The Smiling Machine
It’s 9 AM when Rube walks up to the barista. She gives him a glazed over look. He teases her, “Looks like you could use your own product.” She laughs, and they exchange a few more pleasantries. As he pays and leaves, she’s smiling.
A tired passerby wanders into the cafe. She’s been searching for an antique store for about an hour and is about to give up. One last try, she thinks to herself. She hesitantly walks up to the smiling barista. The barista, whose apartment is just above the shop, happily obliges. To the right. Down the street. Last place on the left before the light. The passerby walks into the antique store, searching for a grandfather clock to buy.
The shopkeeper is surprised to see someone in his store. It’s the first person who’s come by this week, and rent is due next week. The shopkeeper is even more surprised when the patron purchases a grandfather clock, which is enough to offset the cost of rent for a couple months. The ecstatic shopkeeper takes his five-year-old son out for ice cream to celebrate.
The five-year-old boy finishes his cone and notices a young woman sitting on a bench next to the shop. She is staring down at the grass. The young boy walks up to her and asks, “What are you doing?” She looks back at him and starts to sniffle. The young boy says, “Don’t be sad,” and hugs her legs. She breaks down, hugging him back.
The young woman calls her brother that night. Her nephew picks up before handing it over to papa. The young woman and her brother talk for a few hours. She asks if she can visit for a few days and before you know it is on the next flight there. Her brother’s family is waiting for her at the airport, and they spend the day at home, playing with the children until their bedtime and then talking late into the night.
They recall the time their father took them to a baseball game and scalped better seats for them from one of the ushers, who told them that he couldn’t guarantee the people assigned to those seats wouldn’t show. Much to their father’s annoyance, the two of them would duck whenever anyone would pass by the seats. Remembering the event now, they both laugh. The brother, a sports writer, decides to use that anecdote for his Sunday column.
It’s Sunday morning. Rube picks up the newspaper, turns to the sports section, and smiles.