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May 18, 2014 | by  | in Arts Online Only |
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Breakfast/Still Breathing

Breakfast
He had his eftpos card out before entered the café. He liked to be prepared when making a purchase. “Flat white, please.”

“Small?” Her skin was very white and her lips were very red. Her fringe — very black — sat level with her eyebrows. The effect was that of a flag.

He nodded. The grinder rattled, crunched and whizzed the beans. The milk steamer howled. Then, quiet.

She said, “Time for a shave.”

He brought his hand to his beard and looked down, as if he might be able to see his chin. He shaved once a week, on Saturday mornings, when he got itchy. One razor blade would last three months. A can of foam would last a year. On Friday nights, if he got the angle just so and pulled his skin tight and gritted his teeth, he could pluck out one of the longer whiskers using the nails of his thumb and index finger. It would usually bleed a little.

He looked up. She was watching him. Her eyes were all colours at the same time. He slid his fingers up to his sideburn, and then to his ear, where little stiff hairs had begun to sprout out of his auditory canal. He exhaled through his nose and made a sound like a laugh. She placed the coffee on the counter. A puff of milk froth periscoped up through the drinking slot. She balanced two pieces of biscotti on the lid, arranging them artfully, carefully avoiding the froth.

He stared at the biscotti. Two pieces? If he used them wisely, that would be all the breakfast he’d need.

 

Still breathing
Doctor Something, handshake full of tepid meat and ointment, says, How can I help? I tell him, while looking at the snap-lock spinal cord leaning against his desk, I need a new prescription. I watch the carpet, frayed at my feet through to hessian fibres; he watches his computer. Lorazepam? he asks. He makes slow circles with the mouse, says, I will give you ten. I think I am supposed to say thank you. I slip my hand, up to the wrist, through the hole in my jeans. He says, You know, instead of these, you could just have a few beers. I say, This prescription is three dollars, but a dozen beer is twenty bucks. He says, You’ve done the maths? and I say, You haven’t? His tongue pokes out between his lips, pink and wet, as he types. One keystroke per second. I use my breathing to measure time.

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