Tag Archives: Coffee

A Proper Breakfast Though Alienated

close up shot of an english breakfast
Photo by MikeGz on Pexels.com

I woke up with a Kodak moment in my guts. The sun was shining bright, harsh, with a gauze on a wound sparkle that I had not experienced in what seemed like centuries. Yes, I am alive again in a modern age, but I come to this place from such a long time ago. I know it makes no sense, but I believe it has something to do with reincarnation or resurrection after a long metabolic pause. Something akin to those little creatures the Russians sent to space to test their toughness against solar radiation and the chill of the star soup — the tardigrades.

But I am not a water bear or a moss piglet — I’m some kind of an altered human being sitting on a red vinyl stool pad connected to a silver pole in a diner that itself is silver and red and all the waitresses are made to wear pink uniforms and heavy lipstick in order to replicate some slice of time when they actually did do those things on Earth.

I looked down and there was coffee in a white cup on the counter. I reached a trembling hand to grasp it and lift it to my waiting mouth. I could smell bacon and wet eggs cooking. I could hear the clink and clank of dishes, the liquid voices of cooks and busboys scrambling about upon the Astro vinyl and stainless steel of the universe. I looked up at a clock on the wall and the numbers were all out of order. The 9 was where the 12 was supposed to be, the 3 was where the 7 was supposed to be… and so on and so on all messed up like that.  

I wondered if I was perhaps invisible or maybe in a dream. I raised a hand to get the attention of a raven-haired waitress with a Garden of Evil apple mouth and eyes that glowed orange like ripe fire. “What’s it going to be then, heh? What’s your pleasure, Johnny Oh?” she said when she noticed me.

I wasn’t invisible after all. “A proper breakfast served in an improper way,” I said, and then for some reason I laughed like I was out-of-control high on grass. I brushed something away from my silver suit.

She looked at me like I was the strangest man on Earth which I probably was. She leaned in and shook her chest at me. “You mean like this… With my tits up in your face?” She withdrew and scowled, then suddenly smiled when a menacing busser the size of an ancient Malta giant brushed by her from behind and palmed her backside. “Ooooh,” she squealed. “Knock it off, Rapture Jones. I’ll report you to the boss for ass grabbing.”

I reached into my pack and pulled out a book with a shabby cover. I put on some Welsh readers and began to flip through the pages as if I was in a library instead of a silver and red diner in the downtown sector of Pandemonium Linear North. It’s a place like on the far outskirts of London but in perhaps a false reality; it was a different planet or maybe even a dream, someone else’s dream. Jennifer’s dream? It was hard to keep track of anymore these days. My life recently has resembled fizzing chemistry and often bright colored clouds of magic and it almost seems like yesterday that I was riding my horse through the dismembered town of Van Norton that lies on the shores of the great Sahara Sea. I suddenly felt sand in my teeth, and I took a big gulp of the coffee from the white cup. I felt the grit slide through the valleys of my soul.

The waitress slid a large, white, oval plate in front of me. The food looked wonderful. I set the book aside. She took interest. “What are studying, Johnny Oh?”

I removed the Welsh readers and looked up at her. “It’s a book about the most beautiful woman in the world. Her name is Jennifer, and she spends most of her life sleeping in a big bed high up in a castle that sits on a lonely hill overlooking an ocean. Some people think she’s actually a cat because she sleeps so much. But she’s not a cat. She’s a woman. A very beautiful woman.”

The waitress made a contorted face, and she wiped her hands on a white apron tied about her waist. “Doesn’t seem very exciting… I mean, reading a story about a woman who just sleeps. Don’t you have better things to do?”

I cut up some of the sausages and ruptured egg yolks with the pieces and then ate. She studied me as I worked my mouth and then swallowed. “It’s much deeper than that. It goes into her crazy dreams and her longing for real love. She has a very complicated mind.”

“But how does everyone know she is the most beautiful woman in the world if all she does is sleep and never go out?”

I took another bite of sausage dipped in warm yellow yoke. I wiped at my mouth with a paper napkin. I took a careful sip of the coffee. “It has something to do with blind faith,” I said to her in due time. I scooped up some beans. I gnawed on some mushrooms. I began to cut into a peppered tomato slice. “Wait a minute… I hate tomatoes. Why am I about to eat a tomato?”

The waitress scoffed at me. She shook her head. “You’re so weird, Johnny Oh. I might need to pass you off to someone else. I don’t think I can take you much longer.” She laughed in a teasing way. She scrunched her nose like something smelled bad but good as well and then she walked off.

I sat on a bench near a fountain in a park across the street from the red and silver diner that I mistakenly hadn’t told you had the name of The Oasis. The sun was bright, warm, brilliant, dazzling, nearly blinding. The growing heat of the day was beginning to make me fidget. Soft traffic ran along the street between the park and the diner. Tall, thin trees, like green hypodermic needles, lined the street on both sides. The street had the name of The Capshaw Veranda. Some quibbling birds gathered at my feet in anticipation of crumbs. “I’m sorry,” I said to them. “The only seeds I have seem to be locked away tight in my soul… Too far down for me to reach and toss out among your kind.”

A woman sitting with a young girl on the lip of the fountain’s circular stone wall leaned in and said to her: “That man must be crazy. He’s talking to himself, my dear. Don’t look over at him or he might get the wrong idea and follow us home. We don’t want that, now do we.”

I could hear her speaking perfectly. It was as if she were whispering the words in my very own ear, where the ocean roared. Then the young girl moved her mouth and said, “No, mama,” but then disobeyed her mother or aunt or legal guardian or whoever she was anyway. She glanced at me and halfheartedly smiled. The woman tugged on her arm. “What did I say!?” Then she slapped the girl’s face. The crack of the impact startled the birds at my feet to flight. The girl began to cry. A circus motorcade crawled along the street. People cheered. The girl asked if they could just leave the park and get a red balloon or maybe an ice cream. The woman stood and then reached down and yanked the girl to her feet. “Red balloons are a tool of the devil! Why can’t you ask for a golden balloon, girl. Golden balloons are the champagne blood flow of our universal god.”

