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"The Café is Real" by Ryan Keating

Ten Gibraltar monkeys shoved their way

into the busy cafe at the top of the Rock where the cable car stops. The

sliding window overlooking the monkey habitat had a latch that no one

noticed had come unattached. Miniature fingers fumbling finally

primated it open wide enough to wedge their wilder world into mine. A

biggish one bounded from my table squishing my hamburger in one hand- Ketchup, Pickles, Chaos, Bite, and Pound are the names I gave

those first ones, then Obligation, Anxiety, Restlessness, Bill, screeching,

breaking plates, eating their fill, chomping fries that once were frozen

and now were flying to the floor clenched in furry fists. Feta flung from a

salad, and Bill picked up a belt pouch from a barstool and fled. I would

have backed into a corner or made my way out the door if it weren’t all

happening in my mind. There was nowhere to go. So, in the midst of

madness and jumping monkeys, I paused. Restlessness floated

mid-leap in the air. Silent, steady, peaceful, I passed satisfied through

my own inner room to find that all but one of them dissaparated,

dissolving back into the subconscious wilderness stretching outside the

windows. Those weren’t my monkeys as far as I know, especially

Ketchup, who left a smudge on the glass in his last unkind moments. I

sat on the floor under the pub table, breathed a battered prayer and

gathered Obligation in my lap, where he sat tamed, and offered me a

fried shrimp mostly squished. I took a bite, patted his head, held his

hand, and some hope for how this broken space might be transformed -

warm and full of guests. A table set, ready to receive the whole weird

world with fresh bread, free water, wine decanted, comfort food, beauty planted in belonging and recognition. I set the table. One calm monkey

minded his business and swept up broken pieces while the sunlight

made the space bright and music played a soundtrack for my soul. And

there, even in my inner world made whole I saw Anxiety waiting at the

window, watching quietly for now. Stupid monkey.

Ryan Keating is a writer, teacher, and pastor on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. His work can be found in publications such as Saint Katherine Review, Ekstasis Magazine, Amethyst Review, Macrina Magazine, Fathom, Fare Forward, Roi Fainéant, and Funicular. His chapbook, “A Dance In Medias Res” is now available from Wipf and Stock.


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