By C.A. Coffing
This Story Won Third Prize in Our Contest
Ginger waits for Dwight at the corner donut shop. She looks at the clock. He’s late; she knew he would be. She sits in a window booth, consumes a bag of mini-donuts, and drinks two cups of coffee with cream. The waitress leans against the counter and stares out the window, chewing her gum and twirling her hair. Ginger wishes she were the waitress; she wishes she were anyone but herself. It’s ten past eleven. Ginger’s appointment is at eleven thirty, the appointment to take the swell out of her belly. Dwight promised he would go with her; hold her hand. She’d been there before; she knew what it was like. She knew the sounds, the smells of the clinic. The waitress taps a pencil on the counter: rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Ginger wants more donuts, less coffee, more donuts. She’ll have to ask for them; the waitress won’t come over; it isn’t that kind of place. But she doesn’t want to get up; she doesn’t want to leave the comfort of the booth, the warmth of the window. She leans her head back and closes her eyes. She wants Dwight to come; she wants time to jump forward; she wants everything over and done. Done. The clock ticks; the waitress taps her pencil, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Ginger stands and stretches. She walks to the counter and orders another bag of mini-donuts. She hears a truck pull in and looks over her shoulder, hoping it is Dwight, but the truck is the wrong color. He isn’t coming. She feels a vacancy form between her ribs. The waitress hands Ginger a bag of mini-donuts and winks at her; Ginger smiles. Her name tag reads, “Esmeralda” in swirling letters. Ginger sits down on the bench, slides her body into a shaft of sunlight. She looks at the clock; it’s eleven thirty-five. She fishes in the bag for a donut and finds a donut hole at the bottom, a piece of a whole. It had slipped through undetected, the center of a circle, a surprise. She puts a hand on her belly and looks out the grime of the window. She whispers the name, “Esmeralda,” lets it roll and linger in her mouth, a name fit for a baby, a name fit for a queen.