Herr Melby Makes CoffeeGavin William Wright
Herr Melby makes coffee.
Gavin William Wright
Published by Favourite Colours
Copyright 2012 - Gavin William Wright
Other titles by this author:
Modern Man is Ultra Quick
But I wasn’t
In the shallows
Herr Melby makes coffee.
Between the tracks of the railway and a sheer face of rock, sitting in the cool shade of this prominence, was a small dark brown box, an obsolete workman’s storage hut; together, Melby and Mosnes had made it into their little sanctuary. It had no windows, the darkness enclosing did not bother them.
The water boiled routinely at 11am. On pleasant days, autumnal or spring days, they took their chairs outside, away from the rails, facing the craggy randomness of the rock face. On sultry summer days, the darkness inside was a refreshing coolness, so sometimes they drank their coffee indoors. In winter, it was not always possible to get out there, the wind driving along or at the high rock, snow drifting alongside the soon cleared railway – if they could make it there in winter they would, of course, shelter from the cold inside, except if the sun had edged across the southern sky, peeking around the high ground, warming the dark brown building the two men would sit outdoors, sheltered from the harsh eastern winds.
Today, the first to arrive, always the first to arrive, was Mosnes. He was almost 40; with his blonde hair, as fine as silk, and his large square head and large blue eyes it made it difficult to gauge his age – when people tried to guess, he answered their stern consideration with his large smile and gappy teeth, usually receiving hurried answers in the low thirties. He was a tall man, of average build and in good shape; today, his physique was buried under a thick layer of vests, shirts and sweaters. The air was dry, so he wore no coat, but a striped scarf and thin leather gloves.
He removed the padlock from the door and returned the key to his wallet. Blinking as he entered, he placed the padlock on a shelf to his left and easily enough he found the candles and matches in the usual tin on the right. In the dim moving light of the candles he lit a small primus stove and emptied a flask of water into the pan over the flame. This was his single contribution to the making of the coffee, it had become habit.
Two chairs, unrelated, sat opposite the stove. Mosnes took from his bag a newspaper, folded into quarters, he fanned at the seats of both chairs, just a light fume of dust rose up, almost invisible in Mosnes’ shadow. He sat on the chair furthest from the door (again, another habit), opened his newspaper and read, slowly, in the yellow half-light.
The water was rising to the boil as the door snapped open, throwing in a little wintry sunshine and the figure of Herr Melby appeared. He was only a fraction shorter, his hair darker and longer, still short, neatly cut around his neck and ears; the fringe, the longest part, swept smartly across. Unlike Mosnes (who looked up and exchanged a nod at this point), Melby wore only a soft woollen shirt and a heavy, expensive looking, winter coat, also of some woolly stuff and buttoned high under his chin. Underneath, Herr Melby was a slim man, with soft limbs, long limbs and a short torso. He too had blue eyes, a shade or two closer to turquoise. He had a thin moustache, wide to the tips of his mouth that seemed to make his lips shine a deep red.
He made his way straight to the boiling pan, took two mugs from a dark red wooden box and poured off the boiled water, some of which splashed out of the first cup, his aim being only fair, still not acclimatised to the dim indoor light.
Herr Melby mixed instant coffee into the two vessels, poured straight from the tin (the spoon had been lost, or perhaps just dirty somewhere unseen), the coffee sat without rotation, the dark sticky granules floated on the cooler surface of the water as the liquid darkened.
They were sitting next to each other now, blowing on their drinks, the warmth of which satisfied between their hands, and yet they had not said a single word to each other. Eventually, Mosnes set his drink on a bench to his left, starting to rub his palms together and twisting his fingers, trying to compensate for the loss of the handy distraction of the mug. Herr Melby took a sip of his drink, as if to emphasise the fact that he would continue to hold it. After a minute, his hands were burning and he reached to place it, inconveniently, on a shelf above and behind him.