 The girl looked up at her. She rubbed the tears away from her face with a small fist. “The one that comes in the bright light in the sky at night… Oh, heavenly night?”

The woman went to her knees to be on an equal level with the girl. Her heart was suddenly heavy for being angry with her. “I’m sorry.” She kissed her forehead. “You’ve been seeing the ships again?” the woman asked.

“Yes, mama.” The girl turned and pointed right at me as I sat in wondering stillness there on the bench. “That’s when I saw him last time. He came out of the light. He’s following us after all.”


The As Usual Eyebrows

Close up shot of a person wearing creepy contact lenses and with frosted eyebrows.
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

For some reason the cement tasted like butterscotch pudding when I got shoved to the sidewalk, face hitting first, teeth bent, nose shoved to one side, forehead gashed, and the worst of it… Eyebrows completely scraped off, now two little brown caterpillars on the sidewalk dying in the morning sun.

When I got up and brushed myself off, the people streaming by in both directions stared at me. Some pointed and laughed, others showed disgust. Not a single person stopped to make sure I was okay. Not one. Even with blood trickling down my face. As usual.

It was the morning, and I was hungry and had been on my way to the bagel shop for some breakfast like I often do when I get shoved to the ground. I was aching and banged up and without any eyebrows, but I was still hungry, nonetheless. I decided I would carry on with my plans and go into the bagel shop anyways. They have a chocolate chip bagel there that will blow your balls off. Of course, with all my other injuries, I suppose I didn’t really need to have my balls blown off, too.

I found some fast-food wrapping paper discarded in a nearby trash bin and cleaned myself up as best I could. Then I made my way to the bagel shop, my stomach growling. The place was packed, as usual. I stood in the lengthy queue, craning my neck to see if Cliff was working beyond the throng somewhere. It was crowded and noisy and I could tell people were looking at me and mumbling things that I am sure weren’t flattering at all as I stood there looking like humanity’s most puzzling freak. As usual.

Cliff was a longtime counter clerk at the bagel shop, and he was nice to me. If I ordered a medium coffee, he’d make it a large. If I ordered one bagel, he would slip me another one for free. He looked at me funny sometimes, too, like he was in love with me or something. Maybe that’s why he gave me extra coffee and bagels. I was okay with all that for sure, but I just wanted to be friends.  

Cliff was short. He was the shortest person who worked at the bagel shop. I always wanted to ask him if he fell under some sort of special classification of very short people, but I never did because I figured he’d get pissed off about that. His shortness is the reason why I always have to put in the extra effort to see if he’s around. I don’t really care if he’s that short, but maybe he does. He’s loud, too. I suppose he’s trying to make up for being short. It’s like he screams everything he says or thinks whoever he’s talking to is horribly hard of hearing. If I don’t see him, I can usually hear him.

“Hey, Ernie!” he called out when he had finally caught sight of me. He had a big grin on his squarish concrete face, colored a smooth peppery gray because of a recent clean, close shave.

I raised my hand and smiled to acknowledge him, but I didn’t yell anything like he did because I’m just not that type of a person. When I finally got my turn at the counter, Cliff looked up at me and made a face. “Jesus Christ! What the hell happened to you!?” he screamed over the din of the crowded bagel shop. “Did you get in a fight with a lawnmower!?”

I laughed about that. “No. I didn’t get in a fight with a lawnmower, Cliff. That would probably prove to be fatal. No. I got shoved down out on the sidewalk.”

“Shoved down!? Why!?”

“The city’s a crowded and animalistic place, Cliff. Someone was in a big hurry or maybe running from the cops. I just don’t know. Guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Cliff scoffed and reached into the case for two chocolate chip bagels without even asking me. He knew what I liked. “And what the hell happened to your eyebrows!?” Cliff wanted to know as he shook a small white paper bag open and dropped in the bagels. He curled the top of the bag with his fingers and set it up on the display case. “It makes you look like a freak without any eyebrows!”

I chuckled even though I was embarrassed. “Yeah. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. I hope eyebrows grow back.”

Cliff looked at his co-workers who were scrambling all around him. “Do any of you guys know if eyebrows grow back!?” he shouted to them.

A tall young woman with red hair and a pale face who wore far too much makeup stopped and touched at her own eyebrows as she thought about it. “I think eyebrows grow back.” She looked at me and made a face like she was super grossed out. “God. For your sake, I hope eyebrows grow back.”

“I mean, come on, it’s hair right,” Cliff said. “Hair grows back, so, yeah, eyebrows should grow back. Don’t worry about it, Ernie. Hey, hey. Maybe you could take one of those crayons the ladies use to draw on their eyebrows… What’s it called?” he said, snapping his fingers as he thought about it, and he looked at the tall redhead with too much makeup. “Come on, Sally Sue. You should know this.”

“It’s not a crayon. It’s called an eyebrow pencil,” the pale Sally Sue said, shaking her head like Cliff was a real idiot.

Cliff pointed at me and grinned. “There ya go. An eyebrow pencil. Get yourself an eyebrow pencil.”

I shook my head for a moment as I considered it. I reached for my bag atop the display case and sighed. “I don’t think I want to wear makeup. That’s sort of weird. And just going into some place and buying makeup. That’s really weird.”

Cliff chuckled. “Weird? Hell, Ernie, anything would be better than how you look right now.” He handed me a large coffee.

“Cream and sugar?” I asked to make sure. I must have cream and sugar. As usual.

He winked at me. “I got you covered, my friend.”

“Thanks. I’m going to go sit down now and maybe read the newspaper or just stare dreamily out the window as the city slides by like corpuscles in human blood. See you later, Cliff.”

Cliff gave me a friendly wave. “Take care, Ernie.”


Zippers on Donuts, Cathedrals on Mars

Cathedrals on Mars.

Sure, I read Bukowski. He’s good. To me he’s good. I got to be in the right mood, though. Some people hate him. He’s a little rough. But he tells it as he sees it. Told it as he saw it.

