58 - A Bucket Full of Colours
Monday morning and it is sunny but cool. Delany Quick exuberantly placed the empty cappuccino cup on the counter of the walk-in coffee shop, exaggeratedly but unnecessarily pushed his long black hair away from his face and looked the waitress firmly in the eye. His dark almost black eyes penetrated but at the same time displayed a humorous twinkle that softened what might have been a most disconcerting stare.
In reply to her question he said firmly with a sudden, jaunty smile, “What I do madam is sell magic. Delaney Quick at your service. Purveyor of fine magic sparks.”
She had spotted this tall, strange man ambling along the pavement giving the impression of someone with a clumpy gait but who had then almost glided into her establishment to sit astride one of the tall counter stools immediately in front of her in the most theatrical manner. He had ordered a cappuccino, “Hot and as strong as you can make it please,” and downed it in one motion, without taking breath, without disturbing his moustache and oblivious to the extreme heat. Then issued a long, “Ahhhhhhh……,” and energetically exclaimed, “Excellent. Now to start solving some problems.” Thus prompting her question.
She was not intimidated by this person with the shiny, light blue, frock jacketed silk suit, bright yellow bow tie and extraordinary handlebar moustache. His age was indistinguishable. The impression was young but the reality most likely old. For twenty years she had stood upon this spot dealing with the vagaries and eccentricities of society and Delaney Quick certainly caused her no consternation. To humour him she said, “An interesting profession I’m sure. Is there a market for such magic... sparks was it?.”
“Surely madam,” he said with a flamboyant flourish, “as sure as there is sun in the sky and air to breath. I see the world through a rainbow. Imagine, if you will, a bucketful of assorted colours thrown into the air to whirl around, trapped within a revolving wind and you will have an idea of the things I see. I see within this swirl dark holes sitting above people. It’s these holes that need sealing. It’s these people that need my assistance. I look for them and sell them my wares. If they are receptive of course.”
With that he upped and left in the same dramatic manner, like an actor might as they received rapturous applause, leaving her somewhat bemused to say the least. She had thought she had seen them all but this one was something to be believed alright. A screwball and no mistake.
Tuesday and she is serving a very handsome man that she lavishes a good deal more attention on than she would normally. She is not flirting. She is too shy for that. In fact she is so painfully shy that when confronted with potential relationships it causes her to withhold any natural attraction from being obvious. She emanates negative signals. This is why she is still single even though she craves a lasting relationship. He is a regular and, unknown to her, actually briskly walks twenty five minutes from his office to take his lunch break here, just to be served by her. It is an infatuation that he senses is not reciprocated and not being naturally outgoing himself is content with this small moment of intimacy. Fifteen minutes is all he can manage and even that stretches his mandatory, hour long, lunch break.
As he leaves Delaney Quick enters with grace and elegance creating a stir and a whispering within the tightly packed shop. Heads turn as elbows nudge. He takes the seat vacated by Paul because that is his name - the secret admirer and announces with his customary fervour. “Today Annie I will have a straight Americano.…”
Before he can complete his speech Annie says, “Black, strong and very hot I assume?”
“Just so, just so,” is the extremely buoyant response, “and today I will have one of those homemade flapjacks. Your creations I assume? Is that apricot secreted within? If so they are just like my aunt’s who is a master flapjack baker with a certificate and a tendency to add fruit to sweeten rather than excess syrup.”
Slightly too flippantly Annie said, “So, did you help lots of people yesterday with all your sparks and stuff? You were off to do an abundance of good deeding were you not? And, anyway, how do you know my name?”
“Alas I did not. The person yesterday was not receptive and there was no market to be had. How do I know your name? I know everything I need to know. It simply just comes to me. I know your name, I know your age and I know the name of your admirer - Paul.”
“My admirer? I don't have an admirer. What makes you think he’s an admirer?”
