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Thread: Writer's Haven

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    ghost_warlock's Avatar

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    Death in a Coffee Shop

    Parts Three & Four
    Big D didn’t show for our appointment on Thursday. It was the first time this had happened, leaving me to sitting alone and feeling awkward. Eventually, I decided to have a chat with a dark-haired waitress in the otherwise empty coffee shop.

    “Where’s you friend?” She asked.

    “Search me, I haven’t the slightest. This is the first time he’s skipped out on me.”

    “Yeah, you guys are always here together.”

    I raised an eyebrow and looked at her curiously. I thought she could have been the same waitress who had served us for some of our other meetings, but I didn’t know for sure. I also didn’t figure that we stood out that much. I guess that sounds kind of stupid, though: Death is sitting in a coffee shop and no one’s supposed to notice?

    “You’ve been keeping tabs on us?” I asked, finally.

    A slight grin crossed her lips and she glanced quickly at the tabletop. “I guess so. You two always order the same drinks, sit at the same table, and talk about stories and paintings.”

    “So, you’ve been listening in, too?”

    Her grin turned into a full smile. “I have been listening in a little, I guess.”

    I didn’t figure this could come to any possible good.

    “So his pen-name’s Big D?” She asked.

    “Yeah,” I said, deciding there was nothing I could do to dissuade the somewhat nosy waitress so I may as well answer her questions. Besides, she was pretty and the place was empty anyway, so what could it hurt? Maybe she’d buy something.

    “I haven’t seen any of his stuff around, where does he show it?”

    “In all honesty, he doesn’t do a whole lot of showing. No one seems to like it much. It requires specific, acquired tastes.”

    “Does he write horror or gore or something like that?”

    “You could say that, I guess.”

    “I think I’d like to read some of it and see some of his paintings.”

    I looked at her, trying to see if she was for real. She stared back at me looking totally serious.

    “Um, am I changing colors or something?” She asked after I’d stared too long.

    “No, I’m just a little shocked. I suppose there's no harm in it if you want to see some of his work.” I decided there was a chance she’d like Big D’s stuff, but it wasn't something I was counting on.

    “My shift is over in two hours, why don’t we go and look at some of it when I’m done. My name’s Larissa.”

    “I’m Cory. I’ll be here.”

    “Good, it’s a date,” she said.

    ******

    “How long have you been his agent?” Larissa asked me, lightly running her fingers across a stack of his papers. The stack was at least a foot tall off my coffee table, with several stacks like it in various places around the room. My meager apartment was full of Big D’s literature, as well as a few canvases. With no one to thin my collection things kept piling up.

    “I’ve been meeting with him for a little over two months now, about once each week. But I guess you already knew that. He’s a decent enough guy. Doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends, though.” As if I was Mr. Popularity.

    “He sure writes enough, prolific. Is this one of his paintings?” She asked, indicating one of two portraits that hung on the walls of my sitting room.

    “Yeah, it’s my favorite.” I replied.

    “Likes black doesn’t he? Is he a minimalist?”

    “No, it just seems that way at first. And don't let him catch you saying that, he hates it! There’s actually more there, you just have to get adjusted to it. Like those 3-D picture that you have to get your eyes out of focus to see the image. It takes a while, but eventually you can sort things out.”

    I was proud of my diligence; I had puzzled out the forms buried within the black. No one else had been able to do that. Strangely enough, though, I found myself wishing that someone else would eventually see the images. I could compare thoughts, argue meanings, and pick favorites with another person for once.

    “Interesting, I haven’t heard of many people burying their images quite like that. Some painters seem just a little too anxious to make it all obvious. Maybe they do it so other people will get it, feel smart for figuring it out, and maybe buy the painting.”

    I nodded. My recent experiences in the art world and trying to sell the paintings seemed pretty much as she had explained it. Not all artists were like that, but there were more than a few.

    “I can’t see whatever it is he’s hiding in there,” she said, “but I’m sure it must be intriguing. I hope I’ll figure it out someday.” She moved back to the stack of stories and pulled one off the top. It was about a gardener, I remembered.

    Sitting down in my sofa and getting comfortable, she pulled a small, black-rimmed pair of reading glasses out of her purse. They made her look more like a librarian than a coffee shop waitress. I clicked on the reading lamp. “You want something to drink?”

    “What do you have?” She asked, looking up from the story.

    “In truth, I’ve got some cottage cheese that used to be milk, eggnog from last Christmas, and coffee.”

    “Coffee.” She didn’t hesitate.

    “What kind?”

    “What do you have?”

    “Name it.” My collection of instant coffee mixes was a matter of pride for me. Whenever I found a new taste I hurriedly bought and tried it, adding its small, rectangular container to many more just like it in my cupboard. I even alphabetized them every month or so and checked that there was no unwanted fungi amongst the granules.

    Larissa finally decided upon French Vanilla and I headed for my kitchen.

    After a few minutes, she came into the kitchen behind me, carrying the gardener story. I couldn’t blame her, no matter how great the author, the smell of coffee brewing grabs the attention in ways words simply can’t. I’m sure it wasn’t a conscious decision for her to follow me into the kitchen. Much more likely it was some primitive, instinctual reflex. “That smells great,” she said.

    I couldn’t help but grin at her.

    “What on earth?” She nudged open the cupboard door, which was permanently ajar, and admired my coffee collection. “Where did you get all these?”

    “Grocery stores, convenience stores, specialty shops, new age bookstores; pretty much you name it. I have a contact that’s in good with a manufacturer and he tells me when to watch for something new. That hand-painted tin I got from a Romany family I met while touring Europe back in college. The one that’s wrapped in fur I got from a South American trader I met a few years back. That’s real llama fur.”

    She looked at me through her scholar glasses and laughed. “If you have all of these coffees, why do you come to the store at all? And why always get the same thing?”

    “The environment. It’s different drinking a cup in a shop than in your house. Each shop has it’s own feel, its own energy. I try to go with that energy to strengthen the experience. Everybody who comes interprets the energy a little different. The shop you work at feels like iced mocha to me, cafe latte to Big D. The reason there’s so many variations of tastes in coffee is because so many people interpret the energies in different ways. It ruins the whole experience if a place sets you up for pecan and you get hazelnut. Businesses can fail because they don’t have the flavors to match their energies.”

    She laughed again. “Where did you come up with that?”

    “About two in the morning over at Gengo’s All-Night Coffee.”

    “You sure get around, don’t you?”

    “Yeah, I’ve been in the coffee circuit since early high school.”

    “Where do you get the money to support your fix?” She was grinning broadly.

    “I majored in art education at college and ended up a talent scout and critic for the museum and gallery. They charge a pretty steep commission to the artists for what gets sold. It’s harsh, but it keeps the agents employed and none of the artists are complaining, not with the pretty hefty checks that get handed around over there when something does sell. I guess the thrill of being marketed for big cash every once in a while is enough to keep them from forming a union and striking.”

    “That’s it?”

    “Well, no actually. I have to admit that I’ve got an investment in Coffee Quickie and I’ve got some stock in the franchise that supports the place you work. It all keeps me comfortable.”

    With that, she smiled and went back to the couch, sipping as she went.
    Last edited by ghost_warlock; 2008-10-03 at 06:04 AM.