I was really into Henry Miller in my 30s, maybe 40s. He’s tougher to read. A lot of French in those Tropic books. He had an extensive vocabulary and I had notebooks filled with words that I didn’t know the meaning of. But I learned. I wrote them down and looked them up. Now I forget. I have no idea where the notebooks are.

I was reading Tropic of Capricorn long ago in a motel in northern New Mexico, I think. It may have been Northern Ireland. It was a gray and blue evening, the dusky sky being the color of a human bruise. I don’t know why, or maybe I just don’t remember, but there was a lot of sadness in that night. I think I was supposed to be somewhere, but I wasn’t there. I probably had let someone down again. Despite myself always being let down by the same others.

I had wandered off again all lopsided and loony because I never could find a place I fit into. I was never comfortable in any space but my own, that I made my own, away from the mad world and its defining rules and painful pinchers and suffering structures and caustic cubes and devices and policies and directives and common senses and lanes and boxes and pews. The gods especially, had too many rules.

I was never good at following along with all that. The only thing I was ever good at was being alone and thinking about things, writing thoughts down and looking up at the stars and falling in deep love with a girl from that green Tennessee. But even in that I am rough around the edges. I was born tarnished, perhaps. I always have a tint of unwanted patina upon my living being. I’m like a wormed apple or a brown banana or a stuck turnstile in the subway tubes of the gaseous underworld.

The people of the world. I often cannot stand them. I don’t want to join them and cheer for the idiots. I don’t want to put frauds on pedestals. I don’t want to wave flags in favor of death. I don’t want to buy into the latest and greatest because it really isn’t all that great. Most of the time.

My rocket always comes around from a sweet, lonely trip to the dark side of the moon to see the light in her ocean eyes back down there on blue marble Earth. There’s always that desire to return to love.

I also like going to the cathedrals on Mars. It’s a fantastic getaway. The best is San Sarro on the Boulevard Elliptical Wave. It’s the one right across the sandy, windy, partially upturned square from that famous Martian donut place — The Red Vibrato Hole — they have donuts with zippers on them, edible zippers, candied zippers that melt in your mouth, and you can open the donut up and look inside at all that delicious jam or cream, like having your wife for sex dessert. The Red Vibrato Hole is more of a sweet café than just a regular donut shop there on the Boulevard Elliptical Wave. The coffee is very good, maddening good, and I like to just sit there by a thick window and look out at sandstorms and ancient ruins and the people who wander there are just better. Their priorities on Mars are more aligned with my own thinking. Most of the time.

It’s hard to breathe sometimes, though. The wind, the dust, the cold in the summer, the heat in the winter. The last sip of my coffee is always bittersweet. I must get back to Earth to cook spaghetti and meatballs for the prophets and all their wives. It’s usually something like that that calls me away. I always tip my waiter well. He’s always so nice but has weird eyes that make him look evil. But he’s not evil. His name is Bruce. Sometimes the ones who don’t look evil are the ones you should watch out for. Why are they trying to be so perfect? Is it all just a pleasant disguise? The sheep are so easily won over by the fake pleasantries and promises and chilled buckets of hate.

I saw some angels swimming in space on my return trip. The captain alerted us to their presence and said we should look out the window for a “real treat.” The angels were glowing like Los Angeles and soaring like glittery whales in the ocean on Christmas. They sang a similar song. I turned off my overhead light and rested my head against the ship’s inner hull on a small pillow the color of cranberries. I had a dream of someone shaving and cleaning cobs of corn at the same time. I hope the people who eat that corn don’t confuse shaving cream for butter. I think it would taste like soap. There must have been something weird in that donut to make me think of such odd things. Fucking Bruce. Whatever or not. I have always been weird and misaligned with the real world down there. I hold my breath as we descend.   

The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (End)

A peaceful park setting as part of a town square. The sky is blue with a few white clouds in it. There are tall trees, bushes, a statue of a war hero, people sitting on benches. All of this is surrounded by quaint red brick buildings three or four stories high.

Oswald Madness awoke to the sound of an automated voice announcing the next stop on the G Line. The train was mostly empty except for a few heads gently moving to the rhythmic sway of the metal machine burrowing through the guts of the big, big city. He looked out the large sunny window beside him and the world rushed by in sequential camera flashes, blurry photos of man’s rape of the landscape developed in the new progressive and technological grunt.

He pushed himself up in the seat for he had been leaning. He looked down at himself. His clothes were the same, his hands were the same, yet he felt crumbled and misty headed for some reason. There was a woman ahead of him with a plume of brown cascading hair bowed out at the sides and it made her resemble a flared and heated cobra. She was sitting with a young girl beside her. She had the same color hair but scraped with a shining tightness against her head and with tidy bottle brush tails at the sides kept in place by butter-scented bands. They talked softly to each other and smiled, feathery laughter dangling in the dangerous air. Oswald wondered what they were so happy about. He searched deep inside himself with a soul shovel to dig for his own happiness but came up with nothing but dust and crumbling crumbs.

And as if the girl suddenly sensed him fumbling around in the back of her head, she turned around for a moment and looked at him and smiled. Oswald was struck with the thought that she looked familiar. Then she turned back around and continued chattering with her mother, or whoever she was. Then the woman turned around and looked at Oswald as well. Her face revealed that the inner workings of her memory were clicking along like the core of a clock as she tried to fit the piece of him into her own scattered jigsaw. She quickly resolved that he was nothing of any significance to her and she too turned back around. When the train came to a jolting stop at the next station, the woman and the girl got up, steadied themselves against smudged silver bars, and went to the door that opened with a hurried sliding whoosh.

Before she stepped off, the girl turned back to him and waved in a silly, teasing way. Oswald noticed she was wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. Oswald scrambled to the seat on the other side of the aisle and watched them as they gathered themselves together on the platform, hoisting packs and checking fuzzy pockets. He pounded on the mouth-stained window, and they looked up at him with wondering glances. But the train started pulling away and Oswald could only watch as they quickly got smaller and smaller and then vanished, swallowed up by the deepness of Denver. 

