Writing Calisthenics

AvatarA collection of short stories, essays, and exercises to keep my brain from rusting between larger works.

A Good Waiter

(Exercise info and explanation at the bottom)

The conversation isn't going well. Maybe it's always like that for women with sadness etched on their faces, women who wear black like a warning sign, women whose mouths are perpetually drawn down at the corners. Her arms are wrapped across her chest and her fingers dig into the sleeves of her sweater. She holds herself tight preparing for a fall. He is being rational, explanatory, and she doesn't like that. His words are landing like a sparrow against an office window pane and she flinches as he speaks. He folds his hands in his lap, neither clasped nor unclasped. He sits back in his chair and speaks calmly and quietly, relaxed, soothing her with his posture even as his words seem to make her to unravel.
    The woman with the newspaper has been watching for a while. There is nothing in the newspaper as interesting as their conversation. The edge of the paper flips down for a moment, then back up again after a furtive glance. Can she hear what they're saying? I imagine she can and I'm momentarily surprised at my envy. She takes a sip from her coffee, and lets the edge of the paper curl over and linger there, snatching another glance before she sets down her cup and snaps the paper back in place. It's not long before she stops pretending and the paper falls to her lap. The girl in black unfolds her arms and pinches the bridge of her nose. For a moment the newspaper woman and she lock eyes. I sense the shame of a reluctant voyeur rise in her cheeks — or perhaps it's an embarrassment I feel for us both — and she quickly lifts the paper and I can no longer see her face.
    The waiter hovers nearby, the check in his hand. He is a good waiter. It's his second false start towards the table. He retreats once again, this time covering his aborted approach by collecting water glasses from a nearby table. Suddenly the man places a hand on her knee and leans in. He says something quietly in her ear and she laughs. The paper goes down again, the waiter smiles, approaches, and hands them the check.

Exercise 2, two to three paragraphs. When you go out to a restaurant or bar, jot down your observations in a notebook. In one paragraph describe a loner's looks and behaviors. In another a couple's looks and behaviors. In the third paragraph, describe how a waiter or bartender communicates with the customers.


May 6, 2010 at 1:43 PM Perplexio said...

I've started posting mine too. I went back and picked one from last year at random. I like this exercise. Was this one from our writer's group? If so, I must have been absent that week.

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