Short Story: “Starmix and the Runaway Table”

Harry Bow (aka Starmix), a part-time waiter and full-time life coach, has discovered the secret of the universe. Namely, that every living being shares the same consciousness. And now it is his mission to correct the bad behaviour of everyone he meets.

London, UK – September 14, 2023: Busy Pavilion Road in Chelsea and Kensington full of boutique shops restaurants. © Mareks Perkons /

June 30, 2024 05:15 EDT

Something to consider when reading/listening: What is it about your consciousness that makes you think it is unique to you?

My name is Harry Bow. Friends call me Starmix. 

I’m a full-time life coach. And a part-time waiter. 

When I’m not satiating people’s hunger for food, I’m ramping up their hunger for life. For years I’ve kept these twin passions strictly separate. But I recently made a profound discovery. On YouTube.

I discovered that all living beings share a single consciousness. The universe is one giant min,d and you and I are simply windows through which it makes sense of itself. You’re not a person experiencing the universe. You’re the universe experiencing a person. 

Yeah. I know, right? 

Once I discovered this, I realized that it was no good for me to use my life coaching skills simply to help my clients. Oh no. I needed to help every person I’ve ever met. Because if we all share the same consciousness, then that means I am everyone. Yes, even you. 

So, no longer will I stand idly by and ignore other people’s bad behavior. Complete stranger or close friend, if you’re doing something wrong, it’s my job, it’s my duty, to put it right. 

I used to be a waiter. But I got tired of waiting. 

“Harry, can you take table five’s order please?”

“Yeah, one minute.”

You and I, dear listener, we are one and the same.

That might be hard to believe when you consider my eloquence, my articulacy, my athleticism which you can’t appreciate, this is audio only, but it probably doesn’t shock you to learn that I take very good care of myself. I was a rugby player in my school days. I had the best tackle in south London. Wasn’t bad defensively either (or it’s why I couldn’t wear lycra). 

But I digress. Despite all of those areas in which I may seem vastly superior, you and I really are the same. 

If I were to take a journey to the ground of your being, before your thoughts, before your sensations, your memories, your preferences, if I were to journey deep into the center of who you are, I’d say, “Hello there, you look familiar.”

So now I’m asking you. Or I’m asking me, in the form of you, to join me, who is really you, in this journey as I improve the lives of random strangers. 

What will seem like a hero selflessly helping others is in fact you helping yourself. 

You are me. You are the hero you’ve always wanted to be. 

“Oi, Tangfastic, table five now!”

“On it, I’m on it.” 

The minute I get to table five, I realize, I don’t like them one bit.

I went to a rough school. The worst-performing grammar school in the area. And I know bad news when I see it. The bloke’s got a black leather jacket and tattoos on his neck, and he keeps saying everything’s wonderful, everything’s perfect, but with a conspiratorial smile that suggests he and I are sharing an in-joke. His partner, wearing these long lime-green gladiator boots, has asked me three times now in her thick Eastern European accent — and that’s not the reason I think they’re dodgy, before you get on your high horse — she’s asked whether Angela is working today, even though I’ve told her on each occasion that there’s no one here by that name. 

I’m pretty sure it’s a ploy to distract me so the two of them can run off without paying. But I am not giving Brigid, the restaurant’s manager, the satisfaction of making me pay for their bill. That’s the policy here, as she reminded us in this morning’s meeting. If a table runs off without paying, the waiter has to cover the cost. 

Brigid is a real test of my new, profound discovery. I find her so annoying I want to pick up a table and crack it in two, which I could do with ease by the way. And yet I am her. She and I share the same universal consciousness. So gradually, bit by bit, I am going to mold her. I’m going to make her a better, far less annoying person. 

She spent ten minutes this morning banging on about some ridiculous safety policy and how it’s our job to protect our customers from harm blah, blah, blah. She made me put up posters about it in the women’s toilets. I live to protect others, that’s who I am. I don’t need a lecture about it. And I certainly don’t need a poster. 

Oh, bollocks. Table five have gone. They’ve chucked their napkins on top of their half-eaten pasta and disappeared. There’s no bill on their table and no cash pinned beneath either of their plates.