Oswald Madness gathered his things and departed at the Arvada Old Town station. He watched as the train took a deep breath and then rolled off toward the metal blue horizon. Other humans were milling about there at the station’s park, staring into phones or the bleached-out sun. Some of them were lonely, he could tell. Others were full of life and fire and love and hope and crippling fear. No one noticed him as he walked among them. It was solitude in the songs of the soldiers, and then he smelled coffee, and he saw the place on the corner with the big windows and metal tables outside haphazardly arranged under blue awnings flapping in the mountain wind. His face felt burned and dry, like stale toast of rye void of oleo. He pulled the door open and went in.

Oswald sat at a wooden table with his steaming cup of Cuban coffee with one pump of Irish and another pump of French vanilla. He was the only one alone, he noticed. Everyone else had a partner of some sort, or a trio of friends or family or whatever they were. He blew on the milky brown slick lake on the topside of his drink and took a sip. It was hot against the tip of his tongue, and he wondered why he didn’t just get something iced.

Something vibrated in his pack that sat on the seat beside him. He retrieved his phone. The screen displayed the words Unknown Caller.


There was a girlish giggle on the other end.

“Hello,” he repeated. “Who is this?”

There was another girlish giggle, and then a staticky, warbling voice came across. “Did you steal my Christmas mustard, Mr. Madness? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. How do you expect me to eat my meat without any Christmas mustard?”

“I don’t have your Christmas mustard,” he sternly replied. “Why would I steal anyone’s mustard?”

There was a pause as someone whispered something to someone else, somewhere else. Then the voice returned at full force, not in the invisible background. “Because you’re a… Messed up person. Just take a moment to look around you, Mr. Madness. Go ahead.”

Oswald scanned the coffee shop and all the other beings there, human or whatever they were, had wide eyes of green marbles, and they cast all their frivolous doubts and misgivings upon him, not in audible words, but slick, piercing thoughts.

The youthful voice came again, now flecked with irritation. “Can you taste their judgment, Mr. Madness? Can you taste the mustard seeds in their mouths?”

Oswald pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the end call icon. He looked up at the people again, and their eyes had returned to normal. They were no longer looking at him or judging him. They were merely not noticing him at all. He took a few more sips of his Cuban coffee, grabbed up his pack, and went out of the humble dust and plant strewn dimness of the shop and into the sunlight of the day. Oswald stood on the walk just thinking about how he should soon head over to meet his friend at his new butcher shop on the square for the big grand opening celebration at 3:13 p.m. He sat down on a bench under a tree and unzipped a pocket on his pack and dug around for the announcement he had printed off. He couldn’t find it.

That’s when a woman came scrambling out of the coffee shop and came over to him with purpose. She was wearing a white apron and she was holding something in her hand.

“Hey mister,” she said, and she held out a jar. “You forgot your mustard.”

Oswald looked at her, confused. “That’s not mine. You’re mistaken.”

“I saw you with it. It’s yours, so here, take it.” She thrust it toward him. “You can’t just leave mustard laying around a public place like that. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Oswald refused. “I told you it doesn’t belong to me. I don’t want it.”

“Take it!” the woman demanded.

Oswald got angry and stood up before her. The woman’s eyes suddenly swirled marble green like a mood ring in astronomical motion. “For the last time, it’s not mine!” he bellowed, and then he slapped the jar from her hand, and it crashed to the ground in a shattered mess of glass and an oily creamed smear.

“Now look at what you’ve done!” the woman yelled, and she stomped off in a huff. Halfway back to the door of the coffee shop she turned, pointed, and said to him, “You better clean that up or the litter patrol will be on your ass!”

Oswald bent down to the ground and inspected the mess. “How the hell am I supposed to clean this up?” he wondered aloud.

Then the girl from the train who was wearing the Nirvana t-shirt was somehow suddenly knelt there beside him looking down at the very same sloppy disaster. She reached out, grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand back away from the broken, leaking jar. “Just leave it,” she said, and she looked at him and tried to smile. “I’m sorry all your dreams have been broken. I’m sorry your life has been a token of suffering. I told someone important to fix it… But they didn’t.” She stood and looked straight into the mountain wind as another train pulled up to the platform across the way. She nodded her head in its direction. “You better hurry before it pulls away and leaves you behind again,” she told him.

She started to walk away, and Oswald stood up to watch her. It wasn’t long before she turned some misty corner and was gone. He suddenly forgot everything that ever went wrong in his world and quickly walked to the train platform and squeezed in through the doors just as they were about to close. It was empty and quiet save for the mechanical chimes and robotic voice of the invisible conductor. He took a seat beside the window of the approaching brightness, the approaching darkness, and all the electric beating hearts of light pressed tightly against it guiding him to endless places and ways.


Go HERE to read the previous episode.

The Coffeehouse Crapshoot

It was an autumnal Sunday full of color, her favorite being the peachy orange as it stood out as the brightest and boldest among the others. I glanced over at the woman in the passenger seat and my heart jumped and my stomach made a longing roll within itself. I knew I was in love and would be forever with this one. I was living in sort of a dreamland at that moment.

We had just come from sculpting our bodies and filling the auto with petrol. We were in the mood for a good coffee and some brunch. And since Halloween was edging closer by the day, we decided to go to one of our favorite haunts, that place downtown where the mists of our ghostly memories cling to the air like cream on pumpkin pie. The Coffeehouse.

The Coffeehouse sat on a popular corner in the downtown sector of our town and was one of the few places open on Sunday seeing that many of the townsfolk flocked to the booming bell towers to chant and sing to great stained-glass Bog in the sky, their voices like bleached licorice streams frothing and flowing forth from their hypocritical holy gullets and spilling out into the world like sirens in the sky.

Parking came easy, which it never did during the week, and we walked hand in hand down the crisp concrete, staggering behind some old lady in a red coat puffing away on a white cigarette. We caught a whiff of the cloud she spoke of, and memories of wild younger days danced in my head as my lady friend battened down the sweet hatches of her body – for she has battles between the air and her own lungs.

We entered the establishment and there was a small crowd inside quietly murmuring among themselves and we made our way to the front counter and to where they had the large rectangular menu board set off to one side. Our eyes strolled along the boardwalk of selections and my lady friend went straight for the London Fog, some kind of tea mash up that I don’t really clearly understand, but it gives her great joy as it slips across her lips and down into her glorious guts.

