Aside from a one-time attempt at a writing competition here on wordpress, I have so far kept my writing on …things I LOVE to be limited to essay. I’ve, lately, questioned my ability, as well as desire, to actually write fiction. I’ve also been afraid of posting fiction thinking once I do, I’ll then feel self obligated to post more. Nothing in life, EVER, should be done out of obligation.
Inspired by the amazingly creative writers such as Brian Westbye and Frivolous Monsters, as well as the courage of writers such as El Guapo and The Last Song I Heard, I’ve decided to post a piece of fiction today. Comments, suggestions, criticisms welcome.
“The entire planet is nothing more than a huge revolving cesspool, a dumping ground for it’s self centered ‘me first’ minded inhabitants.” Billy rapidly stirs his Brazilian double mocha latte. He then, as if for emphasis, taps the little red plastic stirrer on the rim of his crater sized coffee mug. He tosses back his salon cropped head of brilliant brown hair before continuing. His locks shift radiantly, each hair moving in complete synchronized union with the others. As if by some feat of magic, each highlighted strand catches the sun perfectly before falling immaculately back into place.
“No, wait!” Billy punctuates the air with his coffee stirrer. “I stand corrected. It’s not ‘me first’, it’s simply ‘me’, and what comes after ‘me’….. is not important.”
Two of the other three people seated at Billy’s sunny street side table nod in agreement. They too, in a gesture of solidarity, frantically stir their own colossal mugs of over-priced imported coffee. Jen, the lone dissenter, shifts slightly on her cushioned wrought-iron chair.
“Well, Billy…” She begins, testing the waters cautiously before diving in. Billy’s eyes move from his double mocha to Jen. His perfectly plucked brows arch expectantly.
“Well…..what, Jen?” A smug smile crosses his collagen injected lips as Jen once more shifts in her chair.
“Well…” Jen’s eyes move away from Billy. They slowly scan the faces of the other two women seated at the table. Jen nearly laughs as she sees that both women, one flanking Billy on his left, the other on his right, are staring blankly at her. She is instantly reminded of the flying monkeys from The Wizard Of Oz who constantly wait at either hand of the wicked witch.
“Well…..I just don’t think it’s as simple as you make it seem.”
There. It was out. Jen, sitting in the sun of a perfect San Francisco afternoon, has disagreed with Billy. Not only has she disagreed, but has she actually also referred to his opinion as simple? Suddenly the sun feels a little warmer, the air seems a little fresher, and her regular coffee, two sugars, one cream in a normal sized cup, suddenly tastes much better. She takes a deep sip as her statement registers around the table. Once more she shifts in her seat, but this time her spine straightens and her shoulders lift. Mrs. June, her second grade teacher, June the Prune, would be most pleased with Jen’s new found posture.
Over the rim of her cup she relishes the look of total shock on the faces of the two flying monkeys. Her eyes then meet with Billy’s own hazel colored orbs. She couldn’t help but notice how beautiful his eyes are, such an incredibly intense shade of hazel. Truly a shade known no where in nature and only to be found in the laboratories of Bausch and Lomb. But oh….how they sparkle! How they smolder! Clearly these are his best ‘afternoon, natural light’ lenses. But is there something behind those contacts? Is there a glare in Billy’s eyes not brought out by chemistry but rather by Jen’s bold dissidence?
“Oh really, Jen?” Billy’s left hand graciously levitates above his head as he signals the harried waitress for another latte. It was a hand with the elegance of a ballerina….a figure skater, his wrist majestically tuning as his hand reached it’s apex. His platinum Bolivian crafted watch catches the sun’s rays perfectly. “Being overly simple, I am?”
Jen cringes. She’s heard Billy resort to Yoda-speak before. It’s never good. It doesn’t help that the waitress, clearly an over-worked college student, has failed to respond to his beckon.
“Yes, Jen…” Suddenly the flying monkey to Billy’s left, Beverly, or Bev as she prefers, chimes in. “What do you mean by simple?” Bev now raises her own left hand in an attempt to imitate Billy’s lofty summons of the waitress, but she can not quite pull it off. Instead of a ballerina completing a perfect pirouette, she more closely resembles a maintenance man changing a light bulb. The waitress, of course, completely ignores her.
