Customer said Quantitative Easing was a give away to big banks, free money, but attendant defended the policy: it also brought down mortgage and lending rates which was good for regular people looking to buy a car or home, good in turn for the economy. Attendant compared two crumpled napkins he picked up from out front to “the crumpled animals in myself.” “God has made birds, Mankind has made paper napkins,” was another of the attendant’s sudden formulations. Question about nature of opposites arose: was hypertrophy the opposite of atrophy, or was normalcy, as it were, the opposite of both. Was that the smoke of someone’s cigarette out the window? (No: it was the steam from someone’s coffee cup.) Was that someone smoking outside the window, or was it the steam from someone’s coffee cup? (No, it was the reflection in a window across the street of a white delivery truck passing.) Customer watched a wide string of dust, suspended from the curving ceiling panel, twist in the draft from the vent. Customer, who hadn’t been seen in the store in some time, ordered the roast beef sandwich, and was third consecutive customer to order that sandwich, the only three sandwiches ordered that hour.

Customer had just returned from Namibia but couldn’t recall the name of its capital. Customer had lived in Rwanda’s capital for three months, yet couldn’t recall its name at the moment. Attendant’s colleague didn’t know in which decade the massacres in Rwanda had occurred. Attendant’s colleague expressed view: it was wrong for private individuals in one country to own property in another country (a customer having said he had an interest in Tanzania.) Attendant challenged his colleague with the question: was it acceptable, then, for a country to accept foreign workers, in her view? Attendant felt oppressed by the momentary fancy that all the physical universe seemed a grim vector pointing back at himself — that he was a/the drain. The mother’s day sermon had actually been rather tough, the customer reported, which was why he liked this minister: mothers weren’t pure, mothers weren’t virginal, mothers had pasts, mothers were still mothers, mothers were still women. Customer ordered double americano with room to go. Customer ordered small blended coffee drink with whipped cream, less ice. Customer said that her name was the same as one of the sandwiches and ordered that sandwich. (Name spelled differently, credit card showed.) Customer said everyone’s name in his family started with letter ‘j’. There certainly seemed to be a lot of trash today without there having been a corresponding increase in customers –was it just how the evening light was striking it?

Customer, with mustache, ordered small coffee. (Mustache of ancient Greek origin, related to mastax, “mouth, jaws”). Attendant gazed at author’s photo on back of overturned book while customer dug for coins: handsome man there on the back. Customer, “as if disciplining a child”, glared at empty napkin dispenser. Attendant said you could remember the meaning of the word “glabrous” by thinking of it as the opposite of word “hirsute”. Customer was told internet password; customer was told bathroom had key; customer told napkins could be found to the right of the register; customer was told that the trash can was behind them, under the mirror, and that the dishes could be left anywhere. Customer told the plates could be set here, in his outreaching hands. Customer, who said the United States was easily the most corrupt nation on Earth, was asked how he defined corruption. Customer said he’d been learning interesting things about the effect of the shape of the drum rim upon the sound of the drum. Customer, Thai food deliverer, enjoyed Heavy Metal music most. Customer twisted bottle’s top, making popping noise as it detached. Attendant said: “You said, and I agree with you, that every person is valuable. My question to you is, on what logical foundation does that belief rest.” Customer replied: “God.”


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