I usually would opt for a Cuban coffee, but on this autumnal Sunday inside The Coffeehouse, I wanted to try something different and went for the elderberry tea because I wanted a jolt of something that would rev up my immune system or whatever the hell it does. I also wanted the waffle with whipped cream and sliced banana. My lady went with the waffle as well, but with fresh berries and whipped cream. I was feeling a bit randy after all that talk of whipped cream, and I pulled her close to me and whispered something about uncontrollable hot love and madness.

The clerkie at the counter was a confused, nervous type – probably a newbie that wouldn’t last – and she kept asking the barista beside her questions about this and questions about that, and then as she was clumsily punching our order into the machine there, she would look up at us with a pained expression and tell us, “We’re out of that, we’re out of that, too. We don’t have that. I’m sorry we don’t have any of that either.” They had a piece of paper there with a list of things they were out of that the girl kept referring to. It was a long list. My lady friend wanted to look at it, but they kept it guarded like some great royal secret.

They didn’t have either of the teas needed for our chosen beverages. They didn’t have what they needed for our backups, as well. I wondered if they even had water. With frustrations growing, my lady and I settled on Plan C – drinks we didn’t really want because it was all that remained. The sadness in her eyes made me want to smash a spooky pumpkin right then and there, but then again, I would have probably been busted up myself by the bobbies for causing a radical disturbance on the Day of the Lord.

Grief-stricken by the news of the Coffeehouse’s diminished supply, we took our number to a small table for two and sat down. A short while later, the same girl who had taken our order at the counter strolled over, a haunted house type of fear smeared across her face, and she informed us, “I’m sorry, we’re out of waffles… But we have pancakes.”

My lady friend, who is often much bolder than I, quickly snapped back with, “This is ridiculous. How can you have pancakes, but not waffles? Can we just get a refund.”

My nerves were tingling throughout my body as we made our way back up to the counter to engage in whatever process would be necessary to get our refund. I wasn’t looking forward to it because I figured it would be some horribly complicated thing that they couldn’t figure out and it would take half the day. But then, the humbled and meek clerkie girl came through the crowd with a palmful of cash and some coin. She handed it to me and apologized again. After that, we walked out.

I took my lady by the hand, and we strolled along the walk, my insides grumbling with anger. My lady friend, however, is quick to resolve disappointment in life by looking at the brighter side of… Everything. She has a gift for staying positive in an increasingly negative world. I was ready to smash things, and she was more than willing to just move on to a greater destination and not let our let down weigh us down. She’s angelic like that, and I often believe that is the reason the universe gifted her to me. She’s always what I need when I need it. She always has been – from the very beginning of us to the very breath I take now. I only hope I can return that gift tenfold.

We crossed over the street to the other side and found a little patio bar type kind of place we had never been to and were happy to see they were still serving brunch. We sat outside and we had the sugar waffles with syrup, fruit, and bacon. We were tucked up against each other on a bench at a metal table as we ate and drank. The weather was perfect. The sky was a pure, unmuddied blue. The air was kindly littered with gold and green and orange. And in the end, things turned out better than I expected. We were in a passing moment of life, and we were in it together, and that’s perfect imperfection.

The Sunday Visitor

The misunderstood devil knocked on the back door around noon on a Sunday. Mae looked up from the stove where she had just set her drained pot of boiled potatoes to cool. She dried her cooking hands on a towel hung on a drawer handle and turned down the kitchen radio that was playing war time classics.

“Who is it?” she called out.

The knocking came harder, and she went closer to the door and stood against it.

“Who’s there?” she said again, her heart beginning to race.

Then there came a man’s voice from the other side. “I’m very sorry to bother you on the Lord’s Day, but I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”

Mae paused for a moment and then told the stranger something untrue.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t open the door to strangers. However, my husband will be home momentarily if you’d care to wait.”

She held her breath for an answer.

“It’s quite cold out, mam. I’m not a murderer. I swear it.”

“What do you need the telephone for?” she asked. “Perhaps I could dial the number for you.”

She could hear the crunch of snow beneath the man’s boots as he shifted. She imagined he was looking around, searching for another way into the house.

“All right then,” the man’s voice came again. “I’ll be frightfully honest with you. I have no money and I’m hungry. I was hoping you might have a bit of food to spare.”

Mae bit at her brightly colored bottom lip and thought about it. “What does the good book say about such a situation?” the voice inside herself asked. She quickly decided and opened the door.

A small man wearing a hat and jacket wet with snow stood there and attempted a smile. “Mam,” he said. “The name’s Ed Jallow. I sure do appreciate it.”

“Come in, Ed,” Mae said. “Please, have a seat at the table and I’ll get you a cup of coffee to help warm you up.”

“Thank you,” Ed said, and he pulled a chair out from a small table by a set of large windows that looked out upon a modest yard now caked in various layers of snow. He sat down. He pulled the hat from his head and stuffed it into a pocket of his coat. He sniffled and then coughed.

Mae turned from the kitchen to look at him. “Are you sick?”

“No. I don’t think. It’s just I’ve been breathing all that cold air.”

Mae carefully carried over a steaming cup of coffee atop a small plate. She set it down in front of him and studied for a moment the now revealed top of his balding head. “Here you are. It’s a good thing for you I keep a pot going most of the time. I’m an absolute fiend about it.”

He smiled at her and picked up the cup, blew across the top of it and then carefully took a sip. “Hmm. That’s a good cup of Joe,” he said.

“So,” Mae wanted to know. “Where are you from?”

Ed Jallow cleared his throat. “Detroit,” he said.

“Detroit? What brings you all the way up here?”

A cuckoo clock suddenly released its half-hour call from up above them on the wall. Ed became startled. His hands trembled slightly. “I’m a fugitive from love, I guess you could say.”

Mae was intrigued. “A fugitive from love?”

“Marriage trouble,” Ed confessed. “I’m afraid I didn’t plan well enough. Ran out of gas. And so here I came around to your abode, penniless and hungry.” He feigned a laugh, but she could sense the stress devouring him.