“What I mean…” Jen starts and then pauses as she catches the waitress’s eye. A polite smile along with a head nod brings the young woman over to the table where another round of coffees is ordered.
“What I mean.” She continues as the waitress walks away. “Is that we shouldn’t just throw a blanket of blame over the entire human race. It’s not that simple. Some people have far fewer choices than others.”
“Speaking of blankets…” Completely out of context, as usual, Kelli, yes that is Kelli with an i, the flying monkey seated to Billy’s right, enters the conversation. “You guys absolutely have to check out the sale on Peruvian llama blankets at Small Planet downtown! I bought three yesterday and they are so….so…..I don’t know how to describe them! So…..South American-y!?”
Kelli then sighs as if to emphasize her fondness for all things South American-y. She completely misreads the stares of disbelief from Jen and Billy as looks of intense interest and feels obligated to continue. She absolutely gushes while at the same time nodding and smiling. “I love them!”
“I do love Small Planet.” Bev agrees and beams at Billy as she speaks, obviously trying to impress him. Beverly has spent the better part of the past three years trying to impress him, all to no avail. Unfortunately for her, Billy has returned to glaring at Jen. He is not one to simply ‘get over’ being disputed. This will not, however, stop Bev from trying. “Do you guys know that 10% of all their proceeds are donated to indigent people?”
“Actually…” Jen begins as the waitress unloads their second round. “It’s 10% of their profits, not their proceeds. And also…” She pauses to thank the waitress, “I think the word you’re looking for is indigenous people, not indigent. They give nothing to indigent people.”
“Same difference.” Bev says as she picks up her immense coffee mug.
“Well, no.” Jen says, a slight, but definite, edge rising in her voice. “It’s not the same difference. And also, when you consider that 100% of every dime Small Planet makes is made on the labor of indigenous peoples, 10% is nothing. It’s criminal actually.”
“Oh-oh. Jen is going to rant!” Kelli claps her hands together in a series of small, rapid claps, as if the very thought of a rant absolutely delights her. “You know how much she hates Small Planet!”
Jen turns from Bev towards Kelli. In doing so she couldn’t help but notice Billy’s posture. He sits leaning back in his seat, slouching really. His left arm folded across his chest, his right arm holding his cup of coffee up to his face as if he were hiding behind it. He is stewing, staring at her and waiting for his moment. He is, however, momentarily quite content to let Kelli and Bev work her into a state of frustration before launching his attack.
“It’s not only Small Planet, Kelli.” Jen says. She keeps the simmering Billy in the corner of her eye as she speaks. “I have a problem with any business that pays someone in a developing country five dollars to make a blanket then tries to sell that same blanket to me for seventy-five dollars and….”
“Those blankets cost five dollars?” Kelli, in utter disbelief, looks around the table as if for confirmation.
“And, Kelli, excuse me…I’m not finished.” Jen’s voice raises another notch. “And… not only do they want to sell me the blanket for seventy-five dollars but they also want to make me believe that in buying the blanket I am somehow saving the planet.”
“Well, duh, silly! It’s called ‘green shopping’. And I love it!” Kelli beams, shopping is, after all, her area of expertise. “Everyone knows that green shopping saves the planet.”
“Buying a blanket can not save the planet.” Jen’s voice raises a bit more.
“Weren’t you listening, Jen?” Kelli smiles at Jen. “I bought three blankets!”
“Oh my god….” Jen fights off the urge to pound her head on the table.
“Oh, who cares?” Bev says. “I don’t need any blankets anyway. I have plenty of blankets.” She once again smiles at Billy. “Isn’t that right, Billy? You have plenty of blankets too, right?” Billy, ignoring Bev, continues to stare at Jen. A grin slowly making it’s way onto his surgically puffed lips.
“Well…” Kelli says, not to be outdone. “I have plenty of blankets too. But the more I buy, the better for the planet.”
Billy’s grin turns into a full-fledged smiled. His bleached white teeth dazzle in the California sunlight. “You see, Jen?” His words drip with sarcasm. He lifts his free left hand from his chest and motions first towards Kelli, then towards Bev. “It’s okay…..we all have plenty of blankets which proves we are socially and environmentally aware people.”
