The French Bakery in London

By Wayne Elise

On Mondays after the Conversation Camps are finished I often have a few hours to sit and watch the world. And while watching, sometimes stories present themselves.

I sit and watch them work. Their hands pour lattes, load ovens, make change for customers. Their voices call out in French mostly - in English when necessary.

The Black Girl seems tall for a woman and strong. She is very black. Nigerian I would guess. Men usually make an impulse decision when they look at a woman. But it's more fun when we have to ponder. After a minute of watching her move around colleagues, strong-arm the La Marzocco and smile at customers, I decide I would.

The Small Girl's ruddy cheeks betray her youth. She greets an old woman at the counter with a smile.

The old woman scowls and looks up at the menu board. "Don't you have tea - simple English tea? We're in Briton, if I do recall."

Her Yorkies take the moment to tangle their leashes around her cane and begin yipping at each other. This doesn't phase the old woman. She stares the Small Girl down through horn-rimmed glasses.

"I will see what I can do for you," says the Small Girl. She turns and speaks rapidly to the Tall Man behind her in French.

"Oui," The Tall Man says in response. "Nothing's impossible." I take him for the manager but later watch him scratch his head for a moment in front of an oven and press the wrong button on the cappuccino machine.

It's the Small Girl who's in charge. It becomes apparent when I observe her parcel out rewards. She's the most efficient of managers. She guides her staff with a nod here, a touch on the shoulder there, a flash of smile. I'm jealous of her easy ways, but also somehow proud. I drink my coffee and everything feels right with the Universe.

The morning rush passes. Though they never cease in their labors, the staff have time to joke with each other. They laugh and while their hands wipe down machines, arrange cups, sweep floors, recheck temperatures on ovens. La préparation de la prochaine attaque, I suppose.

I notice things now… the Small Girl's eyeshadow, the Black Girl's coy glances at the Tall Man and the tattoo at the nape of his neck.

A man of middle years walks into the shop. He holds his arms out. "Ah, my favorite boulangerie!"

The Small Girl comes out from behind the counter to greet him. He hugs her. She's careful to keep her flour-covered hands away from his clothing. He puts a hand on her shoulder and tells her how amazing it is that his wife has gotten a job in the theatre in the West End at her age. The Small Girl smiles, looks up at him, says kind words of congratulations to deliver to his wife, but then she makes an excuse to go back to her labors.

A couple of schoolgirls walk in. Their uniforms would be considered scandalous in America. They buy scones and walk out. I watch them through the window feeling like a pervert. In the street a woman wearing a business suit loads a suitcase into the boot of a Volvo. The driver stands on the curb waiting for her to finish.

My flight out of Heathrow departs in three hours. I want to take the tube in order to save the coins and watch a more diversity crowd than the express train. Time to leave. I think about Erika as I pack my things. She's surely sleeping at this hour in LA, probably talking in her sleep again.

I step out the door and onto the street. I pull my sweater tighter about me against the cool breeze.

Minutes later I stand on the platform waiting. I look down the tunnel towards where the train will appear. The Small Girl is standing there. She's wearing a hoodie over her baker's smock. She scratches her nose and checks her phone. The train arrives with a screech. People push past, bumping her. I step into the crowded train and she's gone from my thoughts.

Coming Soon - Emma and The Demon Pick Up Artists

By Wayne Elise

I'm sure you've experienced the fun of walking around a new city with no guide or guidebook. Perhaps you're like me, and your walks turn into all-day excursions. I can't resist my curiosity enticing me to explore a bit further. This gets me into trouble.

I wave for Erika to hurry. "Come on. Come on. This place is so ancient and interesting."

"And creepy," she says.

I point up ahead. "What do you think is around that corner?"

"Could be something fun. Or it could be the lair of an ice giant. This area's known for them."

"That would be stupendous. Let's check it out."

She rolls her eyes but follows me.

Hours later we're stumbling along.

"Did you bring water?" she asks.

"No."

"How about sunblock?"

"Um, no."

"Food?"

"Nada."

"A map?"

"Negative."

"GPS, cell phone, flashlight, a pillow, book to read, midget with a coffee maker?"

"Oh coffee sounds nice. But no, I didn't bring any of that. I brought you. You speak Spanish and are an expert in Pilates."

"I don't think there are many Pilates studios out here. If we meet something horrible I doubt it's going to care about the quality of my spider kicks. Wait. Do you hear that?"

"What? That howling? Those are just dogs."

"I think we should have stopped when we saw those poles with the severed heads on top."

"That's someone's left-over Halloween decoration. Not a big deal."

"There were flies crawling on them."

"Let's hike to that next ridge and have a look around."

"Then we'll turn back?"

"Of course. No problem. You may not have noticed but I've been dropping kernels of popcorn periodically from this bag so we can find our way back."

"What? We could have eaten that popcorn."

"No way. It's buttered. You know I'm on a diet."

Sometimes writing feels like an exploration that gets out of hand. Emma and The Demon Pick Up Artists is coming soon - hopefully in the next month. It began as a blog post on sexuality and my time living with Emma who was an artist and erotic dancer. Simple. But it has kept growing. I find myself wanting to add more wisdom from the characters I've met. And I want to see what's around the next narrative bend.

Emma taught me lots about women, sex and people. She drove me crazy. She could be the most charismatic person and the darkest. She was a tease of the professional variety. I think everyone should have someone like her in their lives for a time.

Emma and The Demon Pick Up Artists has grown large enough I'm considering turning it into an ebook that can be read on Kindle or iBooks if people seem interested. And we will have a portion of it that can be downloaded for free. Please let me know in the comment section if you would like that. Thanks.

I turn in circles. "Wow, there's a lot of fog suddenly."

Erika rubs her fingers together. "Yeah. It's really thick."

"Well thank you dear. That's the nicest thing you ever said to me"

She shakes her head. "You have a way of making everything sexual."

"I know. It's a gift. Some men are athletic. Some are handsome. Me? I'm fast with the dick and pussy jokes."

She laughs despite herself.

"Your laugh sounds hoarse," I say. "We should find some gargle. Salt water is good for that."

"Mmmm hmmm."

I tried to wave the fog out of my face. "Unbelievable. I can't see more than a foot. I think you ought to hold my hand. There you go. Wow. What kind of skin cream have you been using? No offense, but your hand feels hairier than a camel's butt. Wait a second. I don't remember your arm being so muscled. Have you been lifting weights? Oh wow, your breath smells like…"

"Like what?"

"Like um... like dead things. You're not Erika, are you?"

"No."

"Who are you?"

"I'm a werewolf."

"Are you going to eat me?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Can I ask, what you did with Erika?"

"We sent her back to werewolf camp. Many of the werewolves are desiring to learn Pilates."

"Oh good. Look! Over there. It's Michael J. Fox!"

"What? I love Michael J. Fox."

I ran for it. I didn't get very far though before the pack caught me. And that's the way I died. :)

By the way, for all who've read this far, a reminder that I'll be in New York this month and London in September for the Conversation Camp. You can sign up for those here and learn my techniques for effective conversation. Sign up this month and get a free invitation to the Mini-Storytelling workshop and fun party. Just send Gerard an email to hook that up after you order: gerard@charismaarts.com

You can follow me on Twitter here.

And my Facebook is here. Don't friend the fake Wayne Elise.