Route 7 Review - Page 30

tom miller in the coffee shop By Charlotte Covey i met him when he broke a mug, old hands mottled and shaking. blood bloomed on arthritic fingers, mixed blue-gray skin with rust. i found band aids in the back room, asked him six times if there was someone i could call. he smiled when he said no, waved a bandaged goodbye, fresh coffee in his good hand. he came back every thursday, sometimes in the morning, sometimes not ‘til the sun was setting. always alone. he called me miss sunshine and left ten dollars in the tip jar, ‘til i told him a small black coffee wasn’t worth forty a month. after that, he always left twenty. when a thursday came and went, i closed half an hour late. ten people wandered in, but no one with thin silver hair and the travel mug i painted last christmas (he’d cried when i gave it to him). when he creaked in seven days after, at twelve noon exactly, i realized i’d been holding my breath all week. he laughed at me, said, i’m not gone yet. i laughed with saw dust in my throat and thumps in my chest. two years later, sometimes i still close half an hour late, looking out the picture window, his coffee waiting on the counter. i think it’s getting cold.