This is a story that I haven’t finished yet. It’s probably about two thirds done, but it doesn’t have a satisfying ending. Potentially I could end it as it does at the moment, but it would be a weird kind of Chekhovian ending which I think would be too pretentious. Let me know what you think of the story so far, if you like it, and how you would end it, if it was your story!
The Sleepyhead Cafe
It was a sunny morning, although it wasn’t nice. It was certainly not the sort of day for short or flip-flops, the sort of day for 99p ice-cream cones when the van drives around the block blaring out ‘Greensleeves’. The air was cold, as were the cobblestones in the café outdoor seating area, which was accordingly almost empty. But not entirely.
If the breeze were to waft a loose page of a discarded Metro between the table legs, it would only make it halfway through the café before it plastered itself to the pyjama trousers of one William Giddy, at which point it would be summarily crumpled and discarded. Fortunately, no such disaster had yet occurred today. This morning was like any other Sunday morning at the Sleepyhead café, with the same lone Americano left outside and the same silent man in a dressing gown beside it.
Mr Giddy’s perennial nightwear was well-known to the staff. The practical navy slippers, striped brown bottoms and flannel gown had not changed one iota since Mr Giddy had first arrived, and there was only one employee who had been around long enough to remember that date; in truth, Mr Giddy’s presence on a Sunday morning was more assured than any of their jobs. The only variable in the regular routine was the canonical novel that Mr Giddy would deign to read, a subject of much discussion amongst keen workers. His one-time decision to work his way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for example, sparked much speculation about his character over the weeks. On this occasion he appeared to have opted for To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.
William Giddy was not particularly enjoying the novel, although he refused to give any sign of disinterest as a point of principle. Perhaps it was this blinkered concentration that prevented him from noticing a figure arriving at the café.
For a few seconds Giddy did not respond in any way that might acknowledge the presence, and so the speaker continued.
‘I read that book once. I liked it. Thought it was good. Although I weren’t so keen on the end. How’re you getting on with it?’
This time Giddy looked up and took the measure of the young man before him, who took this as an invite to sit down on the other side of the table and furnish it with his mug of tea and slice of Victoria sponge. He had his mouth full, and sat with his hewn apart. One might describe him as lanky, although he could not have been taller than 5’9” before he sat down. He had some scraggly foliage on his face, although not widespread enough to be considered stubble, and his eyes bulged through the framework of his thick-rimmed glasses, like unpopped bubble-wrap. Twiggy arms supported an assortment of beady bracelets and trinkets, presumably gap year memorabilia from somewhere predictable in Southeast Asia, and his clothes were of the neo-bohemian style that can be purchased on Oxford Street by those conflicted between their socialist ideologies and bulging wallets. Giddy carefully constructed his reply.
‘I haven’t reached the end yet. But I intend to.’
And without pausing to observe the incurred reaction, he began reading again.
‘Well, I know. I can see that… I just meant, you know, what’s your thoughts on the book so far?’
Sighing loudly, Giddy raised another stony stare at the boy, then slowly put his bookmark into the novel, shut the covers and placed it on the table, took another sip of his Americano, and then replied.
‘I am deeply sorry if I gave the impression that I desire to talk to you. This could not be further from the truth. If there was something in my face or in my attire that gave you this misguided notion that I am a friendly person, I sincerely apologise. But now this has been cleared up, I would be very grateful if you would leave my table now, and refrain from speaking to me for the rest of your tiny life.’
Giddy held the man’s gaze for a second, gave a sadistic smile, and returned to Virginia Woolf.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you, it’s just that I’m waiting for someone and I thought… perhaps…’
Any and all feedback is really useful and will be listened to. This is an unfinished story, so I’m still thinking about ways to end it within the next 1000 words or so. Suggestions are welcome!