Thomas flecked a chip of red paint from the railing overlooking the river. Underneath the red, a layer of green separated from the perpetually moist teak; he dug his thumbnail into that next. His last breakfast at the Junko Cafe was talking longer than it had all week.
He heard the waiter approach from behind. Thomas blocked his coffee cup with a hand and turned. “Could we switch me to just water?”
The waiter withdrew the coffee pot.
“With ice, please” Thomas added in practiced Bandeeian.
“My apologies, sir. We have no ice today.” Thomas peered into the main area. Only overcast sunlight from the wide entry arch illuminated the empty dining room next to his balcony spot. A double row of silhouetted four-tops seemed to barricade the exit. When he’d arrived it had been darker than usual, but he’d arrived earlier than usual as well. Hadn’t there been other diners then?
“You are having trouble in the kitchen. No electricity?”
“It should be back up soon. I came to tell you they are finishing up your breakfast. I’ll get you some water.”
“Make that two, Taniel.”
The waiter nodded to the man at the top of the steps and retreated to the kitchen. The newest and only other person in the Junko fingered back a spray of dark hair that may have been better groomed when he left the house. His moustache, however, was precisely trimmed. He wore a grey suit and black monk strap shoes, but no tie. He was a little person.
Thomas felt a bubble of mirth rise to his chest while the words ‘midget’ and ‘dwarf’ rose to his head. Fear chilled the feeling in his chest when it occured to him that one of those two words was the equivalent of nigger, but he wasn’t sure which. Not that he had plans to use either aloud.
The man’s arms seemed shorter and his head larger. He was standing at Thomas’ table when Thomas realized he’d been speaking as he came down the steps from the main floor to the balcony. His hand rested on the back of the empty second chair.
“Sure. Please,” Thomas gestured for the man to sit with him.
The man coaxed a polite smile from a stiff sigh. “I was saying ‘My name is Harry Whiteround.’ I believe you are Thomas North?”
“Yes. Yes, I am. Sorry for that. I don’t…I just…I…”
“Don’t get out very much?”
“Yeah. Thanks. Sorry.”
xxx words on day 932