Or did he?

We face here the beautiful dilemma of characterisation... Five dollars is a little too much for coffee and two tiny shortbread biscuits, even in this street. The bill in fact comes to only $3.20. What Marli's leaving of $5.00 is meant to suggest, of course, is the level of his distraction (read adoration, love, worship.)

But...

Is that too simplistic, too cliched? Marli is a richer, more complex figure than Mills and Boon would have you believe. Has he in fact left no money at all - so DISTRACTED is he? Has he left five dollars after realising that he does not have the right amount, too hurried to wait for change? Has he in fact tried before to leave this establishment without paying, and so is aware of the difficulies (delay, attention focused...) that the Croatian owner will undoubtedly make? ( No, he has not! Marli is too burdened with an outmoded sense of ethics to have tried that one. He may allow the fraudulent use of his work under other students' names but he is always scrupulously honest with coffee establishments and the Tax office.) Of course Marli pays, and he is too distracted to care too much that he has tipped the crazy owner.

 

Stephen Kimber, 2000