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What Happened To Laura
by Robert Garner McBrearty

I’m in a coffee shop on a spring afternoon when a man at a table near the creamers picks up his smart phone and says in a loud voice, “John?  Doug here. Laura is back. She’s pissed off. She’s a really pissed off person…I don’t know what she’s pissed off about…Yeah, that’s right…I’m taking her into the doctor today…It’s a hard call, they might…That’s good, that’s good...She’s real angry, she’s real brutal, she’s real cutting…Yeah, that’s right…I don’t know if I’m going to have to hospitalize her or not…It’s brutal, it’s real brutal, I’ll call you after we see the doctor…Okay, thanks, right…That’s good.”

Doug signs off. But he’s back on a moment later. “Bob? Doug here. Laura came back…Well, she’s pissed off, she’s real pissed off…That’s good, that’s good…Well, she’s real pissed off…We’re going to see the doctor in about twenty minutes…Obviously…Excellent…Good idea…I’ll hide everything…”

He hangs up. We all look up from our tables to meet his widened eyes. A tall man rises up. He points a finger at Doug’s chest. “I want to know what’s wrong with Laura,” he says.  

A woman in a leather jacket turns from the pastry display. “Maybe she has good reasons to be pissed off.”

We nod. “Yeah,” we say as one, “we want to know what’s wrong with Laura.”

Doug’s eyes twitch. His brow crinkles in alarm. 

“I don’t want to Laura to get screwed over,” the woman in the leather jacket says.

“Talk to us, Doug,” the tall man says. “Make it easy for everybody.”

The barista, a young man with dragon tattoos on his forearms, comes out from behind the bar and sets a steamy cup in front of the man. It looks loaded with all the hard stuff, maybe a double mocha. He breathes over the man. “Maybe this will loosen your lips,” he says. 

Doug shrinks back in his seat, hand on his phone. We lean in on him.

“It’s Laura I’m concerned about,” the woman says.

“Of course you are,” we say. “We all are.”

Previously published at Big Muddy literary journal and won the Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Award.