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The Burlesque Cafe

Updated on August 20, 2015
FatBoyThin profile image

Colin's novels, story collections and stage plays are available as eBooks and paperbacks.

The Challenge

This story was inspired by Chris Mills (cam8510), who issued a short story writing challenge linked to his Hub: "Five Steps to Writing a Solid Flash Fiction Story." The Challenge was to write a 1,000 (or fewer) word story using the prompts:

  • Genre: Drama,
  • Location: Coffee Shop,
  • Object: A Walking Cane

So here's what I came up with.

...the street is quiet except for a few mid-day shoppers...
...the street is quiet except for a few mid-day shoppers... | Source

The Burlesque Cafe

I see him cross the street at the corner and wave his stick at a passing motorist. He shouts some vaguely racist phrase, as if the driver has no right to be on the road. Reaching the kerb, the stick-waver makes a V-sign as the car continues on its way.

Still an arrogant asshole, then.

I smile at my own reflection in the window, then keeping my head turned slightly as if I'm totally engrossed in whatever inane crap is pouring out of the TV on the wall, I watch the newcomer's approach.

As he passes the window, he makes a big thing of not noticing me. He stops at the door and kicks his boots free of snow before coming into the cafe.

Walking canes
Walking canes | Source

He's behind me now, and I can almost feel him gazing around the place, taking in the quaint watercolours of country scenes on the walls, admiring the child-like salt-dough decorations, appraising the faded price list by the counter.

"Ah, goot morning."

I turn in a fairly nonchalant way and watch as he bumbles his way through the menu, choosing one thing, discarding it, choosing another, working out (in a loud voice) if he can afford a cappuccino and a piece of cake on his meagre salary.

The girl at the counter smiles, accommodating his irritating tone. She takes his money and steps into the back room. He watches her go, then turns round, sees me (as if for the first time), and raises an eyebrow. "Ah." Thumping his stick on the floor as he walks, he comes over to my table and bows slightly. "Ingleesh?"

I nod.

"Vould you mind?"

I wave a hand at the other chair. He pulls it back and sits. For a moment, he says nothing and simply sits there, gazing around. He nods at the tourists in the corner, undoes his coat, takes off his gloves, places his cane carefully on the wide shelf that passes for a windowsill.

Actor Brian Cox
Actor Brian Cox | Source

Finally, he leans forward. His voice is low. "Dey say summer in Vienna vill be varmer this year."

I copy his stance. "Yes, but only when tulips are blooming in Amsterdam."

He smiles, leans back. "You like ze disguise?" He fingers his rather overdone goatee beard. "Modelled on zat Scotteesh actor - Brian Cox. Think it give me a distinguished facade."

I glance at the tourists and wonder if they're following our conversation.

"Where have you been, Max? I thought they were onto us."

He gives me one of his 'hurt' looks. "I had to take tree buses, two trams and a boat to shake zem off." He shuts up while the waitress comes over and slides a small tray onto the table. When she's behind the counter again, he continues. "Not as young as I used to be, ay?"

I pretend indifference. "That's nothing - I jumped from the roof of an office block, stole a bicycle, ran two miles dressed as a nun and roller-skated along the embankment." I finish my coffee and place it in the saucer, half-standing to push it across the table. Sitting back down, I take the opportunity to move my chair back, allowing easier access to the cane.

Max makes a face and moves his own chair nearer the windowsill. "You haff no stamina. On my last mission, I ran five marathons, hijacked a Boeing 747, stole a horse and cart and unicycled across Paris in ze rush hour." He smiles.

I try one better. "When I was assigned to the Ecuadorian Minister for Culture, I water-skied down Lake Geneva, stilt-walked through Venice during the carnival, parachuted into Sophia Loren's hotel room, shimmied down a drainpipe and had sexual relations with seventeen cheer leaders in a burger bar before tea."

His face falls and I know I've taken it too far. He shakes his head. "You made that up."

