“I think I’m having some kind of an allergic reaction,” Trent said. His eyes were round and panicked. “My neck started itching in my office, while I was drinking my Americano, and then things got worse. The bleeding only stopped a moment ago.”
Paul eyed the bumps on Trent’s neck. Most had a white, pus-like spot in their centers.
Trent returned to dousing himself with water. His hand was shaking.
“I felt like someone was stabbing me all around my neck,” he said. “As if they were trying to take my head right off.”
Paul saw his own eyes widen in the mirror. He thought of Cynthia taking a fork to her figure, and her words: “There are so many bastards.”
Paul avoided looking into Expresso as he headed toward the tower’s exit. He was nervous about making eye contact with Cynthia. He relaxed as he pushed on the revolving door, but the sight outside caused him to tense up again.
Cynthia stood smoking by one of the thin, leafless birch trees that lined the sidewalk. She held a large violet purse covered in stitch lines that made the bag look as if it had been wounded. Paul wondered if the effigy of Trent was in that bag.
Cynthia grinned at Paul. “I was hoping I’d catch you on your way out,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” Paul said, not pausing. “I really can’t talk. I’ve got to get to the dry cleaners before they close.”
Cynthia walked beside him. “I just wanted to thank you for talking to me in the alley today,” she said. “I appreciate your empathy.”
“I don’t know if I’m so empathetic anymore after I saw Trent suffering like that,” Paul said.
Cynthia was quiet as they neared an intersection. Paul interpreted the silence to be evidence of her guilt.
“What are you saying I did?” Cynthia asked in a cautious voice.
Paul stopped on a corner, and he and Cynthia became obstacles for throngs of 5 o’clock commuters.
“I don’t know exactly what you did,” Paul said. “I do know something terrible happened to Trent this morning, and I think it was your sculpture that made it happen.”
Cynthia glanced down at the sidewalk, as if she were considering something, and then her eyes met Paul’s again. Her eyes brightened. “You really think my art has that kind of power?” she asked.
To read "Barista" in its entirety, download Tainted Tea Winter 2011.
About David Massengill:
David Massengill’s short stories and works of flash fiction have appeared in various literary journals, including Word Riot, 3 A.M. Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, and MicroHorror, among others. To read more of his work, visit www.davidmassengillfiction.com