Red, Grey, Feathers, Overcoat

May 18, 2008
By Katie DeLay, Metairie, LA

It was her. She had come back again. And she had sat at the same table, in the same seat. She looked out the window again with that same desperate look. Maybe whomever she was looking for may come this time. But this time, the hat was bigger. So was the feather. This time the hat was red with a wide brim that hid her face well. The ribbon wrapping around it was yellow. Flopping back and forth with every swivel, the feather obeyed its owner. Michael walked up to her table. She flashed him that smile. It was lonely. It was sad. It described everything we wanted to know about her. Then again, there was always that night that the fight broke out by the garbage can. She obviously knew the man she was fighting with, because she kept screaming his name after he had told her he was moving. “John! John! John!” she cried. Only Echo replied back, that miserable goddess.

She handed Michael the menu. Here he came, with his order for the woman with the red, flopping feather perched in her hat. “I need an order of the chef’s special,” he said.

A souse chef frowned. “We do not have one!”

“I suggest you make one.”

As hands and minds started to whirl about what to do, the creature was still an observation. She sat with her arms crossed, only uncrossing them to take a drink of the dirty martini. Janet knew the woman wanted it especially dirty with five, large green olives pierced with a toothpick. It was an art form to watch her sip that dirty drink. Her hand, as if not attached to her own body, would reach out and allow the stem to slide between her third and ring fingers. It would rise and slightly touch her lips. The hand would then place it back in the same exact place, above the knife. For weeks, she had been coming here since that fight. For weeks, she had ordered the same thing. The chef’s special.

“Chef, what do you want us to do?”

The drink slowly hit her red, plump, exaggerated lips. “Flank steak with a red wine sauce, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.”

“Okay, get to work!”

Her gaze again drifted to the window. What was out there that was so captivating to those eyes that were covert so often? A man in a grey overcoat would walk by in about ten minutes. Her arms would unfold. Both hands would grip the table. And her eyes would watch that man walk by. He would stop for just a moment to look at his watch. He would then look into the restaurant window. For a moment, the room would seem absolutely silent. One could feel the world stop spinning in that instant that the two’s eyes meet. Pain permeates the room. But it is a sensation that only lasts for thirty seconds. One can only sense it if one watches the woman closely. After those thirty seconds, nothingness returns to what is something. The man with the grey overcoat continues to move on. Hands fall to her lap. They would not cross the chest again. The clock in the kitchen starts to ding. It is five thirty. At that instant, the man with the grey overcoat could be seen at the first window. He folds his paper under his arm as if to prepare himself for the feeling again. The second window. The woman has unfolded her arms, the hands gripping to the table. And it happened. The man looked down at his watch. He then looked up into the window. But this time it was a little different. Yes, the world stopped. Yes, pain still spilled about. But this time the man with the grey overcoat gave the ever so slightest smile. This time the woman pushed herself up from the table. Her feather danced with the new movement. She should not have stood up, though. When she made the attempt even apparent, he wiped the smile away and continued to walk. The women stared at the empty space for quite some time. Michael was intently watching her, too. The feather began to dance around; it began to sway. Then it fell along with its owner. Water, ice, bread was rushed over. For the first time ever, though, she had the excuse to take off her hat. That hat had protected her so well. That hat had hidden all the pain that now everyone could see. That hat revealed a weathered face. Her hair was graying. It was tied in a tight bun in the back. Her eyes were shut, those remained a mystery. But she was beautiful. By looking at the face, one could tell why she had such red, exaggerated lips. It was to match her perfectly portioned nose. That nose was a soft slope, the nostrils making the slope more pronounced. Her forehead was smooth and white, yet wrinkles were beginning to prevail. Suddenly, her eyes fluttered open. A flash of grey with green made the eyes large. She looked innocent and young as she realized her embarrassment. She quickly stood, fluffing her hair and answering the same question over and over again in a hushed, inaudible voice. Placing the hat neatly upon her head, she took her seat. People who had rushed to the scene left, unsatisfied by the not so entertaining outcome. A sigh of relief, though, came from all those who knew of the fight, the man with the grey overcoat. Michael insisted she should see a doctor. But her unheard answer proved to be a negative. And the hands embraced the martini. All was the same.

Her food came out, which elicited whatever a smile is from her. She began to eat with vigor, yet elegantly. Fork in left hand, knife in right. Cut, chew, cut, chew. A rush of cold air blew in from the door where the newest arrival stood. He was in a grey overcoat with a black pinstriped suit. Victor knew about this man. The arm of the overcoat pointed in the direction of the red hat. And he was escorted over.

Red, grey, feathers, overcoats, everything faded. The only thing recognizable was, “May I join you, mother?”

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