It was Monday. Mrs. Brustoff sat alone at one of the small, round tables in Rickety Missive Café and gently stirred her steaming corn chowder to help it cool. Something was amiss. Or rather something was present at the bottom of her bowl. Something heavy and slippery on her spoon. She lifted it out of her soup and watched it drip.
Her favorite waiter approached and said truthfully, “Madam, that’s a sock.”
“Yes, looks like a yellow one. Would you kindly take it away. Far, far away from me,” she said.
He nodded, picked up the soggy sock with his bare hand and flung it backwards over his left shoulder. It whipped past a black-haired man, who was peering curiously over his newspaper, and it went splat against the café’s front window. Then it slid slowly down the glass, leaving a wide and chunky smear for all the passersby out on the sidewalk to see.
Mrs. Brustoff smiled, then asked for a fresh bowl of chowder and received it promptly. The heat from it warmed her cheeks and she enjoyed its comforting aroma. But there it was again. Something heavy and slippery upon her submerged spoon. It can’t possibly be another—
“Sock!” said the other waiter, an older gentleman who smiled a lot and liked to talk about constellations.
“Why, yes. It’s another one. What is it with these socks?!” She lifted it out of her soup with her spoon.
“Madam,” he said, “I do believe they are yours.” Then he threw the sock against the front window, narrowly missing a distinctive spectacled man who ducked in nick of time. He had been talking to himself, loudly enough for everyone to hear, but he paused and turned to watch the second sock descend the window pane.
“No, no. But I—they, uh—” She looked down at her feet and saw that her socks were indeed missing and her shoes were nowhere to be seen.
Just then, the black-haired man put down his newspaper, grinned, and raised his eyebrows as he lifted a forkful of cherry pie. Mrs. Brustoff looked down and nervously brushed some imaginary dust off her skirt.
Meanwhile, in the far corner of the café, a beautiful blonde girl sang songs about freedom while she and her father waited for their lunch.
“I’m sorry about the socks,” Mrs. Brustoff said to her favorite waiter, when he finally came by again. She feared he was getting tired of her. “Can we try for another fresh bowl of corn chowder?”
He nodded and returned swiftly with yet another bowl of hot soup.
“There’s a bunch of guys out there, looking at the mess on the window,” she said. There were five of them wearing crisp, black suits and they appeared to be discussing whether or not they ought to eat at such a place.
“Mmm. The mess from your socks,” he said, sympathetically, “Well, that’s what happens when your socks end up in your soup, I suppose.”
The bell over the door chimed as the five walked in and Mrs. Brustoff felt the color rush from her face when she realized they were headed straight toward her. The blonde girl began to sing louder and all the more radiantly, like a bird with sunlight reflecting from her eyes.
The suited men crowded around Mrs. Brustoff’s table as if she were not even there and pretended they hadn't encountered the streaks of soup on the window. Then they laughed and spoke jovially about how much they liked the cleanliness of their office and how awesome it was that their boss talked about sex at their staff meetings.
Mrs. Brustoff suddenly felt lonelier and more humiliated than she had ever been. She stood and lugubriously carried her soup barefooted across the café. She parked herself at the table beside the singing girl whose words of emancipation hung delicately in the air for a moment then gracefully drifted down like feathers upon a passionate breeze.