Resolute equality pervades at Cory’s Canteen. Regardless of preference or request, the eggs are always runny, the potatoes rich with burnt paprika, and the white toast heavily soaked in soggy pads of butter. Leave your foolish ego at the door, friends, Sean thinks whenever a new party enters. I hope you like ’em sunny side up.
As he sops at a yellow pool with a triangular wedge of toast, a subconscious rush of intuition sweeps over Sean. His stomach flutters. He’s being stared at. A human shape in the corner of his eye, perhaps a darling female, he hopes, has fixed its eyes upon him. He looks up with eager anticipation, but is disappointed to see a bookwormy male glaring through him. Sean returns the look with a steely glower.
What the fuck are you looking at, fucker? Sean thinks, transmitting the threat through dilated pupils. The kid blankly stares, unfazed. Others are now looking, too, Sean realizes. In fact, more than half of the bodies in the Canteen are gawking in his direction, and the room is considerably quieter than it was moments ago. He glances from eye to eye, and sees looks of fear, looks of confusion, looks of sadness, indifference, and hate, burning into his core with reproach. Panicking, Sean drops his fork in a mess of yolk and stands up with nervous humiliation.
What? Why? Why are you all staring at me?
Several persons, mostly those seated directly before him, crane their necks, impatiently trying to look around Sean’s interfering body. Perplexed, Sean turns to find he’s now standing directly in front of the flickering television mounted on the wall. The morning news, muted, is delivering snippets of the president’s sombre address to the nation from the previous evening–something about war overseas. “Evildoers,” Sean reads. “Protecting liberty.”
Sean grins with relief as he turns back around to take his seat. He sips his coffee with impunity and goes back to reading his book.
Jackson Ellis is a Vermont native who currently resides in Brighton, MA. He is a co-founder of Scissor Press, and is the editor of Verbicide Magazine. He can be reached by email at [email protected].