Two versions of an exercise I did for a writing workshop:
1. Slow Morning
A large raindrop runs down the outside of the diner window. It runs into a previous drop and swallows it, doubling itself. Soon the pane is covered with drops. For a moment, one is reflected onto a single crumb on the stained table.
Janet has her elbows on the table, her head in her hands, staring down at the surface of the table, counting the imperfections. Too many.
She is sitting alone in the Seattle diner.
Where is Bob?
She glances at the clock across the room. Ten o’clock. Bob should have been here half an hour ago. Her fork is teetering on the edge of her empty plate. Janet moves her elbow and bumps the fork into secure position. She does this without removing her head from her hands.
She wants to glance at the door again, but the shuffling waiter has been giving her strange looks. She should have sat where she could see it without turning. Her fingers tap on the sides of her head.
She lets her eyes wander around the room, without turning her head toward the door. No one else is in the diner except her and the owner and the one shuffling waiter. The owner has made a point of not looking at her. The waiter has been shifty and suspicious. When Fredric told her about this place, he had failed to mention that a wary waiter would be snooping about. At least there were no customers, as he had promised.
Janet takes her stained napkin and once again carefully wipes her large plate— the center; the rim, all the way around. She places it in at the seat across from her. She slowly lets out a deep breath. Good enough. She places her hands on the edge of the table. No. She wipes the plate again; puts it back exactly.
She leans back. She begins to turn her head toward the clock again, but stops herself. Her internal sense of time tells her that only a minute has passed. Where is this Bob? She closes her eyes. She tries to mentally picture his face, but is not sure of the eyes. She turns to the open purse beside her on the seat and pulls from it a crisp manila folder. She lays it evenly on thee table before her and examines five photographs of Bob. One is from his driver’s license, one from a newspaper clipping, and the other three from a discreet photographer with a long-distance lens. She stares intently at them for fifteen seconds each. Her mouth moves silently to count the seconds. Then she closes the folder and puts it back into her purse. She double-checks to make sure that it will not diminish the accessibility of the silenced pistol. She wants to double-check the pistol as well, but knows it is not wise, not with that waiter. She reaches for it anyway. Biting her lip, she just scoots the purse a fraction closer to herself instead.
She glances at the waiter. He is cleaning the hallway near the restrooms. The owner has buried himself in a newspaper. Janet slips out of her booth and into the one across from her, where Bob will sit. She mimes reaching out, taking something off the plate. She stares at the seat where she was just sitting for a moment, wishes she had a mirror. What will he see? Hastily she switches back to her original seat, glancing at the door again as she does. Where is he?
A man walks in the door.
He glances around quickly. He takes off his sunglasses. It is Bob.
Janet goes tense. The muscles in her arms seize. Her eyes look everywhere but at Bob’s face.
The owner of the diner is nowhere to be seen.
Bob sees Janet and approaches. He puts his hands in his pockets as he reaches the booth. She swallows quickly and nods for him to sit. He sits.
“You’ve eaten,” he says.
Her eyes go the plate exactly in front of him, then back to his face. He has tired eyes. “Yes,” she says. She breathes very steadily. “I have eaten.”
“I have not,” he says. “Do you mind?”
Her eyes widen. “The waiter . . . the waiter’s busy.”
He glances casually, nods. “Of course. And the owner?”
She slowly lifts her right her arm toward her purse. “He knows to, eh, look very closely at something else.” Now that it is happening, it seems to be happening much too fast. She rests her right elbow on the back of the booth. The feel of cotton on leather does not comfort like it should. Her hand dangles just above her open purse.
He leans forward, over the plate, puts his elbows on the table on either side of it.
No waiting now.
Janet takes the pistol and places it on the plate, pointing at him. For a moment, she does not take her hand off it. Bob’s eyes flicker. He leans back ever so slightly.
Janet withdraws her hand quickly. Bob reaches out, lets his hand descend onto the gun. He turns it toward the window. He picks it up, turns it over, examines it; does all this with one hand. He sets it back down on the plate, butt down, silencer pointing in the air. He brings up his other hand.
Janet is very still.
Bob takes off the silencer in a few brief twists. He holds it up, examines it. He replaces it just as efficiently. This whole time his eyes have been always on the gun. Janet watches him as he watches what he is doing, almost detached from his own actions, and certainly detached from any interaction with her.
Janet swallows. She pushes a stray strand of brown hair back behind her ear.
Bob makes a clicking noise with his tongue. “Looks good,” he says. He puts the gun inside his jacket. Then he gets up and leaves. Janet follows him out with her eyes. The wind slams the door.
Janet glances at the clock again. 10:04. The whole thing has taken less than five minutes.
She puts her elbows back on the table.
She puts her head back in her hands.
The rain keeps hitting the window, hitting the window, hitting the window.