Bev shoots a sideways glance at Billy. She is not absolutely sure whether she’s just been insulted. Her infatuation with Billy is such, however, that there is no way her ego would allow her to think he does not hold her in the same high regard in which she holds him. She lets the remark slide, but decides to pay closer attention to the conversation.
Kelli, on the other hand, knows she has just been complimented, and she follows Billy’s statement with a vigorous nodding of her head. It is, after all, well known to all her friends just how socially and environmentally aware she is. If, however, there are any doubters, well….she has the receipts to prove them wrong! Not only does she shop Small Planet, but she also shops Green Planet, United Planet, One Planet and Planet Savers, not to mention Earth Savers, Air Savers and the newly opened uptown location of Forests Savers. And not only does Kelli know where to shop in order to save the planet, she also makes sure she uses her Gold Save Our Oceans Visa to pay for each and every purchase she makes.
“No way, Billy!” Jen is ready to explode. “There is no way I’m letting you get away with using these two to prove your point.”
“Oh Jen, don’t you see?” Billy finally sits up. His voice purrs, like a panther rather than a kitten. “These two are my point. Kelli here, darling, sweet and terribly rich Kelli. She spends enough money each year to bankroll an entire third world country. She really, and I mean really, believes that by doing so she is making a difference…you know, helping out those less fortunate…making the world a better place. In reality, she hasn’t a clue where all that money ends up.”
Again Kelli nods vigorously. “Sorry Jen, but Billy’s right. I haven’t a…wait.” A look of confusion crosses her face. She turns towards Billy. “What do you mean I..”
“Hush, Kelli.” Billy waves an immaculately manicured hand in her direction. “I’m trying to have a conversation here.”
Jen looks from Billy to Kelli. “Wow…did you just hush her?”
Billy takes a long sip from his titanic-size cup. “I’m just getting started.” He lowers his mug and softly pats his mouth with a napkin not wanting to smear his lip polish. His eyes shift to his left.
“Bev.” Billy reaches to his left and pats Beverly’s man sized hand. “Bev here…well she has no opinion, really. She doesn’t want to save the world. She does what she does, shops where she shops, reads what she reads all so that others will have a better impression of her, so that others will think highly of her. So she can hang with the right people. She has no convictions, no ideals, nothing other than a deep desire to fit in.”
Beverly pulls her hand away from Billy. She is clearly on the edge of tears. On her face is a look of not only betrayal but also intense pain. It’s as if she’s just been gut punched by a prize-fighter. Jen is almost certain Bev has stopped breathing. She waits for her breath to return, and when it does it comes as a sigh rather than a gasp.
“You’re an ass, Billy.” Jen’s hands begin to tremble slightly. This usually happens when she becomes very upset, very angry.
“I may be an ass.” Billy says. “But I’m right, and you know it.”
“There’s no maybe about it, you are an ass.” Jen takes a deep breath to calm her shaking hands. “You may be right, I mean about these two. But you’re not right about the movement as a whole.”
“Movement!” Billy nearly spits Brazilian latte across the table. The full carat diamond solitaire on the pinky finger of his left hand catches a sunbeam sending a prism of color into the No-Cal afternoon. “My sweet girl! Heaven’s sakes, what decade are you living in? There hasn’t been a ‘movement’ since the Reagan years…and even then it was masturbatory egotism culminating in nothing more than an ejaculatory sprinkling over the huddled masses. Oh my god! Movement, she says!”
“Movement.” Kelli pulls out her iPhone and begins to purposelessly fidget with it’s screen while absently echoing the only of Billy’s string of words which she bothered to register. Bev stares at the sidewalk, motionless.
“You are such a …” Jen struggles yet can not find that one word. That exact tag, label, to wipe the insane volume of smugness from Billy’s mannequin-perfect face.
“Such a realist?” Billy’s grin grows even wider. “Is that the word, Jen? Realist? Look around you and face reality, girl. This is it. This is your movement. At some point …oh let’s say right after the Vietnam War, like the very freakin day after, Madison Avenue got together with the State Department and decided we’d swallow anything as long as it made us feel good. We wave our flags and consume our way to freedom, and if anyone doesn’t like it well…screw them.”
“And this is ok with you?” Jen stares at Billy. “This suits you?”
