Awkward Morning Rituals

Margaret Stein sat down at the unfamiliar wooden table in what used to be her breakfast nook and stared at the stranger drinking coffee in her house.  She watched him over her thick, wire-rimmed glasses as he sipped his dark roast with cream, never taking his eyes off the tiny black print. He had a way of squinting at the text, as if he didn’t believe or agree with the words he was reading.

She didn’t have to look at the section heading to know that he was reading the sports page. It was the only section he did read. Waste of money in her book. Why buy a paper if you are only going to read three pages of it?

She was surprised by his lack of concern for their ridiculous morning ritual. If was as if this was a normal thing that normal people do every normal day.   That it was normal for the two of them to be sitting around the sparse kitchen. Two strangers in their respected bathrobes.

Why doesn’t he say something? Why didn’t he at least explain what he was doing in her house, at her kitchen table?  Every. Morning. Anything that would give her an idea as to who this strange man in her kitchen was.


Martin Jones had long grown used to the feeling of being watched, as if he was the unwilling contestant in a staring contest. It didn’t feel creepy, like being stalked or under surveillance. It felt more like you know you aren’t alone in the room. The feeling was strongest in the morning while he read the sports page and sipped his espresso.

To be fair, the landlord had warned him about the little old woman. Unable to keep tenants, the landlord had thought about selling the place until Martin signed on the dotted line of the rental agreement.

Apparently, the woman hovering at the dinner table each morning was a bit more than most people could stand.

Perhaps it was his age or where he was in life. He didn’t mind the presence. In fact, he found it a bit comforting. She was just part of his morning routine.

Every once in a while, it crosses his mind to talk to her, ask her name.  He wondered how she died. He wondered if she knew.

Until then, he will continue this awkward morning ritual of reading the sports page and drinking coffee with the former tenant’s ghost staring at him from across the table.


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