“The signs are there for all to see. You should know it’s true but you cannot see for the fog that surrounds your consciousness. Search your heart and you’ll discover the truth although you might need some help revealing the light. Barriers need to be dismantled.”
Delaney Quick then dabbed his lips, straightened his moustache, announced that his aunt had competition and swept out onto the fast flowing pavement to disappear in a metaphorical puff of smoke.
Annie was left in contemplation. She knew the truth but knew she lacked the ability to overcome her affliction.
Wednesday lunchtime and bang on time Paul arrives. There is no seat so he stands at the counter, orders coffee and a salad roll and senses a change in Annie. She is even more reluctant to speak than before. He tries conversation about nothing in particular but is cold shouldered with Annie keeping her distance. His disappointment is plain, his shoulders slightly slumped as he leaves after only ten minutes.
Right on cue Delaney Quick is there sitting on a just vacated stool. She had not noticed his much more subdued entrance. He was wearing his normal attire but seemed somewhat deflated, maybe even displaying a slightly despondent edge.
“Well Annie,” he said, “I see no progress has been made. You seemed to have retreated into yourself a bit more. Today is a flat white day I’m afraid and I would like it cool please. Some small hope has just been crushed. Amends need to be made. You are a thirty eight year old, very attractive lady and deserve a happier life. The effort can be immense but the reward far greater. There is a chance to snag a good’un so to speak and it’s slipping through your fingers.”
Annie watches as he slowly sips his coffee noticing the complete change of demeanour. “Why the gloom?” she asks.
“It’s not so much gloom as a weakening despair. My disposition follows the pattern of life around me. I enthuse, then deflate until a goal is achieved, then I move on.”
“Move on to where?” Annie mused.
“Why to the next client of course. To the next person who is so intent on ruining their lives... Did you consider our conversation yesterday?”
“I did and you are right Paul does come here to see me. I could see it in his manner today. He went away disappointed though because I ignored him. All the talk made me hesitant. I found my natural inclination to veer away dominating.”
“That’s the reason for today’s mood then. Tomorrow you will have to do better. Start to believe in yourself and progress will be made. Well I’m off now. I cannot chit chat with you all day. Things to do you know.”
As quick as a flash he was gone and again leaving Annie with much to ponder.
Thursday and Annie is getting anxious. It is two o’clock and Paul has not appeared. But rather than being reserved she finds she is now disappointed. She is continually looking out the window hoping for him to appear but she knows it is too late. Today she will not see him.
She peered out the window one last time and saw Delaney Quick standing there looking at her through the glass. He smiled, a huge grin that made the ends of his moustache twiddle. The smile extended to his eyes that momentarily narrowed slightly and then opened wide concluding in a very deliberate and exaggerated wink. She laughed out loud putting her hand to her mouth attempting to stifle her mirth. The vision that was presented to her was just so outrageous. This outlandishly attired, seemingly ageless person was now blowing raspberries, lips pursed against the glass. She looked around to see if anyone was watching and was dismayed to see that her very busy coffee shop had all stopped and were looking directly at her. With an embarrassed stoop, she smiled nervously and disappeared out the back.
When she returned Delaney Quick was seated in his normal spot. “Good afternoon,” he animatedly said, with no sign of his previous despondency, “and a wondrous day it is. I see things have changed and progress has been made. Your mood has lifted. You are almost merry. Today I would most enjoy a double espresso, scaldingly hot and very sweet and while I drink that one I would be most obliged if you were to prepare a second. Today I’m feeling jubilant and in need of raisin flapjack. That one there I think.”
“But he did not turn up and I don’t know what to do.” Annie said almost in tears.
“That’s the spirit,” replied Delaney. “That’s the response we should have. An injection of emotion.”
“But he did not arrive. I’ll never see him again. If I don’t see him again I’ll be so upset although I’m not sure even if he had been here I could have mustered the courage to talk to him. You know, in that way. About intimate things. Dating and such like. I’m so nervous I’m beside myself.”
