For the last few weeks, I've been sharing excerpts which fit the weekly theme for Twitter's One Line Wednesday. Though this week's theme is "coffee", I admit to stretching it a little with this scene out of From the Desk of Buster Heywood... by taking you to the haven of 9-to-5 coffee drinkers everywhere: the break room.
The water cooler was one of the most useful yet frustrating points of interest in any given workplace. Long before fad diets had started pushing the importance of eight glasses of water a day, Buster's mother had been a vocal fan of hydration. When most kids had gone on field trips with bottles of Gatorade or foil pouches of Capri Sun that shined like status symbols, the Heywood kids had clambered aboard their fair share of buses and mini-vans with thermoses full of fresh, filtered water. But while there was an ingrained predisposition for Buster to seek out the nearest watering hole in lieu of cracking open a can of soda or popping out for a cup of coffee at the shop across the circle, there was also the fact that he often felt like the lone gazelle in a crowd of hyenas.
"... and can you believe what they did with the lobby of the Courier? Completely gutted it, made it all modern. I don't know how the Historical Society ever let that one slide, or who approved the building permit there." Ben, the salt-and-pepper-haired town registrar, was leaning against the counter near the microwave, addressing two of the clerks who were sharing their lunch at the table.
Buster winced: the three of them had formed the dreaded Break Room Triangle, a configuration which not only allowed for the maximum amount of possible social interaction before he could collect his cup of water and retreat, but demanded that he pass straight through the middle of it in order to do so. He prepared for the imminent small talk, and stepped forward with his customary nod of greeting.
"Oh, hey, Buster. How's it going?"
"That good, huh?" Ben chuckled, though Buster found the joke as funny as he did every single time it was made. "I was just telling the girls about the remodel the Courier had done. They're the first winners of that local business makeover contest Loren's committee started."
Buster's hand hovered below the cup dispenser as something clicked. Loren's committee... maybe this had something to do with his promised errand, later in the afternoon. There was a slim chance of it, after all. But he wasn't prepared to doom himself to being stuck in the Triangle just for a slim chance, and made another quiet noise of agreement.
"What is it, one every three months? They're due to pick the next one pretty soon." The part-time girl from upstairs nudged a carrot stick through a Tupperware container of dressing. Buster couldn’t remember her name, but it was hard to forget the heavy floral perfume she tended to drench herself in, or the way her feathered blonde hair stuck out at strange angles, like tiny wings all over her head. He'd learned to keep his eyes fixed on the water cooler as he filled his cup, so he wouldn't stare at her head, wondering when it was going to take flight off her shoulders.
"Probably voting on it at the next town meeting, yeah," Ben agreed, sipping at his coffee. "Whoever it is, I sure hope they do something nicer than the paper's done. The whole point was to keep the spirit of the town, not ... I don't know, try and drag it kicking and screaming into modern day style. People like this place because it's classic, you know? Some things need to be kept the way they are."
The part-timer pointed her carrot at him with a raised eyebrow. "I bet you don't want that new shopping center, either, Ben."
"Right you are. Even if I did, I couldn't afford to go to it, am I right? Not on what they pay me." At this, he let loose a wheezing, fake laugh - something that most people found charming in a self-deprecating sort of way, but just tended to grab Buster's spine and twist a little. It reminded him of sitcom scenes where a character was choking, but no one else noticed until the last minute: something else that he had never thought was funny. He topped off his cup and headed back to his desk.
Site news, reviews, and book-related fun. Updated Wednesdays,
I'd be grateful if you'd help support me by clicking below: