebrate my promotion,” he told an appreciative Lucia. “Now we’re both sort of new on the job.”
“You deserved something wonderful,” she smiled. “Six months ago you weren’t this happy.”
“No,” he said. “And it’s the oddest thing that it began here over a meal that was an unexpected pleasure.”
“I’ve become a better cook since then,” she replied candidly.
“Is that what you call it? I believe you said it was a spell.”
“Well, that may have been an exaggeration.”
“No,” Calvin said, his eyes fixed on hers; “I don’t think so. I think you are . . . “
“What?” She asked quietly.
“Angelic. And I think . . .“
Calvin was rarely at such a loss for words, but those deep green eyes toyed with his mind in the strangest way. “I think,” he said, “that if I am bound to celebrate all this new good fortune, it should be with you. If you wouldn’t mind?”
“Why should I mind?” She said softly and directly. “I would adore a celebration with a kind and gentle man. You are kind and gentle, aren’t you?”
Calvin, realizing he was being swallowed whole by her eyes and her smile and her sweetness, could only smile in return. “For you, the kindest and gentlest,” he said.
“Then I accept,” she said.
It was the oddest sort of thing, Calvin thought. The world swam and glowed and someone spoke about a second spell growing into its own and hours became days and days became months and another six months later those same hands that made such wonderful meals did so exclusively for him every morning, mid-day and evening. Now, drawn into the dance, wearing matching pendants, his wife adorned with a gold band on her finger, everything was suddenly impossibly as it should be and a match made on earth was now made in heaven.
It was when she held her belly that the third spell was cast.
Bill Suter is a composition instructor at Youngstown State University in Northeastern Ohio and the author of two books:
Songs of Chaos (2020) https://newplainspress.com/f/songs-of-chaos and
Diary of a Mad Gentlewoman (2021, writing as R.W.Surajahn)
Both are available on Amazon.