I hang my head. "Yes. Sorry."

He shrugs. "Is okay. Is same for me - pressures of the job." He drains his cappuccino and stands up. "Thankyou for ze conversation my friend," he says in a loud voice, picking up his gloves. "It is goot for my Ingleesh, ay?"

I smile and watch as he shuffles away from the table, waves at the waitress and leaves the same way he came in. I wait five minutes before picking up the cane and leaving the cafe.

Outside, the street is quiet except for a few mid-day shoppers. I walk off in the opposite direction to Max. When I turn the corner he's there, leaning against the wall.

"D'yer fink they fell for it?"

I shrug. "Maybe."

He moves past me and peers round the corner. "Nah, don't fink so. They'd be on our tail by now if they 'ad." He laughs. "I told yer."

I smile. "Yeah, you were right - we should have gone with the Michael Caine scenario and done The Ipcress File again."

He holds out a hand and I pass him the cane. "Catch you next time."

Comments

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    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      'Vivid' and 'Brilliant'? I can definitely live with that! Thanks for reading, Martie, much appreciated.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      I like your vivid descriptions and brilliant dialogue :)

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Glad you enjoyed it, Mary, I do love a bit of spy banter - especially when the swallows are flying south for winter (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      James Bond fans around the world are cheering! Great take on the spy movies we see so much of.

      Loved the characters and pace of this story. Well done.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for reading, Dianna.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      3 years ago

      Well written.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for reading, Ann, and cheers for all the bigging-up - won't be able to get my head through the door...

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Love the Michael Caine movies. All that bragging was hilarious!

      Great story, fun read and a stupendous response to Chris' challenge.

      Off to follow.

      Ann

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Hey Shauna, thanks for reading. It's not taken from a specific film as such, but rather a bit of a spoof on the genre of British spy movies from the Sixties, particularly the Michael Caine ones, like Funeral in Berlin, Billion Dollar Brain and The Ipcress File. All brilliant movies, by the way.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      Fun story. I'm not familiar with the movie the characters were pulling from, but enjoyed their antics nonetheless. Great response to Chris' challenge!

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Alicia, you're a star!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and creative story that's great fun to read!

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      It's fine to be long-winded, so long as you do a bit of editing afterwards! Thanks for reading.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well done. I've not tried much in the flash fiction genre. I guess I tend to be too long-winded! LOL

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks DW - appreciate your feedback. It's always hard to know if you've actually managed to create a surprise or if it's just another boring ending!

    • DWDavisRSL profile image

      DW Davis 

      3 years ago from Eastern NC

      That was a most enjoyable read. I certainly was taken by surprise.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for reading Lela, glad you enjoyed it - I particularly liked the Sophia Loren bit, but wasn't sure if it would fit.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 

      3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      Loved it! Funny and well done. Sophia Loren is proud of you.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Dirt Farmer and Larry - kind of you guys to take the time to comment. Cheers.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great response. I was looking forward to reading a response to this challenge.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Lots of fun-- good buildup and then nice twists at the end. The bragging part made me lol.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Bill, Mitch and Gary - you guys are the best!

    • Gary Malmberg profile image

      Gary Malmberg 

      3 years ago from Concon, Chile

      Me like!

    • Mitch Charman profile image

      Mitchell Charman 

      3 years ago from Western Australia

      Thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good response to the challenge. I love flash fiction. It fits in quite nicely with my busy schedule. :)

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for your feedback Jodah - always appreciated. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What an interesting and fun tale Colin. Loved the language/dialogue too. Well done.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for the feedback guys, glad to be part of the challenge.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks for the feedback guys, glad to be part of the challenge.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      Seventeen cheerleaders!? Outstanding story, Colin. Loved the dialogue. Thanks for joining the challenge

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Well written and quite interesting, Fatboy! Your descriptions and dialogue are great. :)

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      What fun that was! Well done!

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