Coffee and a Donut

January 4, 2008
By Dylan Garity, Corvallis, OR

Jeremy drained a last sip of cappuccino from the bottom of his cup, staring at the magazine on the counter before him with glazed eyes. They slipped from line to line, unfocused; with a start he realized that he hadn’t absorbed a single word in almost five minutes. He looked down at the empty coffee cup, tapping his fingers in a quick non-rhythm, and rubbed his orange Converse together where they rested, curled, on the tier of his stool. Turning to the trash bin a few feet away, he aimed the cup in a slow lob, but it bounced off and rolled silently to rest on the tile floor.
With a sigh he stood to leave, twisting the magazine into a scroll and placing it in the back pocket of his once dark but now fading jeans. He bent and picked up the cup, dropping it gently amongst the other trash, and then walked toward the stairs that led to the store below.
The last cashier was closing down her station as Jeremy walked past aisle after aisle devoid of all but a few late stragglers. He paused to check his watch as he reached the far wall, then turned toward the bakery, where a couple of small pastries remained behind cold glass doors. He reached in and grabbed a donut, carefully wrapping it in brown tissue paper, then proceeded to one of the few active self-checkout stations. After fishing in vain for a dollar bill, he pulled miscellaneous small change from his pocket, and left without taking the receipt.
A cool late-summer breeze washed over Jeremy as he stepped outside through the sliding doors. He walked around the corner and spied the car he had been looking for, a green Buick, the only sign of life in an otherwise empty lot. A young woman was waiting in the driver’s seat, her arm hanging from the open window. He waved at her, and she gave a measured smile in return, turning away to face the wheel.

The passenger door was cracked open, and Jeremy slid into the seat beside her; the door eased shut behind him.

“Hey, Rose.”


The key was in the ignition, but she seemed in no hurry to leave. Jeremy looked at her with searching eyes, taking in her plain white tank top, thin glasses and carefully drawn back hair. It shone soft and yellow in the light of the flickering lamppost above; her eyes were lit as well, but she didn’t meet his gaze.

“How was your afternoon?” he asked.

“It was good.”

“That’s good.” He paused again, then lifted the donut and took a small bite. “I got this as I was leaving, thought you might want to share it,” he said, offering it to her. She looked at the donut for a moment and then up at him. He started to crack a warm smile, but paused with his lips half parted as she looked down from his face.

“You spilled powdered sugar on your shirt,” she said.

“Oh. Thanks.” Jeremy brushed at the sugar, but succeeded only in leaving a small white stain on the dark green of his polo shirt. “Thanks,” he repeated. “So. Do you wanna have a bite?”

“No, that’s OK.”

“Alright. Cool.”

Jeremy looked away. A man in a security uniform was walking across the lot, headed toward them.
“Store’s closed!” shouted the man as he came near. “Why don’t you kids get on home?”
Rose turned the key, put the car into drive, and pulled forward without another word. Jeremy rolled down his window and stared quietly out across streets and trees and buildings, as the light above them slowly flickered off.

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