ex :: Notebook

Writing Exercise (three paragraphs): When you go out to a restaurant or a bar, jot down your observations in a notebook. In one paragraph, describe a loner’s looks and behavior. In another, a couple’s looks and interaction. In a third paragraph, describe how a waiter or a bartender communicates with the customers.

        Sara groaned as she lifted the heavy tray of dirty plates and glasses into the small sink at the end of the bar. After rattling the basin around to dislodge the last fork, stuck to the inside corner by a thick glob of chocolate sauce and what appeared to be salsa, she paused for a moment, looking at the way small bits of leftover sauces and dressings were leaching out from in between a short stack of plates from table 3.         “You look hungry,” Mike said, putting his hand on her shoulder as he turned sideways to squeeze by her and get to the stack of clean glasses behind the bar.         “No,” she said without looking up, “it’s just kind of pretty.”         Mike gave the metal scoop hanging from a beaded chain a deft kick, catching it as it swung up, and dove its end into the large bin of ice a few times. He gathered a good scoop and filled the glass he had retrieved. “Shift’s over, let me pour you something.”         “I have to get up in the morning. Casey taking me shopping for something to wear to the funeral.”         “Suit yourself.”         “Anyway, we’ve still got our writer.” Sara motioned with he eyebrow to the figure sitting in the dark corner booth, hunched over a small computer.         “I’ll take care of him…”         “No, no, I’ve still got dishes to do. I’ll get ‘em when I’m done. Anyway, it seems like he’s in the middle of something. I hate to break his concentration.”         “Your just hoping the story is about you.”         Sara laughed, “look who’s talking. Mr. ‘Would you like my life story with your check?’.”         “What, he asked me.”         “Uh, huh—and I suppose that was an accurate account too. How many years did you say you worked on that oil rig.”         “Oil derrick, it’s called a derrick.”         “One pump in the middle of an empty field on your parents hog farm.”         “Oil is oil.” Mike said with a huff. He held the glass to his lips, now filled with a mixture of Sprite and juice from the cherry bin, and stared at the man in the booth. “What do you think he’s writing?”         “Screen play,” said Sara knowingly.         “How do you know.”         “I saw the formatting over his shoulder. I don’t know what it’s about, but there is a character named Michael.” Mike gave Sara a sarcastic look, but she ignored him, faining effort in scraping melted cheese from a plate of half eaten nachos. When she had finished, she wiped he hands with the dish towel tucked into her apron strings and joined Mike in watching the writer work.         The man looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, but in a way that you might easily think he could be older. He had been coming in to the bar for almost 3 months now, always angling for one of the dark booths in the back, or when he couldn’t get them, the stool at the far end of the bar that everyone—including Mike and Sara—always assumed was supposed to be decorative. He had dark hair which wriggled out from under an old mussed and creased beret. Mike had often though how it was strange that hats like that always seemed to look goofy or like a costume on some people while others, like this writer, seemed to inhabit them. A few months ago the man had worn a thick black wool overcoat which only heightened the ensemble, but with the spring weather now breaking through he had switched to a grubby hooded sweet-shirt with the logo of an old bakery on the south side that had long since gone under. It only made him look younger and more literary than before.         The antique clock on the counter began to chime, once, twice, and Sara looked down at her watch and then around at the empty tables and booths. “Mmmm, alright, ” she yawned. Mike slid her a small plastic tray with a receipt and a mint on top, and Sara caught it and headed for the back booth, brushing back her lose pony tail as she zig-zagged through the tables.         “It’s 2 a.m., closing time.” She said, laying an extra smile in her voice.         The writer continued typing for a few seconds, his fingers suddenly speeding up and his eyes clamped down tight. Then he made a quick motion with his left had, saving his work and then looked up at Sara with a weary smile. “tha…” he coughed a few times, clearing his throat, “thanks,” he said, and flashed a quick smile as his eyes darted over the table, apparently taking a quick inventory of all his belongings. His hand dove into the large pocket on the front of his sweeter and pulled out a wadded ball of cash from which he extracted several bills, smoothing them on the edge of the table, and then sheepishly handing them to Sara who met his gaze with a tired smile of her own.         “I’ll be right back with your change.”         The man waved his hand and winced, coughing again for several seconds. “You keep it. You keep it, it’s yours.”         “Thank you sir,” she replied, obviously expecting this response but still grateful for the generous tip. She glanced over his bill, 4 coffees and a basket of fired clams he hadn’t touched. “You have a safe trip home.”         The writer nodded, closed his laptop under his arm, and walked across the room and through the door, tipping his beret to Mike as he passed.