William is only in his mid-thirties but already has a receding hairline and a thin spot on the back of his head that shines in the sunlight. He’s more than a few pounds overweight and can barely walk down the block without stopping to catch his breath.
Every workday at noon, for the past month, William has eaten at the Main Street Cafe. He always sits at the table in front of the window and reads another book by Ivan Doig, James Joyce, or E. E. Cummings. Or perhaps he’ll just sip his cinnamon latte and slowly eat his tuna salad or chicken salad on rye and watch the crowd stroll up and down Main Street.
Now the cafe itself isn’t anything special. It’s the same one as in every other small town spread across America. Just another rundown café in another rundown town. You know the one with the cute little hand painted special written in neon colors on a whiteboard displayed on an iron tripod just outside the front door.
Inside the shop, the walls are covered with license plates from all over America and even a few from Canada and Mexico. Old photos of all the Little League ball teams they’d sponsored over the years hanging behind the counter along with amateur photos of people holding up huge catfish or posing with an eight pointer.
For William, the coffee is always a little weak and definitely overpriced. So most people wouldn’t even go there if it wasn’t the only café on the square.
But coffee isn’t what brings William here every day anyway. He’s here because he’s in love with Martha. Because he sees the real Martha, the way her curves bulge against the seams of her uniform. Her fish hook smile that can catch his heart and reel him in every time she flashes it at him. He’s here because of the warmth he feels in his cheeks every time she looks at him with those brilliant blue eyes.
He’s here because of the way he feels his heart pound against his rib cage when she walks close. Or the way the lump gets caught in his throat whenever she greets him each morning. The way his hands shake like an inmate on death row if she accidently brushes against him while clearing the table.
William has tried a hundred times to make the words come out but they just won’t dislodge from his throat. So he always lays a $10 bill on the table for a $5.99 tab and smiles at Martha before he heads out the door.
“What’s the deal with that William?” Charlotte asks.
“I don’t know, but I wish the hell I had the nerve to ask him out.” Mary whispers.