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DREAMSCAPES

Graeme Garvey

Café writer

On creating the novel

Sertori pushed his way into the Rialto Coffee House, drawing in with him the cool winter’s air. Hit by the heat and a welcoming coffee aroma, he felt instantly more relaxed and comfortable. He had about an hour before Claire would be arriving, time enough to make some real progress with his novel. The Rialto was probably his favourite writing ‘haunt’, being convivial yet not too noisy for him to think or write.

Pulling off scarf then gloves, he ordered a latte, found a table near the window and ensconced himself on a seat commanding a view down the café. Behind him, the December afternoon had not much more time left to run. A light blue sky framed Sertori with a pale background. Setting out his laptop, he opened the text entitled ‘Chill Factor’. He needed to work on Chapter Five and had been thinking all day about the confrontation between Gardner, his hero, and the unpleasant but none-too-bright thug, Sanderson. Thin grey clouds scudded insubstantially from left to right, across the large, shop window, as he began punching out his prose.

Dominic Sertori looked and acted like a writer and that had been one of the main reasons for Claire being attracted to him at the literary festival. He always wore his glasses when working at his laptop and was a study in concentration, with his wavy brown and now slightly greying hair sitting atop and around a furrowed brow. He was busy. At his back, some of the grey, wispy clouds carried a hint of brown where they caught the setting sun. People continued to come and go. He thought about Claire. She would only just be finishing work and she had some distance to travel to reach him. He sipped his coffee and typed on. In the lower part of the sky, a bulky, tubular stretch of nimbus moved slowly along, the pinkish beige central band sandwiched by slate grey. Occasional small, bluegrey cloudlets flitted past like tugboats dragging their slow-moving mother ship to port.

Having cornered him in an electrical store, Henderson had just attempted to headbut Gardner but Dom had allowed the hero to skilfully evade his crude lunge. The latte was almost gone, he would order another soon. His attention was called away as the level of chatter in the shop momentarily lifted. A departing couple he’d seen before were calling arrangements to a friend seated near Sertori. The café writer looked up briefly before resuming. Far from distracted, he actually welcomed such happenings since it was why he came to the café. The writing process was too lonely at home.

Outside a couple of dozen circling gulls paid no heed to a charcoal grey sea horse which floated by.
The espresso machine gave regular reminders of its presence, hisses, gurgles and sighs alternating to provide cup after cup of frothy coffee. Most of the fun lies in ordering a drink and then watching its creation. After that, the first taste is the best, as long as you don’t burn your mouth. Sertori stopped to read over what he had written. Henderson had really grown from a two-dimensional heavy into someone with genuine menace. It was important not to let him grow too interesting since he was about to be dispatched over the counter by Gardner. And whatever Gardner did, whatever threats he faced, he never lost his cool. He was the main man. An assistant in her smart maroon and black livery cleared Sertori’s coffee cup and took his request for ‘one more, please’. Past her, a grey and seemingly endless tubular shape spanning the entire lower half of the sky was transforming into a pinkish cream and showing signs on its western edge of finally streamlining and diminishing.
‘Chill Factor’ had been alive and growing for over two months, now. He was genuinely toying with Claire’s jokey suggestion to add a capital Y at the end of the title. He always liked to have the real title in place early, as a focus. Would a punning title alter that focus? He looked up, briefly, and took in the whole room with its warm colours, big plants and animated groups engaged in coffee talk. There were some individuals too, one man was reading a newspaper, a middle aged woman seemed to be checking something, perhaps a shopping list and a rather punky girl was nattering away on her mobile. Henderson was in mid-air and it was only fair of Sertori to put him out of his uncertainty. He returned to his text as the assistant labelled ‘Sandra’ delivered a second latte.

Minutes went by as he busily wrote and the sky changed. Two thirds of it had grown pale grey, invading from top left and fanning out. He drank his coffee and looked towards the shop counter, working out the mechanics of the hero’s throw and the villain’s flight and painful landing. He became more aware of both the background talk and subtle lighting’s contribution to the ambience. He thought again of Claire. The bookshop would have been locked, her drive nearly completed. He pictured her, hunting a parking space, as city traffic pressed by.

At his back, there had been a gradual clearing of cloud as the blue itself faded, its colour draining towards a whitish grey save for just a hint of a warmer, yellowish tint at bottom left. The occasional bird drifted gently, making a final foray before night. Sertori’s novel was in shape and would earn him good money, better even than the previous three. He loved Claire and was sure, or at least fairly sure she had forgotten Jimmy Anderson now. Smiling to himself, he wondered if Henderson was too near a name match to his inspirer’s. He thought not, since he had only taken parts of Anderson into his character.

The door was pushed open and in she walked. Presenting a smile of greeting mixed with relief, she kissed him on the top of his head and sat down opposite. He admired the vitality she seemed to possess in abundance. Her long, light brown hair was more wavy than his, falling in curls and he liked to watch it move when she became particularly animated, as she was just then. "You’ll never guess what, darling!"
"Tell on, tell all," he replied, amused.
"I’ve got a display at the Ilton Festival and my stand is just as you go in, in between Macmillan’s and Heinemann’s. Prime spot."
"That’s great, honey! Hey, well done!"
He was genuinely pleased for Claire. He knew the Festival would be a great promotional opportunity for the bookshop, and a stall in such a good position! Unlike at the far end where she was stuck last year. She’d been lucky this time.
"How’s the novel? Did you get much done?"
"Yeh, I’ve cracked on. I’d just sorted out that fight in Chapter Five when you walked in," Dom said. "Do you fancy a cappuccino?"
"Mmm, yes. I’ll get it. Latte for you?"
He agreed, "Okay, but I just need to nip to the loo."
All the while, across the entire sky, grey had been ceding ground to an ever darkening blue. As he returned from his visit to the finely appointed toilets, he saw Claire had already returned to her seat. He noticed the view through the window. It showed a deep, rich blue closing to black, this darkness being augmented by a late infusion of cloud falling from above left. Didn’t Anderson work for Macmillan, he thought to himself as he made his way towards her.

© Graeme Garvey Feb 2003

email: graeme.garvey@ntlworld.com

ANCIENT WHITBY
Graeme Garvey

THE YORKSHIRE DALES
Graeme Garvey


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