This amusing short story by Marianne Harman is set in New York.
IFELT like quite the New Yorker, cupping my hands around my take-out coffee on an early morning walk along the Hudson. Across the river, the sun was just reaching the New Jersey skyscrapers.
Where they gave way to open water, the Statue of Liberty stood proud, guiding the ferries into Manhattan. There was barely anyone around, just the occasional jogger.
“Man, I hate tourists,” an angry voice growled in my ear.
I jumped and swerved out of his way, squeezing my cup a little too hard.
The top popped off, sending a hot stream of black coffee down my new white jacket. The man hopped from side to side behind me.
“Ma’am, please, pick a side.”
“Yes, of course, I’m so sorry,” I said, my natural politeness kicking in.
He ran past, shaking his head and muttering, doubtless all the horrible things he really wanted to tell me.
I tipped away the remnants of the coffee and blinked back the tears that were threatening to spill over.
“Auntie Kate, are you all right?”
I pasted on a smile, not wanting my goddaughter Emily to see me upset.
“Yes, I’m fine. What brings you out so early? I thought you’d want a lie-in.”
“I was worried about you, so I came looking. I saw what that guy did. Honestly, so rude!”
She patted me.
“Oh, your beautiful jacket.”
She rubbed the stain, pressing it in.
“Really, what a total idiot. Never mind, we can get it dry cleaned.”
“It’s OK, I’ve got another one, and it made my bum look big anyway,” I said. “Come on.”
I slipped my arm through hers.
“I’m starving. Let’s get breakfast.”
“So, what do you fancy doing today?” I asked Emily between mouthfuls of pancake.
“I thought if you don’t mind we could have a look at MoMA. It’s the Museum of Modern Art.”
I shot her my best teacher look.
“Sorry, I know you’ve been to New York before.” Her spoon stopped in mid-air, yogurt wobbling precariously.
“It’s him, that guy who ran into you this morning!” She was craning. “Look, over there, he’s with a girl about my age.”
I swivelled in my seat. “No, don’t actually look,” she hissed, glaring at him.
“Emily, forget it. It doesn’t matter. Come on.”
I tapped my defiantly old school travel guide.
“Let’s sort out our plan for today.”
“Crikey Jupiter, they’re coming over here!”
“Fine, there are plenty of tables. By the way, you do know you said, ‘Crikey Jupiter’ out loud?”
“Yes, I do, Auntie Kate,” Emily said, sweetly batting her eyes. “I am making a special effort, just for you, not to go to Swearington this week.”
“Thank you, but whatever will I do with my smelling salts now?” I teased.
The table shook hard. I instinctively shot back as coffee slopped into the
New Yorkers weren’t famed for their politeness, but this guy took things to another level!
saucer. Not again!
The man sat down. “Hello,” Emily said. He ignored her.
“Hi,” the young girl said. “You don’t mind if we sit here, do you?”
“Bit late now,” Emily muttered.
I flailed under the table looking for her foot and kicked hard. The man looked up.
“Did you just kick me?” “No,” I said, blushing. “I mean, if I did, I didn’t mean to.”
“Even though you totally deserved it,” Emily said under her breath.
“Pardon me?” the girl said.
“Your – this person,” Emily said, jabbing her finger at the man, “ran into my auntie Kate this morning, throwing coffee all over her. He was really rude, didn’t say sorry or anything, and now her coat’s ruined.”
“‘This person’,” the girl said, imitating Emily, “is my dad. Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it’s obviously a problem us being here.
“Maybe you missed the memo that the British don’t own America any more, but hey, whatever, we can go