Wednesday, July 13, 2011


One of my oft-used "café studios" was a small place called "Friends." Seated about 30, on chairs, high stools, a sofa and an armchair, the place was well-decorated, cozy, with outdoor dinette sets and huge picture windows that looked upon the back of a church. Oh well. The place is closed now, but it did have only one door and the bathroom didn't lock... Featured on Weirdyear, this story is part of my anthology "Thirty Stories," available on SmashWords.



            I’m a writer. I’m sitting in a café ignoring a mug of coffee and a couple of handfuls of people who are engaged in such scintillating activities as reading the newspaper (like mass media had anything worth absorbing), leafing through a woman’s magazine (ditto), chatting about classes (probably while cutting them, the only good way to enjoy classes) and sipping chai made with soy juice (it isn’t milk unless it comes from a mammal.) They are borderline bored, even the chatters. To me they are utterly boring.
            I get that way when I can’t think of an idea for a story. I have no fear of the blank page—or screen. I can start writing at pretty much any moment, but there are times when even the best-greased wheel will squeak and when my squeak makes an appearance, it bugs the hell out of me. I look at the screen, then the keyboard, then I place my hands over nose and mouth in faux-prayer fashion, pushing my mind to come up with an endpoint. If that doesn’t work, I look around and start criticizing everyone in sight.
            Like the lady reading the newspaper. She’s moving her lips. Fifth-grade dropout with parents who were first cousins. Inbred idiot. Or the woman leafing through the fourth of a stack of fashion and gossip magazines. Husband left her because she’s frigid, stuck in the overly-idealistic notion that Life is Romance, like the Hollywood cretins pretend to live. Knows more about J-Lo and Brangelina than she does about personal hygiene.
            Take the two guys talking about their sophomore literature professor. Since neither can read, the effort is similar to that of monkeys arguing physics. Based on their body language they are closet gays hoping the other makes the first move. Then there’s the couple behind them: She’s wearing last fall’s European fashions as aped by discount stores and sipping chai with the look of “Tastes like raw sewage, but it’s trendy so I like it,” while he swirls his double-mocha, low-fat, low-foam Kenyan cappuccino pondering the loss of his erections and the notion that maybe they’ll come back if his too-trendy wife either got a boob job or dropped dead so he could jump the two college guys.
            I turn to the other side of the café. Short cropped hair, six piercings above eye level, black lipstick and long sleeves on a hot day spell crack queen. The guy next to her, leaning back into his chair while reading a brick-shaped best seller has nubs for fingernails, a mashed-caterpillar mustache and the eyes of a child molester on Prozac. If he scratches his crotch one more time I’m calling the police.
            The cursor blinks. I sip my coffee, now barely lukewarm, until the mug is empty. The door opens and three high school students amble in, their collective IQ a two-digit number reminiscent of room temperatures in a Midwest spring. They chatter like cockroaches enlarged by Dr. Demento. The tall flat-as-plywood girl orders only water. Anorexic and schizoid. The shorter fat girl hesitates, then orders water, too. What she wanted was a dozen jelly doughnuts and a crack at her tall friend’s boyfriend leftovers. Which didn’t include the puny sashaying swish-fairy who ordered a pastrami sandwich cut in four pieces and a Coke, to the disgust of the anorexic broom and the envy of Blubber Babe.
            The deluded chai-sipper smiled at me. “Are you writing a story?”
            Several pairs of eyes swiveled my way. “Could be,” I said, placing just the right mix of disdain and modesty into it, serving notice to the inmates that the warden was on the premises.
            The coffee did its dirty deed and I left for the loo. When I came out, the whole menagerie was crowded around my computer, muttering darkly. They stared hotly as I walked out of the bathroom.
            That had no lock on its door.
            And they were between me and the café’s only door…

            After the swelling goes down, the stitches dissolve and I recover the feeling in my hands, I’m taking up knitting.

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