All Work and No Play

He can’t see me from where he’s standing. I’m in the perfect position, hidden behind the laminated table menu.

His blue striped shirt, which I washed and ironed yesterday, is sticking to his chest, the top three buttons all undone.

A flame theatrically explodes and lights up the kitchen area. He laughs; loud enough for everyone in the café to hear.

“Laughing,” I mouth to myself, as if speaking into a hidden microphone. I really can’t recall the last time I heard him doing that.

I lift my head and watch him twirl round, wiggling his shoulders and performing a couple of synchronised dance steps with a young barista.

I feel my lips move again: “Dancing!”

A new song starts up, asking who’s letting the dogs out? He holds a spoon in front of his lips and barks along to the tune. The young girl at the cash desk is also yapping, like an unleashed groupie. I catch myself grimacing, but manage to suppress the urge to growl.

He’s bouncing up and down now, waving his hands in the air, wagging an imaginary tail.

I slip a fiver under the mug and sneak away, unnoticed.

“How was work?” I ask.

“Boring,” he replies.

Pointing the remote at the TV, he settles deep into his armchair.

I let out a private sigh, switch on the small table light, open my book and stare down at the words.

We won’t speak again until it’s time for our hot chocolate.

Published: Retreat West