The Observer - Based on Night Hawks

There have been so many variations of the Night Hawks painting, some funny, some outright tongue in cheek reproductions. The original (i think....) is this one:

night hawks


I just thought: what are these characters thinking and rolled into a series of flashes from 30s and 40s detective stories. So, on that, I wrote a quick short short story, 441 words based on wht may be transpiring from the point of view of someone looking into the cafe:

The Observer

It was a quiet, gloomy evening. 

The New York street was illuminated by floods of light from the cafe. Inside the cafe, an elderly man behind the counter reaches for coffee mugs as three rather nondescript regulars appeared to stare vacantly about their surroundings. 

At the far edge of the counter sat a couple brooding over their lives, never actually so much as glancing at each other. On the other side of the counter sat a quietly thinking gentleman, stirring his coffee as though it may reveal the answers to his questions on life’s anxieties. 

The counter assistant muttered something. It was muffled from where I was standing but I think he simply asked, ‘Anyone for an Irish coffee?’ The three patrons barely acknowledged his query, seemingly locked in whatever troubles beset them on this night. 

Then for a dashing moment, the lady casually shook her head. Her partner, presumably her partner, just held his transfixed vacant stare while he appeared to be dwelling on thoughts of misery or possibly just thinking quietly to himself. His facial features never moved as though chiselled out of stone. 

The lady’s satin red dress was the first glimmer of life in the cafe I noticed on my approach to the corner. Now, I am up close, neither her nor the cafe or the occupants appear to offer any value or interest. It’s quite a shock, almost unnerving how I am standing here unnoticed by the cafe occupants. 

‘Ah, what the hell’, I muttered to myself.

It was the guy peering down into his coffee seeking out answers to his troubles who matched the description I was given: blue double breasted suit, grey crushable fedora hat, sits at cafe every night by himself.  I cared little for the problems bothering the guy in the shiny tuxedo setting the standard for worthless gentlemen in this city, and his estranged woman.

I fail to feel for whatever problems fill their empty worlds while the war on Germany intensifies claiming more and more American lives.

Boy, placing a welcome sign on this cafe would fail to change its sombre mood.  Anyhow, it is time for this wise guy to answer some questions. He is in for a real surprise if he is the mobster we want. If he is the guy, the Commissioner will give me that huge shining smile.

I stubbed out my cigarette, and made my way closer to the cafe window. As I approached, the postures of the three remained static. Will they even notice me when I stroll my butt in there, I thought. Well, time to shake one of them up.

                                                ** END **

About Stephen Crowley

I write short stories and flash fiction plus currently writing novellas. My chosen genres are a mix of horror, scifi, fantasy, and drama. You can chat to me here on the blog or through my linkedin account


Please do not post promos (unless you are an author, and then ONLY your work). Please do comment on any fiction published here. I am keen to hear from writers starting out to published authors.