We are delighted to announce that the winner for October and November’s theme of ‘Bad Judgement’ is Shannon Todd for her short story, Coffee and Tiffany’s.
“Oh my God! Is he dead?”
“Don’t be stupid, his hand’s moving.”
“Sir, are you alright?”
Someone prods my arm cautiously. I ease my eyelids open and frown. A girl with an unnaturally tangerine complexion is staring down at me.
“Are you an Oompa-Loompa?” I babble.
I hear a snort of amusement and notice a second face. This one’s normal-coloured with huge Tiffany & Co. diamonds glittering on the end of each ear. Tiffany gives me a brief smile and rolls her eyes at the Oompa-Loompa. I try to grin back but wince instead as pain radiates along my jaw.
Tiffany helps me to an upright position and I take stock of my surroundings. I’m sitting in the gutter of a narrow laneway which is sandwiched between an estate agency and a café. Inquisitive café patrons are loitering around the mouth of the laneway – a teen in a Knox Grammar uniform is filming me with his iPhone.
I fumble with the breast pocket of my anorak and groan. “My mobile’s gone!” Then I check one of the hidden interior pockets. “My wallet too!” Finally, I catch sight of my bare feet and giggle incredulously. “He even stole my shoes!”
The Oompa-Loompa pats my hand condolingly and jerks her head towards the café. “You can use our phone to call the cops. I’ll make you a coffee while you wait”.
For the first time I note the words ‘Coffee Lovers Wahroonga’ emblazoned across the front of her t-shirt. I glance at the crowd and shake my head frantically – the last thing I need is an audience.
I throw a pleading glance in Tiffany’s direction, hoping she’ll understand.
Thankfully she does.
“Perhaps you’d prefer somewhere less public? I live just round the corner.”
“That’d be fantastic.”
Tiffany stalks off down the laneway, pausing to address the crowd which disperses immediately.
Assisted by the Oompa-Loompa, I limp towards the end of the laneway, reaching the footpath just as Tiffany pulls her Mercedes alongside the curb.
As I slide into the passenger seat I give the Oompa-Loompa an appreciative, albeit painful grin. She winks and hands me a ‘2-for-1’ coffee voucher through the open window.
“In case you fancy some company later.”
Before I can reply, Tiffany stamps on the accelerator and the car shoots away from the curb.
I study Tiffany out of the corner of my eye.
Daddy’s money, I decide.
Tiffany slams her foot on the brake, giving the driver ahead of her the finger.
Daddy’s temper too, I muse.
Tiffany catches my eye. “You ok?”
Before I can reply a hard lump rises in my throat – I scrutinise my hands intently.
Tiffany reaches into her Gucci and passes me a travel packet of Kleenex tissues. “It’ll be alright,” she says gruffly, pulling the car to the curb.
Dabbing my eyes with a tissue, I glance about. “When you said round the corner…”
“I was being literal,” Tiffany grins, stepping out of the car.
I limp after Tiffany as she saunters towards a single storey, Federation bungalow – it’s the type of heritage listing that litters the well-to-do streets of Sydney’s North Shore.
As soon as we’ve crossed the threshold, Tiffany dumps her Gucci on the hallstand and flaps her hands towards the living room.
“Make yourself at home,” she instructs, disappearing down the corridor.
I return the Kleenex packet to Tiffany’s Gucci then slip inside the living room. It’s a cream and lavender assault on the senses with an abundance of floral prints and a chaise lounge that looks as durable as a paper raincoat. I opt for leaning against the mantelpiece where I admire a pair of antique silver candlesticks.
“My parent’s silver anniversary present,” Tiffany says when she reappears with two steaming mugs.
“They look genuine.”
“If you like that sort of thing.”
Tiffany checks her watch. “I rang the station. The police should be here soon”. She studies me thoughtfully. “You don’t need a doctor, do you?”
“No but…” I glance mournfully at my purpling feet and Tiffany nods.
“I’ll find you a pair of Daddy’s slippers.”
I suppress a chuckle and return my attention to the candlesticks. Daddy. Just as I suspected.
After draining my coffee mug, I pad out into the hallway, eventually locating Tiffany in the master bedroom. Tiffany’s legs are protruding from beneath an enormous bed which is swathed in a garish floral bedspread. Some people have no taste.
Then I spy the Rolex on the dresser and correct myself. Some people’s wives have no taste.
Tiffany emerges from beneath the bed, her neat bob now askew. “Oh! I didn’t hear you come in.”
As she hands me the slippers I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror above the bed. “Christ! Can I use the bathroom?”
Tiffany points to the en-suite. “Thanks.”
Once locked inside, I wash the dirt from my face and admire my bruises in the mirror. In my line of work, you grow accustomed to getting double-crossed every once in a while. Fortunately, I’ve always been good at making the best out of a bad situation.
I pull the Oompa-Loompa’s voucher from my anorak and leave it beside the soap pump – Tiffany had been a gem and I figure I owe her.
I clamber out through the casement window then jog down to the road.
I freeze. A cop is leaning out of the driver’s window of his patrol car. He motions to the Mercedes. “You leaving?”
I pull Tiffany’s keys from my anorak and nod.
As I steer the Mercedes away from the curb, I cheerfully contemplate the contents of the pockets of my anorak. In this neighbourhood, Tiffany’s bulging wallet and her Daddy’s Rolex were standard acquisitions. The candlesticks, however – they were special.
I watch in the rear-view mirror as the cop parks neatly in my spot before giving me a grateful wave.
I smile to myself. At least his trip hasn’t been for nothing.