American Speculative


What the hell am I doing here? I must be insane. When I say here, I mean in this situation but, come to think of it, I also mean this place. I never normally come to locations like this. In fact, I can’t, for the life of me, get what attracts people. I mean, as a place to meet and talk it hardly qualifies with all those background noises: hissing, grinding, banging, humming, gurgling and whistling going on. As for the smell and the bitter taste. Yuck! Just not for me. And I bet, if they were really honest, a lot of so called devotees would say the same. Actually, for a lot of them, it’s just a part of being trendy, accepted. It’s a sort of fashion accessory, if you like. Every morning, on every city street, thousands walking back and forth, briefcases or handbags in one hand and a polystyrene cup in the other.


As for the food in these places, it’s a joke, especially early in the day. I rarely eat breakfast as it happens but, if I do, I want eggs, preferably with bacon. That’s what I call breakfast food, even if it’s served up in a roll. But avocado? Forget it. Another fad that I just don’t get; green, tasteless mush. Who wants that for breakfast? They do a cheese and ham croissant, which is just about passable, but, if you order it, they zap it to death in the microwave. The French invented the croissant, for pity’s sake. Ever had a zapped croissant in France? Never!

But what really mystifies me is how on earth they make any money. Maybe I’m missing something but a pal of mine owned a restaurant and he explained the simplified way to figure out if a place was worth leasing. Say a restaurant has fifty seats and opens for lunch and dinner. Assuming that you are fully booked for both sittings (which is highly unlikely) that means that you will have one hundred paying customers per day. If an average meal costs twenty bucks and you are open six days per week, that means a total of twelve thousand dollars in total income per week. Sounds okay but, one third goes towards food costs, another third towards staff wages and rent, leaving just four thousand dollars over at the end of the week.

Apply that same logic to these types of establishments, where the average spend per customer is probably only five dollars and you would need to have quadruple the number of customers each day. Not really feasible, right?

And, while I’m at it, what’s the big deal about brownies? Chocolate biscuit? I get it. Chocolate cake? I get that even more. But brownies? Jeez, they’re neither one nor the other; and they’re usually stale and days old, in my limited experience.

But here I am and, like I said, I must be insane. What possessed me to agree to this meeting? The very fact that she chose this location kind of indicates to me that we’re just not going to get along. She has to be a coffee drinker. It was only when they came to me that I had even the slightest morsel of curiosity. Before that, I can honestly say that I had never given it a second thought. Why would I?

A lot of people do it just to get on TV but I have zero desires for that. In fact, I hate my private life being so exposed like this. Detest would be a more apt adjective. I’m sitting here now, staring out of this window and expecting her to arrive in a cab at any moment, knowing that it is all a huge mistake. You can’t turn back the clock. Or, at least, the last time I looked, you couldn’t. Inside of me, I’m not excited, not even curious anymore. My instincts are telling me to get up and leave; go now before it’s too late. This whole thing is going to be an utter disaster. It is! I know it.

A small part of me, a very small part, is saying to just pretend; force a smile. React how they want me to, just like all those others on previous shows. Do that, at least. What happens afterwards is nobody’s concern. They’ll have their show in the can and she and I can go our separate ways and act as if this had never happened.

But, as I sit here, posing, with this cup in front of me, that I will never touch, I’m struggling to get myself together to put on any kind of performance. The truth is that, although I had never even thought about it before they approached me, now, I actually feel a real rage for what she did. It, literally, fills me with loathing. It’s something I just can’t bring myself to understand. How could anybody do that to a child?

Oh no, here comes that guy; I can never remember his name, the one who presents this show. That means she is close. He’d better not try and hug me like he does others, every week, complete strangers, as if they are bosom friends. Watching that makes me want to puke; so false. Just keep him at a distance with your body language. That’s it; hold out your hand giving him no choice other than to shake. Ooh, that look. He doesn’t like that; not good TV. Well, it’s the best you’re getting out of me, friend. You hunted me down, invaded my privacy. Why should I feel the slightest bit of gratitude towards you, you phoney.

I see the cab pull up and, for the first time, my stomach clenches tightly. Maybe, I have been wrong about this. Maybe, this can be a good thing. Oh no! Oh, dear God, I should have listened to my original feelings and got the hell out before she arrived. Jeez! She looks like she hasn’t washed her hair in weeks. What’s that all about? You’re about to be on national TV, woman. Have you no pride?

She’s old, of course. I expected that. But there’s old and then there’s old. The years have, obviously, not been kind to her. Plus, she looks nothing like me. Oh my God, here he goes, cameras following. Hugging and kissing her in greeting. Seriously, I’m going to spew my guts up. I just want out of here. I can’t pretend; I just can’t.

Come on, man, just grimace, at least. The cameras are on you. Make the effort. Oh no, she’s seen me, is rushing towards me, arms out to embrace me. Please God, no. Damn! Oh my God, she reeks of cigarettes; a smoker. I hadn’t thought of that. Get her off me, for God’s sake.

Don’t say it. Do not say it! Don’t tell me that there hasn’t been a day in the last forty years when you haven’t thought of me.

Aagghh! Why? Why did you have to say that? It’s what they all say. Every mother who abandoned their child at birth. All liars. You’re no different to them. In fact, you’re worse. I’m lucky that you never brought me up. Look at the state of you. I’ve had a good life, reared by a foster mother who actually loved and cared for me, taught me the evils of tobacco and alcohol and drugs, moulded me into the man I am today. She might not have been my birth mother but so what? I am a God fearing, church going, righteous man.

I have nothing in common with you; nothing! I can’t do this. I don’t care if you are suffering remorse for your actions. You deserve to suffer for what you did. I’m out of here. And as for you, Mr.TV, whatever your name is, track me down again and I’ll make you sorry, okay? And, mother dearest, you know nothing whatsoever about me but here’s a little something to remember me by: I... bloody... hate... coffee! 

September 16, 2023 04:29

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Christine LW
17:09 Sep 29, 2023

Very true to life of todays way of life , a quick meal, a dash to work or business. Tends to ramble on a bit but a good theme and topic.


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Helen A Smith
20:13 Sep 23, 2023

A story with a twist. It was a journey with an unexpected outcome. Interesting facts along the way. The MC obviously felt pressured into meeting his birth mother and combined with the tv coverage found the whole thing phoney. But was it curiosity or pressure that drove him to agree to meet her? You certainly ratcheted up the tension here. It’s understandable the MC has anger over his abandonment, but it would have been interesting to know the reason for it, however unjustifiable, from the mother’s point of view. The positive message was t...


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Mary Bendickson
03:09 Sep 18, 2023

Got the picture. Not a pretty one.🥹


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