Dispatches

Parley

Andrea G. Johnston

At the Tim Hortons on Young Street in Halifax, a man clears his throat, a rough-looking older guy in the back corner, staring out the window. One knee, angled out from the table, jigs up and down; the rest of him is quite still. A sheet of notepaper lies on the table, unfolded. He looks at it, refolds it, unfolds it, looks at it. Soon he is joined by a younger, but not young, woman who breezes over saying Hi, baby, how’re ya doin’? and kisses him on the cheek. He is so thin that his cheeks are slightly sunken. She is blond and rosy. She settles across from him. A moment later she’s gone—standing in line for coffee—and he is shaking all over as if he could use a stiff drink. He wasn’t shaking that way before the woman breezed in and kissed him. She comes back with the coffee and sits down.

The two of them talked simultaneously for a good two minutes non-stop, two trains on a single track, how is it there was no crash? Maybe there was. Now neither is saying anything. The letter is still on the table. The woman looks here, there, out the window. The guy is shaking. His knee jigs, stops, jigs, stops.

The woman has disappeared. The shaky guy gulps down his coffee and stands up. He’s taller than you’d expect. He strides to the door. The lid of the garbage can clanks as he stuffs in his takeout cup.

No, his cup is still on the table. It

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Andrea G. Johnston

Andrea Johnston’s work has appeared in a number of Canadian publications. She is currently writing short fiction and translating the latest collection by the Quebec poet Patrick Coppens.


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