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"In Walks a Van Gogh Salesman" by Francine Witte

In walks a Van Gogh salesman,

and not the sunflower kind.

“No starry nights neither,” he winks at Jen and me as we sit there. Like always. Like Thursdays. Usual coffee and scones.

. The barista, a parenthesis of a girl, hunchy and tall, leans across the counter.

“Espressos for everyone!” the salesman sings and lines up his prints against the curvy glass of the sandwich case. It’s a gallery of wheat fields and empty rooms. The salesman stands back and nods in approval. He is all bowtie and red-haired bangs. Pen clipped on to his shirt pocket.

“He’s cute,” Jen says.

And here we go. “You just broke up with Larry,” I say.

“You saw how he winked at us,” she says, and then, again, “he’s cute.”

There are only two other tables. A guy with a laptop and headphones, the other a mother feeding a cookie into a stroller. The barista has lined up five espressos. “That’s twenty bucks,” she says, “ten for renting the space.”

The salesman puffs and releases a loud sigh, starts to gather up his prints.

“Change of plans,” he says, looking around. “Not much of a customer base,” he shrugs at me and Jen.

The baby in the stroller has started crying. The laptop guy is staring into his screen.

“See that?” I say to Jen. “Poof! Gone.”

She crumples her napkin and tosses it on her plate. I know she isn’t listening.

Out walks the Van Gogh Salesman. The barista is shaking her parenthesis head.

Through the window, we can see the salesman arranging his framed prints around his legs. He is looking in every possible direction. Jen stands up and goes over to the window. That’s when he turns and smiles at us, at her. She looks back at him and stands there, watching him for a moment like a giant sunflower eye.

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