A short story by John Penn
I was observing a young man at a coffee shop the other day. He was tall with brown straight hair and his hair was poofy and starchy where it fell down over his forehead forming a line just above his eyebrows. His head was like a large wedge, large and wide at the top, narrowing progressively downward culminating in a sharp pointed chin. The glasses he wore were neither fashionable nor unfashionable. He was staked out at a small table in the middle of the cafe reading a book that was laid flat on the table before him. Before long the young man lifted the book he was reading up to a vertical position so that across the front cover one could see in large, white, visible letters, the word SURGERY. He is probably in medical school, I thought.
The word SURGERY seemed to me a very important word to have written across the cover of one’s book. I looked down to see what word was written on the cover of the book I was reading–AMERICA. There was nothing special about the word AMERICA that would cause you to be noticed for it if you propped it up so people could see it. After a few moments beholding the young man I concluded that he was showing off the word SURGERY on purpose. I wondered if I was the sort of man that would do the same thing. Then I remembered that I had done it before. At that very cafe’ I had lifted up the cover of my Latin text book so that the woman sitting to the left of me would see the word LATIN on the cover. I think that LATIN is probably a more important word to see on the cover of a book than AMERICA. But neither of them comes close to the word SURGERY.
So I went on reading my book and the young man went on reading his.
Some while later a young attractive woman walked into the cafe, ordered a beverage, then came and sat down at a table behind the young man. I watched the man as the attractive woman passed near him. He seemed very conscious about the presence of the woman who was now sitting in a leather arm chair behind him. I was thinking, the man probably wished she had sat in front of him so he could show her the word SURGERY just the same as he had shown me, much the better, because she was a young attractive woman. Maybe she would see the word SURGERY and find him interesting enough to talk to. I admit that I had wanted to talk to him myself when I saw the word.
Time passed and finally the young man’s apprehensiveness got the best of him. He rose from his chair forming a very tall and regal figure in the middle of the cafe. He shifted his body a little so he could see the girl. He lifted his cup from the table and made the motion of taking a sip, staying by the table, with the woman now clearly in his view. I say “motion” because I was almost certain that I saw him finish off his drink earlier. He was taking a fake sip to buy some time while he could get a good look at the woman. He placed his cup back down on the table and began walking away towards the restrooms in the back of the cafe’. A few minutes later he returned with a new cup of coffee, only this time he made sure to sit down in a direction now facing the attractive woman. After settling comfortably in his chair and taking a few sips of his coffee, he commenced with reading his book again, titling it up vertically once more so that the word SURGERY would be nice and visible to the attractive woman now sitting across from him.