Every morning Harald looks
out the window of his third floor apartment and drinks a cup of instant
coffee. Rachel, his model, sits on the sofa in the middle of the room,
a sheet wrapped around her like a toga.
“What do people mean by an accident waiting to
happen?” he asks, blowing across the surface of his coffee.
Rachel tucks her feet beneath her. “You know,” she
says, swallowing a yawn, “something bad is going to happen.”
“It’s a one-way street,” Harald says. “Dogs play
in the park across the street. At any moment, one could dash out to
fetch a ball and get run over.” He puts his cup on the sill and raises
the window all the way up. “I’ve stood here every morning for years and
have never seen a dog get hit by a car. Is there still an accident
waiting to happen?”
“I suppose there’s always an accident waiting to
happen,” Rachel says.
“Yesterday I saw a woman passing under the
mulberry tree. She was tiptoeing around all the smooshed mulberries on
the sidewalk when one fell from the tree onto the shoulder of her
jacket, a light blue, as I recall. With that background, even from
here, it looked like a charred worm.”
“You just imagined it.”
“No,” Rachel says, “the worm.”
“She didn’t even notice it,” he says. “Just kept
walking, her eyes to the ground.”
Rachel stands up and drapes the sheet over the
sofa. She wonders how much longer Harald is going to work on this nude
series, The Empty Interior. The show is in six weeks.
“If she had noticed the mulberry,” Harald
continues, “would it have been an accident instead of an incident?” He
sticks his head out the window and looks up and down the street.
“Maybe just an inconvenience.”
Harald pulls his head back inside. “I have an
idea. Go stand at the window. Hold the coffee cup in your right hand
and look up and down the street. There aren’t many people out right
Rachel goes to the window and picks up the cup.
Across the street, a man walks into the street to
avoid the mulberry tree. He looks up for a brief moment.
Waiting for Coffee
Danny staked a claim to a
table by the window. He draped his jacket across the back of the chair,
placed his laptop square in the middle of the little round table, and
went to the counter to order a double espresso and a ham-and-cheese
croissant. It was a ritual of survival he had been following Mondays
through Fridays since his divorce. Breakfast alone at home was painful,
the silence like a noose around his neck. Evenings were okay. He’d
drink a bottle of wine and pretend to read a book. Weekends were
bearable because he’d drink more than a bottle of wine and wake up in
Maya, the dyke at the cash register, and
he knew she was a dyke because she had the word tattooed on the back of
her left hand and would raise a fist when coffee orders were backed up
and customers complained. “Talk to the hand, bitch, and ponder the
sign,” she would say, pointing to a quote from Erasmus on the wall,
something about in heaven, thank god, there is no waiting for coffee.
One thing Danny was sure of – this wasn’t heaven,
but Maya was as close to an angel as he could get these days. She was
kind in a spiky sort of way. When things were slow, about the time
people were folding up their newspapers and heading for work, the two
of them would chat. He would pretend to be trying to pick her up, and
she would pretend to be flattered. When business got brisk again, Danny
would get online and check the stock market and the classifieds. Sooner
or later he’d have to find a job and maybe even get laid.
One Thursday morning Maya wasn’t there. “Where’s
Maya?” he asked the pimpled emo at the cash register as he handed over
money for his espresso and croissant.
“I don’t know,” he said. “She’s gone. I’m new
The following morning Maya wasn’t there again.
Danny showed up on Saturday afternoon hoping he would find her. Perhaps
she had a new schedule. He asked the baristas where she was, but it was
as if someone had slapped a gag order on them. He asked them every day
until one of them snapped at him, “She’s gone, dude. Like how many
times do we have to tell you?” He looked straight at Danny and
whispered, “Sticky fingers.”
Danny sat down at his table and stared at the one
tree, a scrub oak, in the corner of the parking lot. A couple of
squirrels spiraled up the trunk. He nibbled at his croissant while the
espresso grew cold. That damn dyke stole my heart right from under my
nose, he thought.
The next day Danny was gone.
About What Made Him Happy
He was giving the question
some serious consideration. From his place on the sofa he had a
magnificent view of Puget Sound. It was a bright, brisk spring day, one
of those days in Seattle that keeps people there for the three hundred
others on which for entertainment you come up with imaginative ways to
kill yourself. Or you hang out in bookstore cafes, drink too much
coffee, skim through piles of books you don't intend to buy, and on the
way home have to get off the bus several stops early and find a
bathroom before you wet yourself. Or you drink a couple bottles of wine
and call yourself a connoisseur. But he was digressing and he knew it.
He closed his eyes and tried to refocus, but talking about what made
him happy was not something he wanted to do.
Examples. If he could come up with some
examples maybe he could figure out a plausible response. Scoring that
case of 1983 Barca Velha was high on the list but not the kind of thing
that would be appropriate to bring up now. The birth of his daughter
was up there, but that lacked a certain purity because of the
responsibility that came along with it. Acquisitions might count. His
first Martin guitar, though he was never much a player. His first new
car. But one thing leads to another and it becomes an addiction. You
climb one mountain and there's another waiting somewhere, and quite
frankly he preferred admiring mountains to conquering them.
The therapist coughed quietly. He turned toward
her and she smiled as if to remind him of the question. She was nice
enough and had been trying to counsel him for weeks, but there was
something in her smile that set him off, the way the left side of her
mouth turned down slightly and the right side turned up. It was women
like this who were constantly prodding him, wanting him to explain what
made him tick. They were always asking what? but really wanted to know
why? He couldn't answer why?
He sprang from the sofa and slapped her
hard across the face, knocking her out of her chair. When she yelled
for help, he kicked her in the ribs. She begged him to stop. He grabbed
her by the hair and set her back in the chair. He couldn’t say he was
happy, but he felt better.
Lucky (USA – Ethiopia)
Bob Lucky's work has
appeared or is forthcoming in The Prose-Poem Project,
Modern Haiku, Shot Glass Journal, Rattle, Shamrock and
numerous other journals. He is co-author of the chapbook _my favorite thing_
(bottle rockets press, 2011). He has an MFA from the University of
Texas at El Paso and currently teaches at the International Community
School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012