Arthur was an unsuccessful writer of dramatic tales. His plotlines involved so much obfuscation that you needed a guide to wade through the story.
He sat in the darkest recess of the coffeehouse, drinking espresso and scribbling ferociously on legal pads. Steer clear of his corner or be dragooned into listening to his latest attempt. One night It was my misfortune to get caught. After fifteen minutes, I struggled to get away only to have my sleeve grabbed, ” hold on, I’m getting to the good part now.” It was another ten minutes before I was able to depart.
Nobody knew what his day job was. This particular corner was his demesne, territorially his and undisturbed.
Arthur appeared late every afternoon and departed just before closing. Except for Sunday, he arrived at noon Sunday carrying the air of sanctity associated with the newly churched. Most regulars were good agnostics or atheists and let slip a slight whiffle of a laugh.
It seemed as though this pattern would go on forever. The most senior employees only knew that Arthur seemed to be some tail end leftover from when the coffeehouse had been a favored spot for literary luminaries. The others had moved on to Paris and San Francisco, only Arthur sat here becalmed in Greenwich Village.
One day one of the cats in the alley behind the kitchen snuck in. A waiter went after it with a broom only to have it leap onto Arthur’s table. In second, it was swept into his arms and disappeared into the large old overcoat he wore. Two eyes peered out at the waiter and seemed to be saying, “there, see? I’m an expected guest. Be about your business, churl!”
The cat became Arthur’s new muse. The owners allowed the cat to be smuggled in as long as it was out of plain sight. Arthur became more sociable. Patrons and staff visited the corner to pet the cat and allowed themselves to be sat down to listen to the adventures that featured Snip, the Greenwich Village cat as told to Arthur.
That year the owners were looking for something unique to do in the evenings leading up to Christmas. One of the regulars looked over at Arthur and Snip and jokingly suggested that they commission Arthur to write a Christmas adventure with Snip. It could be a special family evening. The suggestion was meant as a joke. But several of us sitting at the table liked the idea. It got put to the vote, and a deputation of us wandered over to suggest it to Arthur. Arthur seriously asked Snip, and after consultation, he stated that Snip agreed that it might be fun.
So the week before Christmas, Arthur, resplendent in a red Santa suit, white hair, and beard freshly combed, sat on the small stage and told the tale of how Snip had saved Santa one Christmas Eve and won the friendship of all the elves and reindeer. Throughout this Snip sat cleaning himself at Arthur’s feet. The evening was a great success and was repeated for years afterward.
I left the Village, but when I went back years later, Arthur still sat in his corner with a cup of espresso, legal pad, and supervisory cat. Only now, instead of being the peculiar relic of literary days past, he was the literary lion of the establishment. The ongoing tales of Snip selling well at bookstores and Arthur getting pointed out to visiting tourists.