Writer’s cafe 2

Please read Writer’s Cafe, the previous post. This is a continuation

Slowly the writers arrived. There was Morris, an elderly man who had seen hard times. It was written on his lined, stubbly face and his gnarled hands. This man had stories to tell.

Ian whom Kay had seen at the Library Speaker’s series the evening before, arrived shortly afterwards. He sported a navy blue sailor’s cap with a blue visor. His eyes were bracketed with crow’s feet that doubled as laugh lines. He seemed a merry sort with a serious side to him.

Portly Mrs. Stepford was settling in with her coffee. Then Beth arrived dressed differently than the previous evening at the Library Speaker’s program. Kay had sat beside her by chance,  introduced herself and by miracle had remembered her name when she appeared today within the chair circle. Beth was with her friend Moira whom she introduced.

“It’s not fair changing your clothes and your hair style the day after I meet you,” challenged Kay in a joking way. “How am I supposed to remember you if you do? I’ve a bad enough memory as it is.”

“Oh, we all do now,” replied Beth. But almost everyone was new for Kay and she was working hard to keep people straight.

“I’m Sarah, from last time,” said a voice behind Kay and Kay swivelled to see her. Her mind went blank. Was she supposed to know this person?

“You know, from the Philosopher’s cafe,” Sarah continued. “I’m the manager of the cafe. ” A light bulb turned on in Kay’s mind as she re-registered this outgoing young woman. “Brunette, five foot two, always dressed in black. Sarah,” Kay noted silently, trying to force some memory to stick up in that sieve-like brain of hers.

Janice arrived and sat beside Mrs. Stepford. Janice had known Kay many years before in the Kootenays when both were teaching in a small country school. The hiatus between then and now had been over thirty years but the warmth in their reunion had been as if they had seen each other just last week.

Everyone was sitting, waiting for Aimee the dynamic leader and initiator of the group. Aimee was charged with endless energy. She was now sorting file folders full of papers on one of the tables, extracting piles of photocopied materials that were, in a way, coded by the colour of the paper they were printed on. The participants began to distribute the pink ones to their neighbours. Aimee announced loudly, “If this is it,  let’s move our chairs in closer so we can hear each other.”

There was a general shuffling and scraping of chairs and tables as they were positioned towards the centre. Coffee spilled. Papers were stained. People resettled, getting ready to begin.

Just as Aimee requested that we each introduce ourselves and mention what we had already written, a mother and daughter arrived. More shuffling and repositioning of tables and chairs occurred.

Ian started introductions. He was a cartoonist and illustrator. Next to him, the elderly man was Manuel. He had been an orphan very early and lived in various families before his teen years. He hadn’t much education, he said, but he wanted to tell his story. From his insistence, it seemed he wanted to select someone from the group to edit it and type it too. He was a man with a purpose. Mrs. Stepford suggested that he get a student on work assignment to help him type it. There was general agreement that this was a genial idea, though Manuel was disappointed that he hadn’t resolved his dilemma on the spot.

Mrs. Stepford reminded everyone that she was blind and writing was the only thing left for her to do. She was writing for her son and her granddaughter. She wanted them to know what her life was like where she had grown up in Hungary before the revolution. She wanted them to know about her ancestors, the qualities of her life and her escape from Hungary with her parents.Janice challenged her with, ” Excuse me, but how can you write if you are blind?” It was a good question and everyone leaned forward a little to hear the response.

“Well, I’ve had an operation on my left eye and I can’t see anything with it. The other one is not very good, but I write with very big print and then reduce it afterwards. I can’t paint anymore so writing has filled a creative need.” Mrs. Stepford continued on about her draft novel and her poetry.

She ended her personal blurb with “…and that’s about all,” then looked at Janice, signaling that the baton was passed.

Janice mentioned that writing was a pain for her, an effort. She had started writing on the school newspaper then had worked with Ma Murray writing for the Lillouet News. In her career, she had become an activist in the Union and had written extensively for the worker’s newspaper. With a waggish grin, she turned her head to the left. It was Kay’s turn to confess.

Kay rambled on about retiring, her mother who had passed away, how she had moved to the community only six months ago; how she was writing about hers and her mother’s relationship through life, about dying and death. It was hard to keep Kay from going on and on, as if to introduce herself she had to explain her whole life.

Abruptly she ended, turned her head to the left and the mother and daughter duo took up the task.

The mother had written for the newspaper; now she wanted to write for herself. Her daughter had just finished University. Now she wanted to turn her writing skills to a novel, but she didn’t know what yet.

Kay mused that this slip of a girl had hardly had enough experience in life to be writing a novel but you never knew. Some wonderful writers had published early. It wasn’t up to Kay to judge. For that matter, there was no judging to be done. This was just a sharing experience, not a contest.

Fay arrived in the midst of this – small brown skinned individual with a genteel British accent that was hard to define. There was a quiet moment amongst the others as she settled herself and then was invited to share her name and her writing experience.

“As a scientist, all my writing has been documentation,” she said. “Now I want to write stories.” It was that simple. She declined to add more details.

Aimee took back the reins of the meeting and provided her own view as a writer of poems only. One more latecomer arrived. It was Spring, a Chinese translator. By way of introduction, she scrambled in her carry all back and with shy triumph, she held up a blue book with white writing. It was all marked in Chinese with the exception of the title.

“Just published!” she said. “It was why I was late. I had to finish my work and then, the day was so stressful, I had to take a little rest before I could come.” Her accent was  pronouncedly Chinese.

Everyone clapped in appreciation of her feat. To be published! Kay wondered how she could write in English when she seemed not to have mastered the English  language.

And so it went until the round had been done. Everyone had brought a unique experience to share. Each had a passion for writing, whatever the form might be.

Moira stood and excused herself; she had children at home waiting for her. Manuel said he had to go, stood and left, disappointed that he had not been able to settle the matter of having a typist, and editor and a writer wrapped up into one.

Aimee stood and announced a time for coffee break. Dara stood and proposed that we move into the cafe. It was virtually deserted. The group was getting smaller. There would be room. Everyone rose and gathered their belongings. The evening’s written exercise was about to begin.

(to be continued)

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