Good as New

Aside from her clumsiness, she was nice enough. He had to give her that. But so odd. Rudy had no idea how the steaming cups of coffee between them were supposed to make up for the calamity on the beach. But with his phone out of commission he needed a ride off the island. The Sanibel Bean coffee shop would do nicely for a point of departure to a hotel near the airport.

“Papua New Guinea Peaberry for you,” she said. “Sumatra Mandheling for me.”

“Any particular reason for the difference?” he asked, wrapping his fingers around the hot ceramic nearest him.

“Sumatra beans are from farther away.”

“You sure?”

She showed him her phone. “See? Sumatra is 1524 miles farther away from Sanibel than Papua New Guinea.”

“And that matters why?”

“I guess I’m in the mood to be farther away.”

He’d intended to be farther away himself, heading to Key West for Carter’s annual birthday romp. Instead he’d be retracing his steps to Atlanta for what promised to be a long and uncomfortable day defending the gap left by the Navy’s jammer news.

The urn occupied the middle of the table. A macabre centerpiece. A five-hundred-dollar ashtray. Rudy rotated it, lifting the lid. It brimmed with rice.

“The staff gave it to me,” she said. “I tried to tip them but they wouldn’t take it.”

He dug his finger into the rice until he uncovered the top of his phone.

“Leave it until morning,” she said. “It’ll be good as new.”

Good as new. It was just a thing people said. Nothing was ever good as new.

“And now,” she said, getting up. “First aid. They have a kit in their office.” With that she leaned her phone against her Sumatra Mandheling and went back inside.

He picked up her phone before the auto-lock could close the screen.

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