Tag Archives: Rating

“Rating” – Fiction by Olivia Mardwig

Woman with a Coffee Pot – Jean Metzinger, 1919

Health inspections and sexual fantasies occupy the mind of a café cashier in “Rating,” Olivia Mardwig‘s realistic yet dreamlike short fiction from our Summer 2018 issue.

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EVER SINCE SHE TOOK THE CASHIER JOB AT THE CAFÉ SHE’S HAD OVERLY REALISTIC DREAMS. The most frequently recurring is of her grocery shopping for the things she actually needs. Waking up, it’s an odd, unwelcome surprise to realize that there is no almond milk, there are no bananas.

The café is on the first floor of an office building so far west of the city it’s almost touching water. On certain days, when walking from the train, in the wind tunnel of the avenue, it feels like you could be scooped up and carried away.

The only customers are the people who work in the building and in this way everyone is a regular. Some are more friendly than others, but no face stands out in the check-out line. No person, by however small a margin, are you happy to see.  Admittedly, much of that is caused by the lunch rushes, the only action between the hollow hours of mid-morning and afternoon. It’s hard to make an impression when like clockwork, they have their $6.99 turkey sub in one hand and exact change in the other.

Two springs ago she graduated college. She’s not sure what kind of day it was, and her only memory of the ceremony was an image that feels borrowed from someone else. Graduation for her meant the moment everyone threw their caps into the sun-filled sky, into a bright, blue beginning. She thinks about that image sometimes, whose experience it actually was, from what movie. But mostly she uses the blank stretches of time to fantasize about having sex with the dishwasher, the sandwich guy, the bread delivery guy, his brother. Inevitably someone takes the elevator down for an unnecessary cup of coffee and suddenly it would be here that she is.

After lunch, the day manager called the staff into the office for an announcement. She said that the following day the health inspector would visit to evaluate and issue a letter grade to the café. She looked more worried than usual. Her knee-length cardigan wrapped visibly tighter around her underweight self. Her crumb of morale was offered in the hardly audible, “We can do this”, as the wireless printer inked out next week’s order forms. Continue reading “Rating” – Fiction by Olivia Mardwig