Reading Faces

Inspiration Monday is back. Well I guess it never left, I just had nothing last week. My pen was dry. Anyway, be sure to head to Be Kind Rewrite to read the other entries or, even better write something yourself.


The crowd moved slowly. Some stood in lines at fast food counters, others held their plastic trays loaded with greasy mall food and walked in circles, trying to find a plastic table that wasn’t covered in the previous user’s spilled soda.

Tinny Christmas music played over the loudspeaker system, briefly interrupted now and then with a static-voiced announcement of a child being found or a car towed or for Doug to meet his wife at customer help desk.

Goat sat alone in the middle of the large circular room and watched the people around him. His pen scratched out short sentences, describing a few of the hapless consumers surrounding him.

“Middle-aged woman, grey sweater, black leggings, too much make-up, trying to eat with chopsticks & talk on her cellphone at same time.  Trying hard to look like a teenager. Most likely single and desperate.”

He scratched the last line out and told himself to just write what he saw and not add opinion.

“Old man, liver spots, thick glasses. Crisp white Oxford, ironed pants. Sitting painfully erect and smiling as he sips his Styrofoam cup of coffee. Ignorant of gang of teenagers sitting two tables behind him & mocking his posture.”

“Young couple, with three kids, none older than 10 years old. They look exhausted; wearing stained sweatshirts, no makeup, messed up hair, choking down cardboard hamburgers, so the kids could get those plastic toys with their meals. Kids have runny noses but look happy. Several bulging bags surround them, almost like a moat.”

Goat placed his pen on the table and massaged the palm of his writing hand with his thumb. He sipped his drink and looked about the food court, studying faces. No one popped out at him, so he bent down, flipped back a few pages in his book and reread his notes. Goat didn’t notice the woman walk up behind him and start reading over his shoulder.

“So what are you? Some kind of stalker?” she said.

He slammed his notebook shut, as hard as the paper cover would allow, and turned to face her. Getting caught embarrassed him already, but when he saw how beautiful she was, Goat wanted to implode. She was tall and thin, and her dark brown hair hung just past her shoulders. She wore a loose-fitting white t-shirt that still managed to cling to her curves. Her big, almost black eyes stared at him. Her mouth pursed in anticipation of disgust.

Goat yammered, his tongue suddenly inflated and filled with concrete.

Her arms, crossed across her chest, heaved her breasts up even higher. “Do I have to call security, pervert?” she said.

“No, no, no,” Goat said. “I’m not doing anything wrong. Just some research for my stories. I write short stories, I mean not professionally, not that I wouldn’t love to, I mean, it’s just a hobby for now. I usually just describe some people and things I see and then maybe use that description in the background, or just to make the setting or characters seem more real.”

He passed her the notebook and she flipped through the pages, reading a few lines here and there. And then looking around the food court to see if she could spot who he described.  Goat hoped he wasn’t imagining the slight smile he saw on her lipstickless lips.

“Give me your pen,” she said. “Here’s my email. Get in touch with me if you do this again, I’ll come with you, it looks fun.”

She handed Goat his notebook , turned and left.


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