Cheek by Jowl

When he was old and successful and no longer had to work for his daily bread, a man came into his restaurant, not an old man, nor young, nor white nor black nor red nor yellow, but the color of lacquered wood. His head was as bald as a turtle’s egg, and had been tatooed with a strange and complicated pattern.

“I want,” he said, “a last meal.”

“Surely not,” protested the restaurateur. “You’re young yet, sir!” The man stared at him from eyes that no lashes bordered, no brows interpreted. His eyes were green, and dark. “Wh-what would you like?”

“Boiled eggs and apples. Watercress, green to stain my mouth, red wine. Bread and cheese and chocolate.” The restaurateur bowed and ushered the man to a table, waving away the smooth young waiter who started to follow them. “Here,” he said, and proffered a credit card. “Put it all on this.”

“Would you care for any coffee, sir?”

An emotion moved across that hairless face; for a moment the intricate knotting of the tattoo tangled. “Coffee… yes.”

The restaurateur glided away toward the kitchen. “What’s his deal?” asked the waiter. “He a kook, or what?”