04 November 2011

#fridayflash: prose sestina

I've been meaning to try this out for a while — an exercise in description and point of view. I've come across similar stuff and always thought it was fun, and of course as a device it's been used to create entire novels. No points for guessing what kind of establishment I was in when I wrote it.

Inside the café are chatting couples. There are elderly women browsing magazines. Most of the people in the big, overstuffed armchairs are frowning into laptop screens.

The baristas repeat their phrases of greeting, of order confirmation, of giving change. They stand behind cash registers with more computing power than the Manhattan Project. They operate espresso machines bristling with spigots and knobs. The steam hisses and the pucks of spent coffee get dropped into a little drawer attached under the counter. Tea bags are dunked into cups of freshly boiled water.

The walls of the sitting area are exposed brick. On the long wall there is a triptych showing the inside of a café. The tables are populated with chatting couples, with elderly men leafing through newspapers. Most of the people in the big, overstuffed armchairs are smiling into laptop screens.

The baristas pose cheerily behind brass cash registers that were antiques even at the time of the Manhattan Project. Some peek out behind espresso machines bristling with spigots and knobs. Steam floats above the machines, and above the fresh cups of tea being handed to grateful customers.

The walls of the sitting area are smooth and perfect. On the long wall there is a mural showing the inside of a café. The tables are occupied by chatting lovers holding hands over their cups of cappuccino. There are elderly grandparents sharing cocoa with small children. Most of the people in the big, overstuffed armchairs are reading books.

There is no cash register to be seen, but the two visible corners of a black iron box suggest that this is long before the Manhattan Project. The lone barista manipulates the brass apparatus of the espresso machine. A waiter wearing a long white apron stands at the counter, waiting for a demi-tasse to be filled.

The walls of the sitting area are exposed brick, where they are not covered with bright posters suggesting the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. Gas fanlights illuminate the scene. A larger poster hangs just behind the order area of the espresso bar. It shows the inside of a café.

8 comments:

  1. Quite surreal this, the picture within the picture within the picture...

    Nicely descriptive, and an unusual slant.

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  2. Very Baroque, the image within the image - and now I *need* a cup of coffee. Well done with the description:)

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  3. This is beautiful, the layers just go on and on.

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  4. Very descriptive one gets the feel of the cafe and all it going ons.

    helen-scribbles.com

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  5. Interesting layering going on. I wonder what would be on the wall of the picture within the picture within the picture?

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  6. I like this but it does make my brain hurt!

    Neat idea, nicely executed.

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  7. @Steve: glad it could be followed. Someday I would like to do something like this on a larger scale.

    @Anne: a friend of mine said it made her want coffee too. Ironically, I'm allergic to coffee and didn't like the stuff even back when I could drink it!

    @Helen & FARfetched: Cool, glad it came across that way.

    @Icy: The poster on the last wall was to be an eighteenth-century coffehouse, but I decided it was time to stop.

    @Peter: Sorry about the brain hurt -- this sort of construction does that to me too.

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  8. A wonderful exercise in observation! We should probably all, as writers, practice pieces like this once in a while. detail for the sheer joy of it...

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