Peoplewatching

September 17th, 1264


In a diner,

XXX sits in a booth near the door (keep your exits handy) with slightly sticky plastic seating and leans over a table (also plastic; the laminate top is pale off-white and covered with abstract nothings in brown and tan) and listens. There is a cup of coffee on the table (creamy and with too much sugar) and a burger in hand (medium, with a touch of pink, covered in too much ketchup) (paid for with a crumpled, stained five-dollar bill found on the sidewalk a little while ago) and a small paperback stolen from a store last week sitting open on the table (different town, different people) (the book wasn't really that good, a lot of boring shit about small-town romances and high school drama - snore) (it didn't matter what the book was about though; XXX had realized that the last time she read a book was almost two years ago and even though she had never been a strong reader, that thought still sort of hurt); by her side, XXXX sits on the floor and laps at a bowl of water (cold) and a plate of bacon (hot) (courtesy of the waitress, who was enamored with "the sweet old girl" and had insisted on giving him a little something, free of charge) (you'd think he'd never had bacon before, the way he's gnawing at it - which come to think of it, is pretty plausible); the windows are clear enough, dirty and scuffed up at the edges but plenty clean to afford a view of the street outside (not very busy, mostly tourists wandering through the little shops looking for tchotchkes and souvenirs and the like) and let in some air - still warm, this time of year - but what really has XXX's attention is not the book or the outdoors but the people inside.

Eight, not counting herself, or the waitress and the two cooks (who are talking too fast for XXX to understand them or even know whether or not they're speaking a language she could recognize):

in the far corner is a young woman (badger - fur messy, blank eyes - younger than XXX, probably) slowly eating a late breakfast (like seven pieces of toast with butter), who almost looks like she might be in a similar situation to XXX - though it is entirely possible that instead of being a ragged runaway (slash-thief-slash-murderer) on a trip across the world, she's a teenager who just woke up and hasn't gotten around to cleaning up or replacing yesterday's clothes just yet (if only, if only; XXX wishes she could still sleep in like that, but it's hard to do so when you can't just shut your curtains against the day);

at the bar sits a short, round man in a cleanly pressed suit and with thick glasses (lenses absent), who looks like he is trying to pull off a ponytail but doesn't have the fur for it - but at the moment, his concern is not his failed hairstyle (or the lemonade and basket of fries sitting on the counter in front of him (untouched)) but instead lies with Margaret and whether or not she sent those damn reports over, something that (judging by the steady stream of language and rancor flowing out of his mouth and into the little headset perched on his ear) is the most recent in a long, long line of disappointments;

two booths down, a nice family of four is having brunch (one of those touristy types that roam the streets outside) - the parents listen attentively as the youngest (a kid of maybe four years old) tells them about where she thinks the moon goes when it sets (not reproduced here for brevity's sake), and XXX can't really help but smile at the kid's very imaginative explanation or the way that the mother is very surreptitiously glancing at her phone underneath the table (some brightly colored word game visible even from this distance) - the fourth member of their little family is a lanky kid just breaking into puberty who keeps glancing shyly around the corner of their booth at the dog sitting on the floor eating bacon, and who (in about five minutes) is going to sneak away from her sister's (still continuing) tale to ask XXX very shyly if she could pet her dog (which will make her's and XXXX's days both all at once);

Behind XXX, in the corner booth, two elderly men, well into their fifth cups of coffee (sixth, now, as the waitress comes over and fills them up without a word) sit and play cards (for pennies) (badly) and talk jovially about everything from the weather ("Clear as spit") to politics ("I'm telling you, Marv, the guy's got plenty of ideas in his head, but that don't count for shit if he doesn't have the brains to get 'em out") to who's dead (just about everyone, apparently), all with smiles and a pair of laughs (one reedy and high, one lower and halting, always accompanied by a brief coughing spell) that sounded like they had been ringing throughout the diner for decades.

And then the burger was done, and with a last ding of the little bell above the door, XXX and XXXX were gone.