Letters are too

Ruben’s café in Amsterdam wasn’t much to look at. The sign above the door was a weathered plastic orange board with a seventies black font. The main feature of the front of the shop was a large clear glass window, with white paint peeling from the wooden frame. Inside, under the dim lighting, was a variety of seating to cater for every mood: beanbags, cushions, wicker chairs, sofas and some others yet to be discovered.

The shop was hidden away in a narrow back alley, far from tourist traffic, making it ideal for the locals to get some peace and quiet from the foreigners. This was the environment Jake was seeking, the place he hoped would change his life.

He was alone, sprawled over a sofa waiting patiently for his order. He had recently turned twenty and was the youngest of five brothers. Being the baby of the bunch his mum felt the need to keep Jake safe, starving him of a much needed education in life and causing him to feel lost and search for something to give him purpose. After several unfulfilling jobs Jake decided to try a career in writing. He felt he needed some life experience to write well and what better place to experience life than Amsterdam?

He’d learnt from his online Creative Writing course that one of the key components in a writer’s arsenal was the Notebook. His A4 spiral spined Notebook was meant to be Jake’s bible but it was empty, not even a pen nib indentation. All ideas, inspirations and observations were to be noted in this book. Jake was at a loss as to how he was meant to start. He rested it on the table and wrote the word ‘Inspiration’. As he underlined it the waitress placed his latte and chocolate brownie on the table.

“Thank you,” he said as he lifted his head to smile at the waitress and immediately averted his gaze. He could feel the heat rising from his cheeks.

“Geen dank,” she replied picking up a discarded paper napkin. She paused for a moment before leaving Jake alone in his thoughts.

After she drifted away he snatched the brownie and started chomping staring at the word he had written, hoping something would jump out at him. He noticed the table started to act strangely. Whenever he touched the surface it sent out a ripple to the edges. He found himself tapping at various points trying to make the ripples collide and knock the cutlery off the table.

He spotted something in his peripheral vision. He turned his head for a better look and witnessed a rainbow float past him, touching and infecting the furniture, exploding in a kaleidoscope of colours. He was lost in the magic and couldn’t keep his giggling at bay.

A scraping sound came from his Notebook. He could see the word ‘Inspiration’ shimmering on the page. It jumped up, causing Jake to fling himself backward into the sofa. It shook itself like a wet dog until each letter was free. They each ran off in different directions exploring the tabletop.

Jake watched as they ran around haphazardly. Occasionally they would cross each other forming other words, ‘spin’, ‘iron’, ‘rain’, ‘piano’. Jake grinned and giggled as the letters played before him.

The letter ‘a’ stopped and looked at Jake.

“Thank you for setting us free. We’ve been waiting forever!” said ‘a’.

“Wow, you can talk.”

“Of course we can. Don’t you hear us when you read us together?” said one of the ‘n’s, butting into the conversation.

“I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it,” said Jake.

“That’s not like you. You tend to think too much,” said ‘a’.

“Yeah. You’re killing us,” chimed in the ‘o’. “Every time you have a bloody thought, you build another bloody wall to keep us in.”

“Don’t be so harsh on him ‘o’, he’s learning,” said ‘a’.

“Bah!,” said the ‘o’ as he ran between ‘an’ and ‘n’.

The ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘i’, ‘n’ were speeding around between the condiments and came to an abrupt stop as they collided with ‘a’, leaving ‘paint’ on the table.

Jake followed each of the letters wanting to join in. He cornered the letter ‘s’ between the salt and pepper pot. It looked left and right trying to find a way to escape. Jake extended his finger and tickled the letter ‘s’ on it’s belly. The letter ‘o’ looked on, shocked. ‘s’ froze for a second before rolling over, laughing.

Jake stopped giggling, there was something wrong. He could feel something pulling him from behind. The sofa had opened its large beige cotton mouth and was starting to swallow him up. First it was his feet, then his legs, then his torso until only his head and arms were sticking out.

“Help,” Jake cried.

‘a’ leapt onto the sofa and pulled on Jake’s hand. Jake didn’t move.

“Let me try,” said the capital ‘i’. It made no difference.

“We need help,” shouted ‘a’. “Come on lads.”

Only a few letters came to help. ‘a’ arranged them from the table and formed the word ‘intro’. “Okay guys, pull,” ‘a’ shouted.

They tried but they weren’t strong enough. “We need more help,” ‘a’ called.

‘a’ joined in this time while ‘r’ took a rest. They formed ‘nations’ but still it wasn’t enough. ‘r’ rejoined as one of the ‘n’s had a break. But not even ‘irisation’ was powerful enough. There was no choice but to have every letter help.

They lined up and pulled Jake as hard as they could. He was free, ‘Inspiration’ had dragged Jake from the abyss.

He sat back up in the sofa thanking each letter individually. They returned one by one to the notebook. Jake sat admiring his little friends as he savoured his latte, cupping it in both hands. His stomach winced with hunger. He looked for the waitress to call her over.

Their eyes locked. Jake’s mouth fell open and he stopped breathing. Her face bloomed with her smile. Her long golden locks bounced on her shoulders as she danced towards him.

She stood in front of Jake’s table, pen and pad ready to take his order.

“C-could I have another, erm, er, brownie please?” he said.

She looked at his ruffled hair and rucked up clothes. “I think you’ve had enough. I’d recommend you try the cheesecake. It’s a lot more delicate than the brownie,” she said.

“I love cheesecake.” Jake let out a dreamy sigh. “Please,” said Jake smiling from ear to ear.

She noted down his order and walked away. She got half way to the counter and looked over her shoulder to give Jake a smile.

His cheeks flushed again and he gave out a nervous giggle. He looked down at his notebook and saw he had written over ten paragraphs of notes. The last line read “Stop over-thinking, just write.”

He could have sworn the ‘e’ winked at him.