“You were in the neighborhood?”

“I suppose I got lost,” Ed said.

“Would a sandwich be, okay?” Mae asked, quickly changing the subject. “Ham on rye?”

“Great,” Ed answered. “And do you have any potato chips? I’ve got a thing about potato chips.”

“I’m sure I could dig some up,” she said, and she went into the kitchen to fix up his plate.

Ed craned his neck to get a good look at her tightly packed rear-end as she moved it around while she worked. “You said your husband would be home soon?” he said, wanting to clarify the situation.

Mae quickly looked in his direction. “That’s right.”

“Does he work on Sunday?”

“No. He’s down at the corner bar watching the big fight with the fellas.” She strutted back to the table carrying a plate with a sandwich and a small mound of potato chips on it. “I could call down there and have him come home. Wouldn’t take him but about five minutes or so to get here.”

Ed Jallow eyed the plate as she set it down in front of him. He quickly snatched the sandwich up and bit into it. Then he shoved a few of the chips into his mouth. The noises he made while eating bothered her and she walked toward the phone and picked it up.

“What are you doing?” Ed asked.

“I was going to call down to the bar and ask my husband to come home.”

Ed waved his hand against the air. “You don’t need to do that. Let the guy enjoy the fight.”

Mae hesitated for a moment and then hung the phone back up. “I suppose you’re right. No man likes to be nagged.”

“That’s for damn sure.”

Mae smiled. “As soon as you’re done eating, we can go to the garage. I’m sure my husband has a gas can out there somewhere.”

Ed looked at her with a puzzled expression. “A gas can?”

“Right. You said you ran out of gas.”

“Oh yeah. Of course. Gas. I could sure use some gas.”

Mae chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Ed wondered.

“All this talk of gas.”

Ed pushed the plate away and wiped at his mouth with his hand. “How about we go check on that gas now?” he said with seriousness.

“Follow me, Mr.… Jallow, right?”

“That’s right. Like shallow but with a J.”

Once inside the garage, Ed followed her movements with his eyes as she searched for the gas can.

“Surely there’s some gas in here somewhere. I can smell it. Can’t you smell it?”

Ed got closer to her and looked at her face in the dim light. “All I can smell is you, and you’re in heat. Why are you in heat? For me?”

She looked at him as if offended. “Mr. Jallow?”

“What do you really want from life? You want me?”

“Mr. Jallow… I’m a married woman.”

He suddenly grabbed her left hand and held it up. “You’re not wearing any sort of wedding ring… And I didn’t see a single picture inside of you with some fella. What gives, lady? Why are you lying to me?”

Mae yanked her hand away from him. “Why are you lying to me? You’re not some poor fella from Detroit run off by his wife… You’re nowhere near out of gas and down on your luck, are you?”

He got close to her face. He squinted his eyes in defiance. “Looks like you got me pegged, lady.”

“What do you want from me?” Mae quivered.

He was breathing heavily. “I want you to take me to your bedroom and spread your legs for me. Is that bold enough for you?”

With her movements void of any hesitation, she led him back into the house, through the kitchen, and past the table where he sat to drink coffee and eat his sandwich and potato chips. He followed her down a dark hallway, past a bathroom with the door slightly ajar, and finally into her bedroom in the corner of the house. Ed gently closed the door behind them, shed his coat and threw it on a chair in the corner. He loosened the collar of the shirt he was wearing, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up the sleeves like he was about to fight someone.

“Get out of your dress,” he ordered her.

Mae slipped out of the dress like he asked.

“Now everything else,” Ed instructed.

She did as he said until she stood fully naked before him.

“Get on the bed.”

“How do you want me?” she asked.

“Like if you were sleeping, but relaxed, open, untethered,” he told her.

Mae got onto the bed and laid down on her back. She felt his eyes on her as she looked up at the white ceiling that resembled swirled cream.

“Now what do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” Ed Jallow said. “You don’t have to do anything. I just want to look at you.”

Mae propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him, confused. “You’re not going to have your way with me?”

He avoided her stare for just a moment. “No. I can’t. I’m not able to. I got an injury in the war. They told me I’m only half a man now.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

Ed walked to a window, parted a tender curtain with his hand and looked out. “I’ve been driving the last day and a half, and I just wanted to see something beautiful for a change. I’m plain sick of the way the world looks and acts out there. Plain sick of it. I never meant to scare you. You’ve been very kind. I should just go now,” he said, and he moved away from the window, reached for his coat and made his way toward the door.

“Wait,” Mae said to stop him.

He turned to look at her lying there naked on the bed.

“What’s up, lady?”

“Do you like fire?”

“What kind of fire?”

“Crackling, orange fire that gently licks at the brickwork,” she explained. “Would you like to sit in front of the fireplace with me in the other room? It’s supposed to snow more. And where else would you go?”

Ed Jallow scratched at his balding head. “And you won’t mind if I just get lost in the flames for a little while?”

She bowed her head for a moment to think, and then she looked back up at him. “Isn’t that what life’s all about?” she said, her tone thorough and full of conviction.


The Egg Girl of Earth

Morgan Jane Solvent was clad in all creamy, sparkling blue, like a cornflower in the hot rain, that day I stepped into the restaurant and ordered a big bushel of breakfast because it was time to do such a thing.

Morgan Jane Solvent was the egg girl. Her fame came in the form of eggs on plates, plates cradled in spindly arms, plates delivered to tables uneventful. Her dirty-blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and it flopped around wildly, left to right, as she walked and bee-bopped about the place. Her face was small and cradled fractured features — evidence of meth abuse sprinkled about: darting brown eyes sparkling like dying stars; a pointed, English nose; lips the color of bruised blood; a broken porcelain chin of delicate doll stature; skin like whitewashed buttermilk.

She resembled a puppet — a devotchka Pinocchio subtly panting to be split in two — as I could tell, as she talked rapidly, nervously about her favorite sexual positions and needing snow tires for her groovy love van because she was planning a drive to Albuquerque for the luscious holidays — she was nervous about that, it weighed heavy on her mind — the great pass, the snow, the ice, the treacherous conditions that could send her reeling over a cliff to crash and burn.