“That’s how things are. It’s natural you know. You just need a little something extra. Just to give you a boost. Well, I’m away now. Thank you for your excellent refreshments.” And before she could say any more he had gone.
Friday morning at ten o’clock and it was blowing a gale outside and lashing with rain. The door was flung open and a very ebullient Delaney Quick entered and, with dramatic over acting, shook a bright orange umbrella free of water.
“A terrible day,” he announced as he sat at the counter. The place was nearly devoid of people. “The weather is atrocious. The wind has disturbed my moustache. It will need extra waxing shortly you know. In the meantime I would enjoy green tea please Annie and yes no milk and very hot. It’s a green tea day. I like green tea at the conclusion of a sale.”
“Have you been successful then Mr Quick?”
“I think I have Annie. I think I have indeed. Just one more scene to unfold and that’s shortly to occur.”
“You’re early today,” she said, “Do you need to be somewhere later to complete your sale?”
“No, that will be concluded on its own, in its own way and in its own good time. I’m here early to ensure you are ready.”
“Ready for what Mr Quick?”
“For him of course. Ready for him. To make that final effort.”
“I’m not sure he will come. He did not arrive yesterday, why would he come today?”
“He will come. Yesterday was only a reaction and quickly regretted. Today he will be here at one twenty five as usual if only to spend another fifteen minutes dreaming of what might be. An infatuation cannot be so easily broken. Now, thank you for the tea. When he arrives lose your inhibitions and let your passion flow. I’m now off to acquaint myself with my next client.”
Delaney Quick picked up his umbrella and strode meaningfully into the street to fade into the gloom of an increasingly incessant downpour, his umbrella bobbing into the distance, the last to be overcome by the mist.
On the counter Annie noticed a rainbow coloured envelope. There was a small, sparkling, ridiculously bright speck resting on top which she picked up and held in the palm of her hand. It had no substance, no weight and exuded a warmth that crept up her arm and into her heart. There was a sudden searing light, an instantaneous flash and then it vanished. Mystified she put the envelope in her pocket and carried on with her day’s work.
At exactly one twenty five Paul entered through the door, soaked to the skin, dripping everywhere and sat at the counter. “Black coffee please and a salad roll,” he said, not really looking at her but clearly wanting to.
Annie was nervous. Her natural instinct was to run. It was what she always did when a man she liked spoke to her. But not this time. She found she had the fortitude to speak and found herself saying, enthusiastically blurting out in fact, with free abandon. “Hello Paul. I know your name is Paul. My friend told me. It is Paul isn’t it? I’m sorry I ignored you. The other day. It didn't mean anything. I was just having a bad day. A rotten day. But today I feel invigorated. I would like to get to know you better. If you wanted that is.” She was amazed. The words seemed to just flow, automatically, as though it was her natural inclination. Paul smiled, clearly elated at this outburst. Annie had few customers so they chatted endlessly, as though they had known each other intimately for an eternity. All thought of work disappeared from Paul's head. It was Friday and that could wait until the next week.
And that was that. A relationship was born that only had one outcome - a happy ending. Sometime later she found the forgotten envelope secreted in her pocket. She opened it to reveal a bill of sale, “Delaney Quick - Purveyor of The Finest Magic Sparks. Invoice for supplying one Magic Spark of Extra. No charge.”
When anyone who knew her, who had futilely been trying to persuade her to be more assertive, asked what had given her the resolve to speak to Paul, Annie replied, “I found that little bit extra, that little spark of magic that made all the difference,” and thought of the weirdly delightful man that had imposed himself, so resolutely, upon her life.
Delaney Quick, in his travels, now and again passed the coffee shop and observing Annie with his Kaleidoscope vision smiled when he saw the dark hole above her, that had first attracted his attention, was now completely sealed and was satisfied that she was perfectly settled within his magnificent swirl of never ending colours.