Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Excess Cafe

Back before the downtime the building on the corner of Archer Street was the Excess Cafe. I remember that it was June, and it was hot on London's streets. It was hotter still in the Underground, and I was sincerely glad that I could walk over to the Excess Cafe without needing the Tube. I walked in, letting the door swing shut behind me, and laid my laptop on my usual table and dropped my bag on the floor behind my usual chair. Lehar, the waitress, looked up from the glossy gossip magazine she was reading -- from where I was the title looked like 'loser' -- and smiled quickly at me. As she bent her head over the pages of her magazine again, her black hair falling to conceal her face, she said,
"The rage is in the salt."

I felt relieved, I never knew if they'd have any rage for me when I turned up. I've been using it for the past couple of years to write. I write a fairly gory brand of fiction, in a couple of different genres. I do police procedurals with serial killers and mass murderers; horror stories where people get ripped apart and gruesomely killed; and M&B style romance novels where revenge is exacted with deadly certitude. The rage helps.

My usual table was two away from the glass window that fronted the cafe and let the street outside look in. I'd tried sitting at the window, and found that there was too much light for me to see the laptop screen well for most of the day; a little further in there was more shadow and I could still see out. The table itself was formica topped, hollow-steel-legged, and bolted to the floor. The chairs were all moulded plastic, and my usual chair was just the one facing the window and next to the wall. The seat had a couple of rough spots where someone had let hot cigarette ash fall and melt it.

Anna-Mix was in, sat over at the counter on a tall red plastic-seated stool, hunched over a white polystyrene cup of instant coffee, shivering slightly. Her lips moved silently, and her knuckles were a little white, so I let her be. I'd love Anna-Mix if she'd let anyone get close; I've written her into so many of my stories now that she's becoming a stock character. I've not told her though, because she's not heroine material, which means that her character always meets a messy end. I don't think she'd cope well finding out how many ways I've found to kill her.

Jeff was in as well, eating the Excess Club Sandwich. It's a slice of brown toast spread with mayo, then stacked with a fried egg, a couple of rashers of bacon, two slices of fried tomato, a potato waffle squashed flat, a slice of white toast spread with mustard, another fried egg, a sausage sliced down the middle, a splash of ketchup, a spoonful of baked beans and a last slice of brown toast spread with butter. Yellow yolk pooled on his plate, and his face was shiny with grease and gritty with toast crumbs. He had a couple of paper napkins on the table, and a takeaway cup of ground coffee. Jeff freelances as a town-planner, and is currently overseeing the construction of a Gaudi-inspired multi-storey parking lot. He's told me a couple of times he's hoping to reduce traffic volume in the city with it.

Dax was missing, but I was pretty certain he'd be here soon, as he knew I was looking for him. I sat down, uncapped the salt and tasted it, checking the rage, then flipped the laptop open and pressed the button to turn it on. While I waited for Dax I could find a way to kill the latest incarnation of Anna-Mix. This time she was a young single mother just finding her way into prostitution, walking through the streets of the council estate she called home. I looked over at Anna-Mix as she shuddered over her coffee and talked to herself in words that only she could hear, and saw immediately that my character would be run down by an ice-cream van driven by a vigilante paediatrician who'd been treating her daughter for Polio.

I began to type.

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