Even so, Morgan Jane Solvent was always giddy — somewhat too giddy, like huffing gas giddy. She smelled of perfumed sweat and steamy eggiwegg breakfast because the Yokester Café of Elicott West was always booming and banging, and Morgan Jane Solvent was always moving; swinging and swaying she was, as I watched her all along as I ate a Belgium waffle and a cup of mixed fruit — mind remnants of the olden days Oasis gig in Atlanta and the long, hungover crawl home to Oceanside bungalow and deep, disturbing sleep.

Sweet n Sour Chicken Morgan Jane Solvent would always try to make tippy conversation as she poured more coffee and nervously smiled, those not so sparkling lady choppers gleaming with too much spit when she talked through all the brokenness.

That particular sunrise spreading, some grand duke of douche at another table grabbed her hand like in a dream and yanked the wee jewel she had there on her ring finger. He dropped it into a cup of coffee — kerplunk. She looked at him all wild-eyed with passionate mouth gaping wide with luscious glory and wonder.

“What the fuck, man!? That’s my wedding ring, asshole!” The restaurant went to dead silence for a moment. Even the coffee was stunned.

I never heard Morgan Jane Solvent curse before; she had always been so polite, like fine pie; nothing like the dirty mouth that now spewed horrific ash at the customer who went too far.

Then the man blatantly used the Q-Town love van mind trick on her small brain with a slight wave of his hand.

“You don’t need to be married anymore. He’s a bolshy bastard and a twit,” he sneered then laughed. He reminded me of Bluto from Popeye. He even dressed the same — a tight navy-blue T-shirt, a sailor’s cap atop his head — and his black beard was wild and scraggly just like the cold seas he sailed upon in his fat boat.

He slurped at his coffee like a dime store hooker and sucked the hard ring into his mouth, swirled it around a bit, chewed on it, like a piece of sexy hard candy. Then he spit it back out on the table, it spun across the faux Formica like a toy top, shooting off shards of shine into the eyes of all that wandered there in the den of eggs.

“What time do you get off work?” he boldly asked Morgan Jane Solvent.

“Umm, 2, no 2:30 … why? What are you doing to me?” she said, suddenly pressing a hand to her forehead and swirling around in a panic attack.

A sweaty fry cook back in the kitchen was madly pounding on one of those little silver bells with his greasy spatula because some other order was steaming away beneath the red, radiant glow of the heat lamps that sat atop a shelf there.

“Morgan! Pick up!” the obnoxious prick yelled from the hectic back of the house.

She rushed away from the Bluto redux, and I relaxed in my place at the booth. I looked at my favorite Christmas watch — it was 122 after 112 — and then looked out the big, big window at the town and the city, the steaming, vibrating wreck of it all with a few squirts here and there of some decent stuff, but mostly slutty strips of shops, the fast-paced flickering neon, glass, cement, brick, asphalt, autos, traffic lights, billboards — too much mad rushing and shoving of petty shit in the faces of all the peoples that live here with I and the Egg Girl and all the other inhabitants — her now buttering warm toast with a big, oily broom back in the back all laughing out loud and groveeting with her co-workers, touching everyone with her fingers and her face like some needy drug fiend, shoving her awkward, wooden ass into everyone’s crotch and blowing kisses like a real piece of work. She was a social butterfly when she wasn’t being insane, and every damp crotch was a gas lamp, every smile a torch, every warm hunk of human flesh a bonfire for her to swarm and spit and spread.

Some Fiona Apple song started blurping out of the speakers wired invisible inside the ceilings they had there. It was that familiar sound of soft anger. I bit into a mushy grape and then a piece of unsavory honeydew melon as I listened to Apple, me then grasping a pen in the free hand, holding it to my jugular real careful, like a tattooed Picasso all hopped down on the fringe of drink ready to fill the veins with octopus ink so that I could write a novel all mad with eight tentacles and suction cups to keep the pages in distinct order on the walls of my place uptown that was now burning to the ground. Ass and ash, such is life.

Morgan Jane Solvent snuck up on my daydream and smecked some question like “More coffee, more anything?” her breath radiating like a dragon, all boozy with the scent of grape bubblegum and powdery drugs, and she held the jostling coffee cup and poured, and she poured too much, and some was spilling over the rim and the pointy pen was uncontrollably doodling all over the skin of my neck.

“Morgan Jane Solvent,” I politely, yet sternly, said. “You’re spilling coffee all over my new shirt and this pen is about to pierce my throat.”

She looked at me kind of funny.

“What’s the matter, you don’t like how I do my job?” she said with an innocent, smile and the fluttering of dumb midnight falsehood eyelashes.

“You’re doing your job just fine, but don’t you know that coffee burns. Coffee burns baby, coffee burns baby. You know, like that movie Rain Man.”

Some guy butted in, shaking his head at me like I was stupid. “No, no, no. You got it all wrong. It wasn’t coffee, it was hot water in the bathtub. He was burned by hot water because Tom Cruise was too busy thinking about chicks. He was being irresponsible.”

“Who in their right mind takes a bath?” I replied, turned away, not caring to hear his stupid answer.

“I love this song,” Morgan Jane Solvent said, looking up at the ceiling suddenly as if Fiona was right there singing from inside the light bulbs. “It makes me want to get in the back of my love van and do all sorts of dirty and animalistic things.”

“I’ll be on my way soon,” I warned. “Do you want to drop the eggs and go to the Green Head Storm with me and look out at the lonely sea?”

“I don’t know what that is. You make so little sense… But you don’t want to do dirty and animalistic things to me in the back of my love van?”

“We’ll find someone to pump you full of lead and then some later. You’re not my type. Besides, a zodiac-painted psychic told me that some beautiful angel with ocean water eyes will be crash landing into my life any day now, and I must put my faith in only that. Right now, I just want to get out of here, walk around a bit, get some fresh air for once. It’s all noisy and congested and hot in here. It’s bugging me, man, like that old guy Bono says. And I think you need to get away from this chaotic scene for a while.”