Mosnes had his hands rather primly in his lap, whilst Melby (whose chair although still just a simple wooden thing, afforded the luxury of arms) had his curled tensely around the ends. Boredom crept onto the face of Herr Melby, whilst Mosnes eyed his newspaper, on the floor beside him, fondly; Melby’s grip loosened on the arm rests.
Mosnes made a sudden smooth movement, placing his hand warmly over the hand of the younger man; Melby didn’t withdraw his own immediately, but soon enough, he slid it from underneath as if not trying to disturb the hand upon it.
It was firm, very definite, but clearly uncomfortable.
“What is it?” Mosnes asked, rather ineffectually, reaching for his drink. Melby was silent, now he had his hands in his lap, into which he sheepishly looked down.
“What? Can we not be…?” Mosnes’ voice faded away, perhaps unsure of what it was they could not be.
Herr Melby looked up to the cobwebs on the ceiling, dusty grey. He breathed out every stress within him and explained:
“It’s not that I don’t…but…or even that I’m not…something is different now, it is so peculiar – I want to be with you, but I don’t feel we belong together, not like this.”
“Are you leaving me?”
“Leaving you? Leaving what? This?” And he gestured the windowless hut.
“It’s all we have!”
“I know. I know.”
Mosnes put his hand against Melby’s upper arm – it wasn’t shrugged away, but the muscle was tensed and his body twisted to lessen the pressure of the contact.
“So,” Mosnes continued, after the silence had returned; without the fussing of coffee-making the awkwardness was now gruesome. Mosnes spoke as if it was absolutely his intention, rather than out of obligation, and with a juvenile sarcasm awash with a hint of embarrassment at having been called like this.
“So, there is love and attraction, but you don’t want to meet me – well, that makes a lot of sense.”
“It makes no sense at all. Don’t you see?” And his voice raised a few semi-tones, almost the timbre of anger in it. “This is impossible for me – I don’t know how I can live without you, even though this is mostly all we have…”
“Had!” Mosnes amended, pointlessly, obstreperously. And Herr Melby’s look immediately told him this, Mosnes realised he wasn’t helping himself; Melby, realising he had made the right decision, found a new confidence buoyed his conviction.
“We don’t belong together, do we?” Herr Melby whined. “There’s not enough to keep us.”
“There’s not enough to keep me with my wife, but there I stay, we only meet…”
“We only meet – yes – yes, we do only meet. Sometimes I just want you to myself, for you to leave her: come with me south to København or Amsterdam, or go to New York. And then, oh! then there are times when I just want to leave you here, to be damned.”
“You know I can’t leave her, you know…” Mosnes reached over to Melby, who had his head in his hands now. He allowed the large hand to rest on him. It was quiet.
“I know you can’t, that’s why I have to take the other route – I’m going away.”
Mosnes retracted his hand and held the smooth surface of his head, dragging the give in his skin backwards, away from his face.
Outside the hut, the sun had moved up and beyond the high face of rock, the warmth was blissful on the back of Herr Melby’s neck. After a moment not moving, he took a last look into the dark little hut before shutting the door. Mosnes watched him, sobbing gently, words half-forming, falling lifelessly, incomplete, from his lips.
It had taken Melby all he had to say this, and he couldn’t move, he couldn’t do this. But no words, just an almost imperceptible head shake.
As he walked away, across the fields, he knew he had to go, he knew they were only ever to part, but would he finally manage to walk away. Of course, he couldn’t tell, he just couldn’t imagine it.
Other titles by this author:
But I wasn’t
In the shallows
About the author:
Gavin William Wright was born and raised in Leicester, England. After some time playing in bands in London, he is now based in Oslo. Over the years he has worked as a barman, a shop assistant, a consular services consultant, an underwriter, a bank clerk, a lageransvarlig, a nanny and a soap opera extra.
Cover Photo & Design by Gavin William Wright
Herr Melby Makes Coffee by Gavin William Wright have rating 3.1 out of 5 / Based on34 votes