“Well, ok or not ok, it doesn’t keep me awake nights, and neither should it you.” Billy reaches into his Jack Spade leather flight bag, fishes out his Fendies and with the flair and grace of a polished starlet on the red carpet slips the shades over his eyes. “I mean, what’s it going to get you, Jen? You’re not going to change the world. The ‘we’re-here-to-make-the-world-a-better-place’ ship has sailed. If you don’t like it, drop out of it. Go be a monk.”
Billy drains the last drop from his latte, and slides his man bag towards him on the table. He quickly glances at the Bolivian timepiece on his wrist while at the same time rising. “Damn, I’m gonna be late. Kelli, hun, where’re you parked? You’ll drive me over to North Beach, yes.”
Kelli, having long since lost interest in the conversation, jumps at the chance to exit the table. “Sure, Billy, no problem. We can swing by my place first, I need to pick up…”
“Jesus, Kelli!” Billy cuts her off. “Can you possibly be a bit more selfish? Were you so totally amazed and captivated by the lights and sounds of your little phone that you didn’t hear me say I’m running late? You’ll run me over first, then take care of….whatever.” Standing, Billy reaches into his pocket, fetches a ten-dollar bill and causally tosses it onto the table. Before he can turn away he notices Bev, head down, still staring at the sidewalk.
“Oh my god, Beverly. And just what is your problem?”
Bev looks up towards him. “Nothing….it’s just that you….”
Billy sighs audibly, completely silencing her with just the very sound. He dramatically clutches his bag before turning towards the street. “You people really are trying to kill me.”
Kelli up and now at his side, holds a set of gold BMW keys in her right hand. Billy briefly turns his head back towards Bev. “Earth to Beverly..hello? Beverly? We’re going now. Move!”
Bev slides her chair back and gets up from the table. “Yes, Billy. Sorry.”
Billy’s eye catches Jen, still seated and looking towards the three of them in amazement. “And really, hun.” He says. “You do need to chill a bit. A holiday, perhaps. I hear Vietnam is lovely this time of year.” With that he turns and Jen watches him, along with two flying monkeys, disappear down the sidewalk. She then once again signals for the waitress.
“I’ll have a Brazilian double mocha latte.” She says. “In the biggest damn cup you have, please.”
I love …Coffee! I’ll admit to being an early riser. This is not by choice, nor do I subscribe to the notion of the early bird getting the worm. Worms, in general, are highly over-rated and as far as I know can be obtained at any point throughout the day. I wake when I do primarily because my brain seems to function best in the morning. While it’s true the first thoughts to enter my mind upon waking are usually on that of writing, its only when coffee enters my consciousness that my body then becomes motivated enough to actually get out of bed.
I am not at all a coffee snob. I will drink any coffee, anywhere, and like it. In my opinion, the quality of the coffee is greatly determined by the quality of the conversation which comes along with it. Great conversation can make the worse coffee wonderful, while even the best coffee in the universe can do little to resuscitate an uninteresting conversation. That requires the work of alcohol, preferably tequila. There is no one place which is more suitable for drinking coffee than any other. My desk is a great spot for it…as is a balcony in the French Quarter, a kitchen table in Timor, a campsite anywhere, a beach in Indonesia, or just about any front porch.
Coffee shops should, in theory, also be a great place to have coffee…however there are some rules which apply:
- Firstly, when ordering coffee, there should only be two syllables involved in the process. Three, only if it includes the word ‘please’. Any more syllables and one is no longer ordering coffee but instead requesting some concoction which cost as much as a small pony and resembles actual coffee in as much as that same pony. I’ve found that if the coffee shop has a corporate office, a pretentious menu, and a drive through window the chances of my getting change back from my ten are greatly reduced.
- Secondly, coffee shops should have an atmosphere, an ambiance, which invokes socializing and lingering conversations with other people who are actually present and not on the other end of a cell phone.
- Thirdly, coffee should be served in a cup, a real cup of normal proportion, and with a saucer…always with a saucer. (Thank you, Q!)
- And fourthly, please don’t, in any way, assign my cup of coffee the task of saving the planet or any portion of it. I mean…really?! When your CEO gives up his SUV for a bike then we can talk about saving the planet…preferably over a nice cup of coffee!