It was brisk outside and Morgan Jane Solvent clutched at herself tight inside her puffy pink jacket as we walked through a tempest of crinkled leaves and ice chips toward the Green Head Storm shore and the abandoned seaside piccadilly arcade there. It was one of my favorite places to just go and get lost for minutes or hours or days, the white brick tunnels cold and wet and hollow — the glass like broken mirrors, broken teeth, and beyond the cold sand leading up to the ferocious ocean with its lullaby churning making life lonely and sad or maybe even perfect for someone like me who longs to be alone in the mist, but then again, on this day down at Green Head Storm shore, a human calliope of piped espresso encased in uptight skin trailing behind in the blustery 100-acre wood wind and part of me just wanted to run, run, run mad like Tarzan swinging on the last thread of life and not really giving a damn about anything anymore in the boiling jungle down below.

Inside the old buildings that sat like the unworn clothes of a dead life, full of holes and hanging in a closet untouched for eons, with the cracking cement, the creaking floors and steps, and there were the musty smells of old wood and old time and old paper and old carnival food and the stale perfume of ghosts all mixed together in a burnt dead electric orgy of flashing memories inside someone’s fading mind and it made my bones and soul feel good and sick at the same time, made me feel like home where I didn’t live, made me feel like time standing still for once, the cuckoo all fluid nonsense in reverse now, not like all that constant rushing about in the hateful real world where sucking is success and slime ball stupidity gets you a ticket to a platform to rally the idiot masses, and for some reason not unlike fear I keep going just to get nowhere but the present-tense spinning and spilling in big, boring circles, merely catering to the flighty and ungrateful souls of chaos.

Once inside the lifeless caravan of once great architecture, Morgan Jane Solvent wandered about with wild-eyed wonder. She looked all strung-out and overdose blue and with a flair of elegant fail, all cracked bedazzled and full of dream flashbacks as her distorted face scanned the places we strolled along.

“Wow. I’ve never been to such a lonely and forgotten place such as this,” she said to me, spinning around slowly, and then nearly toppling over. “I don’t understand your attraction to this place… It’s so broken.”

“There is something great and peaceful about abandoned history,” I told her. “I know it sounds crazy, but what the hell, I’ve never been anything but crazy. It’s like a time machine for me. That’s my favorite movie by the way — The Time Machine — the one from 1960. It’s about a man who wants to escape his own time because the slice of it he has been forced to live in has gone completely awry.”

I looked over at her and she hadn’t been listening to me at all. There’s yet another reason for me to seek another time… No one ever listens to me. She was just taking it all in and I was invisible and then she cupped her small hands around her small mouth and shouted out “Hello! …” and her voice bounced and echoed throughout the place, for it was indeed empty, long abandoned like I had made clear earlier, dust covered and legitimately raped and ravaged by time. And I had the skeleton key that fit perfectly inside the hole buried inside my very own head.

Morgan Jane Solvent screamed loud like a lunatic and then laughed; then some great seashore bird flew from its perch somewhere in the shadowy ceiling like a molasses dappled spaceship, startled by her slaughtering, murderous voice, and out it went through a hole in a dome of broken glass above us, out to that aluminum sky rolled in bruise-colored sugar.

I leaned against a cold wall, and I was down, down, down, all of a sudden, like a light switch, like magic, like the snap of old, broken fingers.

Morgan Jane Solvent took notice of my despondence, and she then came closer to me and looked at me like was some freak in a human zoo surrounded by scarecrows with cabbages for brains.

“Why do you look so dark sky bleak all of a sudden?” she asked.

“Maybe I really do need a doctor to cut into me.”


“Something is not quite right.”

“What? What is it?”

I clasped my hands to my own swimming, tortured head. “This whole end of the world thing… I don’t think I can take it. It’s really gnawing on my root bitter nerves.”

“None of us can take it. It just is the way it is. But I do believe you are being a bit overdramatic. Time machines… What a silly notion. It doesn’t work,” she grudgingly scoffed.

I looked up at an old clock hanging down from an upside-down post. It probably stopped 43 years ago. “Tell that to time,” I said.

And a wave of something all broken then washed over me like the sea gurgling all bitter out there in the beyond of us and the old, ravaged arcade and its once bustling adjoining café and trinkets parade. I thought about all the ones I knew; the ones I loved, laughed with, held, kissed, wiped tears away from their faces, and I could taste the salt of their own broken hearts running down my soul and mingling with my own sovereign eternal ache and there was nothing left to do about it, but swallow and spit the blood. Love and joy all misguided. Love and peace a wayward missile. Love of life, a moment under street lamps at midnight, cigarette ash smiles caught in a wind tunnel, all that electricity will soon come to an end, like the last drop of water in the Dead Sea — and we just had to kill it all then, eh? — you baboons, you bastards and all your wayward ways — too hot to heal, too cold to kill, but kill it all you do, and now this, time takes its final breath in one cacophonous inhalation, like colored bulbs popping out one by one at a carnival, finally, the ride ends. No more puking, no more cheating, no more under-the-weather comas and promises coated in blood strawberry lies.

I finally looked up at her concerned face — that raspberry mouth made raw by the kiss of a winter’s invisible bludgeon twisted in sheer puzzlement.

“Oh, by the way,” and I had nothing else to say but this, “There was a big hunk of shell in my plate of eggs this morning. I hate that.”

“Really? I’m so sorry,” Morgan Jane Solvent, the egg girl of Earth said with real concern. “Well, next time you…”

And she stopped in mid-sentence.

I looked at my beautiful Christmas watch. It snowed in seconds and minutes. “There will be no next time for me,” I said, and that’s when everything began to move and fall as the Earth suddenly decided to flip over on its side, it wigged out, and then like in an instant, there I was swimming through the stars with everyone else, like drunken angelfish dizzily soaring through the wet womb of endless space with swords clamped in our mouths; it was the transition from this world to the next. We were relocating, on our way to a new home, way out there, with new bodies and minds, with new reasons to live and without these bullet-holed hearts — all of us now, on our way to a place with peace and quiet and a better breakfast.