Last Night at the Café Renaissance
by D. Thomas Minton
The second time I met Lucic, he was a chef.
He looked down at me, snowy flakes of ash from the persistent smoke settling on his shoulders.
"What else do you have to do with your life?" he asked.
I pulled the tatters of my military jacket around my neck. The hollow pipes that are my legs
burned against the flesh of my hips.
"I want you to run my floor," Lucic said, "be my maitre d'." He kept his hands in his pockets --
good thing. The sight of them, pink and soft, might have driven me to violence.
"Why should I help you?" I asked.
"Because you have skills I need," he said.
Machine gun fire rattled briefly in the distance. Lucic and I craned our heads into the following
silence, wondering when the battle would again resume in earnest.
After a time, Lucic cleared his throat. I could not tell if it was because of the smoke or just to jar
me back to the present. "I need people like you --"
"Half-men, you mean." I tapped my metal fingers on my threadbare trousers. The metal beneath
Lucic's jaw twitched. He hated the name half-men, but I found it fitting, considering how people
like me were treated.
"You're a leader, Bolduc, or at least you were. The others will respect you."
I looked at anything but his face -- the concrete rubble, the trees like driftwood, the grey, grey
sky. The old timers talked about a world with color, but the only color I'd ever seen was red.
Lucic squatted next to me. His presence demanded my attention. "And I know you haven't
given up on being human."