In Which The Author Believes That Comedy Can Be Achieved Through Excessive Loquacity

Her laugh broke the silence. It was awkward, tinny and half-hearted, but the complete lack of conversation stopped and stuttered for a second, tripping over its own surprise at being interrupted, before resuming its activities, albeit with a somewhat ineffable air of reproach.

He coughed. Textbook response. Had there been a god of awkward moments, he would have delighted in this stretch of nonversation upsetting the two unwilling participants fidgeting at the table. The existence of an imp of prolonged pauses seemed entirely plausible at this juncture as well, as the discomfort lazily stretched out between them. The silence continued to sulk, moody and self-absorbed, though sometimes it stole the occasional glance at the elephant in the room, who at this moment was trying to stick its head in the sand, and, upon finding there was none in any helpful quantity, essayed the bin instead. Subsequently it got stuck, and panicked, trumpeting and crashing around the place, and making something of a racket. It was stolidly ignored by the man and the woman at the table, but the silence shot it a withering glare.

Quite apart from all the gods and personifications of idioms and metaphors running amock, the café was packed, leading to the unfortunate situation wherein two strangers had got to share a table. The man had just taken a sip of his coffee, to which the woman's seemingly bizarre reaction was to laugh. The replying cough was a hopeful one. Hope for an explanation as to the reason for the woman's laughter or perhaps for the god of coughs to try to find him another table (lamentably, that selfsame god was busy helping the elephant, who had found something rather disagreeable within his refuse-ridden headwear, and proceeded to choke, for which the god's assistance was required urgently).

The tension was palpable, but he found himself quite unwilling to palp it and wished instead that it would take a leaf out of the elephant's book, and bugger off, or at least be a bit easier to ignore. He hadn't bought a newspaper, due to his nervous disposition being unable to take the racy stock rates, but regretted it sorely, as, however unbearably thrilling the house prices in Sweden were, they were half as likely to give him a heart attack as the next action taken by the woman.

Slowly, surely, and with a hint of some sick, mindless triumph, her arm snaked across the table, smashed through the invisible, entirely nonexistant line dividing his half and her half, and though the borders and boundaries of these had never been discussed or negotiated, he felt strongly that they had both been adhering to some unspoken contract, and he was certain that he had stuck to his side of the agreement most admirably, especially given the whole situation with the laughing and coughing a couple of paragraphs previous, and could only hope that her apology for this gross breach of conduct could recompense him suitably, otherwise he would simply have to call his lawyer. In any case, the hand snaked and smashed and calmly defied the overbearing god of politeness (in whose presence, the silence sat up a little straighter), and deftly clasped around the man's cup of coffee.

All he could do was gape as the piratical appendage sailed home with its prize, and was received by the woman, that tart, that rogue savage, who then took a sip of the stolen beverage, and had the audacity to sigh contentedly and lick her lips after the unspeakable deed was complete. The elephant went into cardiac arrest.

The god of imaginary heart attacks promptly arrived, and after conferring with the god of coughs, decided that he was out of his depth, and pulled out his phone to call the ambulance. Unfortunately, it was out of signal, or battery, or broken or something, and the god of technical support kept asking him for the serial number, to which he'd replied that actually, he'd had a bacon sandwich for breakfast that morning, causing the god of technical support to undergo a heart attack himself.

The man coughed. It really all was getting a bit much for him. All he'd wanted was a nice cup of coffee, perhaps a nice bit of wall-watching, and poster appreciating, before heading back to the office for an exciting day of spreadsheet calculations. The primal beast within him reared its head, and sneezed briefly at all the cobwebs, before urging him to take what was rightfully his. His arm, possessed as if by some wicked demon (though of course, there is no such thing), confidently reached across the table. His hand took a firm grasp of the cup handle, and as the brim of the cup neared his mouth, his teeth clicked on it quite satisfactorily, and the woman's mirth vanished altogether.

She snatched it back. There was no pretense, and absolutely no way to pontificate upon the moment in such a way that the verbosity of a purely hypothetical narrator could lend some humour towards it. No, she simply snatched, like a petulant, righteous child. The god of awkward moments coughed. The god of coughs felt as though his thunder had been stolen somewhat, but reneged in the presence of the god of politeness, though even his unending civility was being tested by the grating voice of the god of technical support, whose tone bespoke eons of redirection, exhaustive routine and ridiculously exorbitant call charges. The elephant, thankfully, seemed to have disappeared.

And so the coffee dwindled between them. At last, the woman stood up sharply, scowling at the man with wordless venom (the silence swooned), before stalking out of the coffee shop.

The man relaxed, letting out a swooping sigh. Quite enough excitement for one day, he said to himself. Rather enough indeed.

The god of punchlines walked in and apologised for his lateness, just as the waitress approached the man's table with his actual cup of coffee, sitting it next to the one which he now realised to have, in actuality, belonged to the woman, and which contained nothing now but the dregs of his dignity. His cheeks flushed considerably, with an embarrassment which would never quite leave him for the rest of his life, and which would earn him the unfortunate nickname "Red-gilled Roy".

All of the gods high-fived.

The End

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