HORSE AND TOMATO

 

In the room there is a wooden table. On the table is a sandwich and a glass of milk. Sitting at the table is a man, about 50, neat, plain except for a well managed salt and pepper mustache; looking over two or three pieces of paper, the room lit by a large skylight set two or three feet into the angled ceiling. The man takes a bite of the sandwich and from time to time sips from the glass of milk. 

 

A knock at the door. 

 

He finishes the sentence, sliding the papers underneath each other, closing the yellow folder they came in. The knock again. He coughs, gets up and unlocks the door. A woman stands outside under an overcast sky. Older than him, large black sunglasses a black coat and a green floral dress coming out from under the coat.

The woman comes into the room.

Hello, the woman says.

Please, he waves to a chair opposite his at the table.

The woman walks to the chair and loosens the straps of her coat. The man takes the coat from her shoulders and she sits down, removing her sunglasses. 

 

The man folds the coat in half and places it gently on the edge of the table. He glides over to his chair and sits down. 

He looks at the woman.

Are you hungry? Would you like some of this food? That's a horse and tomato sandwich. We can split it if you like. 

No, the woman says, she brings up her purse and sets it in her lap.

May I smoke in here? she asks.

But the man has started to admire his sandwich. Two slabs of horse and the tomato sliced thin and the liberal portions of mayo spread underneath both pieces of bread. Hm?

Can I smoke inside?

He furrows his brow and nods, let me get you an ashtray. He stands up and crosses the empty room and takes a white mug from the sink. He turns on the tap and fills the mug with cold water. He takes a sip to make it less full and then goes back to the table. He puts the mug down onto the table. The woman lights her cigarette and holds it over the mug.

 

The man stares at her for a while and then looks back down at the sandwich.

 

My son says I should stop smoking.

The man looks up from the sandwich. Do you smoke a lot?

The woman shrugs. I smoke whenever there is a lit cigarette between my fingers.

He just doesn't want you to die, the man says.

He thinks it's trashy, she says. He knows I won't die.

Right, the man says. Well children never like what their parents do.

No, she says, I suppose they don't. She takes a long drag and taps the ash into the mug.

You have children?

Yes, he says.

She looks him over. Not rich but not poor. His parents were probably poor and his children might end up poor too. A man and his sandwich and his mustache, balanced comfortably for a moment at the edge of a knife.

And your wife lets you keep that mustache?

Yes, he says. She's never complained.

I never let my men wear mustaches. 

No, he says. I don't imagine you would.

She catches his look and straightens up. she drops the cigarette into the cup.

Well, finish your sandwich if you want, she says, bringing her wallet out from her purse.

 

The man glances over the sandwich again. The bread getting dry in the afternoon sun. That's alright, he says, looking back up at her, grinning at little this time. I'll finish it later.