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Manhattan Transfer

coat with a face red and purplish streaked like rancid meat was asking for a cup of coffee at the counter. Carrying the mug carefully between her two hands she brought it over to the table and sat down opposite him. Joe Harland let his head down onto his arms again.

"Hay yous how about a little soivice?" The woman's voice shrilled in Harland's ears like the screech of chalk on a blackboard.

"Well what d'ye want?" snarled the man behind the counter. The woman started sobbing. "He asts me what I want. . . . I aint used to bein talked to brutal."

"Well if there's anythin you want you kin juss come an git it. . . . Soivice at this toime o night!"

Harland could smell her whiskey breath as she sobbed. He raised his head and stared at her. She twisted her flabby mouth into a smile and bobbed her head towards him.

"Mister I aint accustomed to bein treated brutal. If my husband was aloive he wouldn't have the noive. Who's the loikes o him to say what toime o night a lady ought to have soivice, the little shriveled up shrimp." She threw back her head and laughed so that her hat fell off backwards. "That's what he is, a little shriveled up shrimp, insultin a lady with his toime o night."

Some strands of gray hair with traces of henna at the tips had fallen down about her face. The man in the white coat walked over to the table.

"Look here Mother McCree I'll trow ye out o here if you raise any more distoirbance. . . . What do you want?"

"A nickel's woirt o doughnuts," she sniveled with a sidelong leer at Harland.

Joe Harland shoved his face into the hollow of his arm again and tried to go to sleep. He heard the plate set down followed by her toothless nibbling and an occasional sucking noise when she drank the coffee. A new customer had come in and was talking across the counter in a low growling voice.

"Mister, mister aint it terrible to want a drink?" He raised his head again and found her eyes the blurred blue