art by Seth Alan Bareiss
The Number Two Rule
by Lesley L. Smith
The front window of the diner had a nice view of the playground, and that wasn't pervy because I never interacted with or talked to the kids--especially the little blonde girl. In fact, I never interacted with anyone, at least I tried not to. I needed to kill myself before I did that.
"Ma'am? Warm up your coffee?" the middle-aged waitress said. I deliberately didn't look at her.
Still looking out the window, I nodded. It was okay if I didn't say anything, right? I heard the liquid stream into the cup.
Once she'd walked away, I looked at the cup and took a sip. The beverage was strong and hot. That was another nice thing about the diner, the never-ending cup of coffee. I'd tried coffee for the first time recently, and I really liked it. Of course, I'm sure they didn't expect anyone to actually sit there all day. But I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't have anywhere I could go.
Out the window, the leaves on the trees in the park across the street were changing colors: yellows, golds, oranges, reds, and especially browns. Even the spindly trees on this side of the street looked pretty in their autumn glory, the leaves almost seemed to glow with some kind of inner light in the sun. Trees were beautiful; they were one of my favorite things about being here.
Not that I had much in my life to enjoy.
But soon the little girl would come to the park with her nanny. She came every day after school. I never missed her. She usually skipped down the sidewalk towards the park entrance, her braided hair flying behind her and her elderly nanny trying to keep up.
Behind the counter the waitress seemed to be having some kind of debate with the cook. This time of day, right before school got out, the diner was dead; today I was the only customer. Very slowly, I checked them out with my peripheral vision. They were both looking at me, and the cook, a Chicano, was frowning and pointing. Were they going to kick me out? If I was affecting them, maybe I should leave. For the time being, I was very careful not to react.
The waitress came out from behind the counter and walked my way. I directed my attention back out the window.
"So, ma'am? Can I ask, is it Miss or Missus?" she asked.
I didn't look at her. Outside, the girl was coming, right now, down the sidewalk. She was going to pass directly in front of the window.
I had to get rid of the waitress so I could focus on the girl. She was coming now. I said, "Doctor," without thinking. Damn. I wasn't supposed to reveal anything about myself. I should have killed myself. But the damage was done; now, the less said the better.