A little bald man with a mullet is waving two menus in the air like he’s guiding a plane along a runway. But he’s going to have to wait because outside, standing by the traffic lights leading to the tube station, about fifty feet from the restaurant, is the woman in the lime green gladiator boots. 

I take a deep breath, put my head down and sprint off after her.

I’m not doing this for my benefit; I’m doing it for hers. I can lose 50 quid. What I can’t lose is the opportunity to make someone a better person. 

I’ve nearly reached the traffic lights by the time they turn red, at which point the woman runs across the road as fast as her gladiator boots can carry her, which isn’t particularly fast. When you play rugby, you quickly learn that the more you commit to a tackle, the less likely you are to get hurt. So, as soon as she reaches the pavement, I leap forward and lock my arms around her legs, pulling us both to the ground. And because I’m a gentleman, and an expert at the art of tackling, I make sure my body cushions her fall. Her heel scratches my chest. My right knee clangs against the concrete. It’s absolute agony. But she’s fine. Psychically at least. 

And now we’re surrounded by people demanding to know why an abnormally strong male has just physically (although, very safely) apprehended a rather dainty woman. “She’s a thief,” I say, “she’s stolen from the restaurant.” They see my tie and my apron and my innate virtue and the story checks out. 

I demand to know where my money is, but all she can say is “Angela, Angela, Angela.”

“Money,” I say, “dinero, la monnaie.”

“Angela, Angela, I tell you, I tell you.”

From the startled look in her eyes, and the way she now seems unable to stand, I am beginning to doubt whether she was in fact trying to steal from the restaurant. 

I offer her my hand to help her up when a huge shadow appears from behind us.

It’s the big bloke with the leather jacket and the neck tattoos. He helps her to her feet and she shouts something that, despite being a skilled linguist, I am unable to translate. But it doesn’t sound good. He pulls her into his chest and kisses the back of her head. He looks at me and, brandishing the bill and a credit card receipt, says very softly, “I pay to your manager.”

If we were to come to blows, there’s half a chance this bloke would win, and I don’t say that about many people. Or worse, he could go back to the restaurant and tell Brigid what I’ve done. 

”I am so sorry,” I say. “I haven’t had much sleep, we were in early for a staff meeting…”

”Is ok,” he says, “Is honest mistake.”

Is it? Really? Running after someone and rugby tackling them to the ground purely because they probably wanted to get a head start on the clothes shopping? 

He smiles at me. “Many peoples, they try and run from restaurant. Is not ok. I am glad you are not accepting this menace. If I you, I do the same.” At this point he actually proffers his fist, which I duly bump. He says something to the woman who looks up at me and forces a smile and a nod. “Is ok,” she says and nods again. 

“Right, sure,” I say, “Yeah, well, thank you.”

That bloke must have watched the same YouTube videos I have, that’s the only explanation. He didn’t hurt me because he knows deep down he is me. The two of us, seemingly separate beings, are in fact one. And what a world it would be if we all understood this, ey?

“Did she get away?” says Brigid.


“Table Five, she was asking for Angela wasn’t she? …. Our new safety policy, Harry. The one I spent ten minutes explaining this morning? The posters you put up in the women’s toilets? ‘Ask for Angela.’ If a woman is in danger, she needs to ask for Angela and we’ll help her get to safety? That’s why I took him upstairs to pay, and I deliberately took my time about it, giving her the opportunity to run away.”

I feel a sharp pain in my chest from where she grazed me with her heel.

“Yeah,” I say, “yeah, yeah, she got away. I saw her running off into the tube, safe and sound.”

“Great,” she says, “Good work, Tangfastic.”

I deal with the rest of my tables on auto-pilot. I know I should be attending to their needs, and not just gustatory needs either. But I’m so shook up by what happened. That woman who may well be in serious danger right now, she is me. That’s me experiencing that danger. And that bloke, that bad man, whatever awful combination of nature and nurture have led to him… well, he’s me ’n’ all. I could have done some good there. I really could. And now I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to see them again.

But there’s a lesson in all of this. Communication. Communication. We are all the mouths and ears of the universe and we must communicate. Because if Brigid had only explained the new safety policy that little bit more clearly, none of this would’ve happened.

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

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