The tall, imposing middle-aged man with the word “Security” emblazoned on the back of his heavy winter jacket spoke into his shoulder mic. Jess walked past him carrying her steaming cup of coffee, unable to discern what he was saying.
She claimed a small table near the window, hoping the morning sun pouring through it would eradicate the chill she felt throughout her entire body. Winter temperatures had come hard and fast along the coast this year, but at least she no longer had to deal with the snow and ice of the Northeast.
After taking a sip of her medium-roast cinnamon blend, she plugged her laptop into the only remaining outlet along the baseboard and noted the two thirty-something men at the table near her. They spoke alternately in Spanish and English as they watched news accounts on an iPad. She frowned, irritated that they weren’t bothering to use headphones.
An anguished scream suddenly emanated from the tablet, followed by a calm female news anchor stating, “Two months ago, eyewitnesses watched as a white delivery van pulled up alongside a 13-year-old girl on the sidewalk. A man in the passenger seat jumped out, grabbed her, and dragged her inside the side door of the van as the driver sped off.
“Eyewitnesses were able to provide authorities with the license plate number, but were unable to identify or provide useful descriptions of the assailants. The van was recovered empty hours later. Yesterday, a female body was discovered along the railroad tracks outside of Vassidy and early reports lead authorities to believe the body is that of the young teenager…”
The men began speaking animatedly in Spanish, scrolling through to other news reports.
Jess was glad to not hear any more about the girl’s gruesome discovery. The men were now absorbed in a video of someone who sounded a lot like the President speaking, but she couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying. They had finally turned the volume down.
Inwardly sighing, she opened her computer and looked at her blank screen. She had exactly 120 minutes to write. It was a rare opportunity to have such a large block of time dedicated to writing her first novel. With two children, a husband, a part-time job, and a side business to build, she rarely had more than thirty minutes to work on her book. But she had so many personal issues on her mind at the moment that she couldn’t focus on what to write about.
“I told you, you need to move your truck.”
The deep voice of the security officer beside her made her jump. Glancing up, she gratefully noted that he was addressing the two men and was staring at them expectantly.
“Yeah, we know,” the smaller of the two said dismissively, never peeling his eyes away from the iPad’s screen.
“That means now,” the officer commanded.
The larger man sat tall in his seat, looked directly at the officer. “We’re eating here.”
“I’ve given you men five minutes to get out here and move your truck and it’s still not moved. You need to do it now; your truck is taking up five spaces in the front lot.”
“I said, we’re eating.”
“I’ll tell you what. One of you can stay here and eat — or whatever it is you’re doing,” the security guard motioned toward the tablet, “while the other one moves the truck.”
“We’ll move it when we’re done,” the smaller one stated forcefully, challenging the guard with his eyes.
As the security officer abruptly turned on his heels, the smaller man quickly stood.
“Stay here. Don’t bother,” the officer said over his shoulder as he strode purposefully out the door.
The larger man quickly untethered his tablet from the charging cord before both men charged outside.
Jess noted that the man had left his charger on the floor, still plugged into the outlet. I hope they don’t come back for it. She quickly followed that thought with a prayer for the safety of the security officer. People harmed others over the smallest offenses these days.
She took a deep breath and opened the file containing her manuscript if it could even be called that yet. It contained only six pages comprised of four tiny interrelated scenes. She sighed. Writing a book shouldn’t be this hard. She had a brain. She had an imagination. She even had years of copywriting experience, for crying out loud.
Why, then, was it so much easier to write others’ ideas and experiences than her own?
The glint of sun in her eyes caused her to look out the front windows of the coffee shop. A large, white unmarked box truck drove by and made a right turn onto the side street beside the shop. Please don’t let them park near me in the back lot, she prayed when she recognized the two men in the cab.
Movement at the back door caught her attention and she turned to see the officer re-entering. It wouldn’t surprise her if the men followed suit to claim their charging cord and further provoke the security guard. Nevertheless, she felt a little more secure knowing the officer was in the building.
Jess returned her attention to her novel. She sat there, willing her mind to come up with something, anything, to type and make this day productive. After a sip of coffee, the words began to flow. Not a continuation of her novel, but rather, a new short story. For once, she was the protagonist and the story became her own.
An hour-and-a-half later, she drained the last of her now-cold coffee, packed up her laptop, and nodded to the officer as she passed him in the parking lot, wondering if he realized how his altercation had led to her breakthrough.