The coffee at the Old Copper diner came in two flavors, thin and watery or thick and burned. There was no rhyme or reason to it. It also came in two temperatures, either scalding hot or somewhere between warm and cool. Not lukewarm, that would have been better, but that strange state where each sip was an independent temperature, fluctuating but never at something that a normal human being would consider even barely acceptable.
He sat and smoked while he waited to see which coffee he would get. He was tired, deep inside tired. He hoped that it would be that thick, burned, scalding mess. He needed that. He thought about asking the waitress if she could make it so, but thought better of it. She would assume he was being a wise-ass and would probably make sure that his coffee was more miserable than usual. She came and dropped the cup and saucer on the counter with expert precision. Not a drop spilled. He could smell the bitter sludge and almost smiled. Steam rose from the cup with such fury that he wondered if it would all evaporate before he could add milk and sugar. It didn’t. He sipped the coffee and lit another cigarette.
“Waiting for someone?” she asked. He was almost too stunned to answer. He had never heard the waitress at the Old Copper speak. He had thought that she might have even been a mute.
“Yeah, I guess,” he answered.
“I am,” he said. “But whether or not they show up…” he shrugged. “I come here every day and wait. They haven’t shown yet.”
“Huh,” she said. She lit a cigarette of her own and looked at him suspiciously. “They know you’re waiting for them?”
“I hope so,” he said. He slid his hand into his pocket and felt the cool steel of his gun. “I really do.”
“You want anything else?” she asked.
“No thanks,” he said, thinking that he should order something anyway, just because she had never asked before.
“Well, give me a holler if you change your mind,” she said and walked away, stepping into the kitchen. She pulled the money out of her apron, five old fifty dollar bills wrapped around a small piece of scrap butcher paper. A couple were stained with what might be blood. She looked at the phone, then down at the phone number on the butcher paper. She noticed the cook looking at her. “Get back to work,” she snarled.
She dialed the number. When someone picked up at the other end, she said clearly ,”He’s still waiting.”
She listened. She hung up.
She stepped back out of the kitchen to wait.