Drop #168: Crumbs

cappuccinoJohn is having lunch with Sandra. ‘You have some crumbs on your shoulder,’ she says, pointing, then staring at them till he brushes them off.

Two minutes later she stops mid sentence to tell him he has something in his teeth. ‘What is that, basil? Here, I have a toothpick.’ He accepts it, removes the culprit, then returns his attention to her so she can finish her story.

A few minutes later she interrupts him to ask what that stuff is in his hair. ‘Those pesky crumbs again. How did you manage that?’ She leans in and picks them out, one by one. ‘There. All better.’

Sandra goes to the bathroom to pee. When she comes out of the stall, a woman putting on makeup looks up at her reflection.

‘Woah!’ the woman says. ‘Bull’s-eye.’

‘What?’ Sandra says, then checks the mirror. She immediately sees it: a massive bird poop above her right ear at the hairline, blobbed thick and wide in white and greenish brown, seeping a full inch down her face in three gooey strands. ‘Oh my God!’ she says, grabbing at the paper towel.

Back in the dining room the cappuccinos have come, each served with two biscotti. John eats his and quickly helps himself to Sandra’s before she gets back. He gobbles them up, spilling crumbs down his face and onto his lap. His first sip leaves a foam mustache on his lip, and the cutest smudge of powdered chocolate on the tip of his nose.

By EM Vireo

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Drop #100: Coffee

cappuccinoBrunch. Eggs Benedict as usual. Jay had met his sponsor here every Saturday for a year. Good-looking family at the table next door. They reminded him of his own family growing up: upper middle class, with a teenage boy and younger girl, both well-behaved and neatly dressed. Jay would have been around the boy’s age circa 1990, with a similar height and build.

‘You want a cup of coffee, son?’ the father asked his son after ordering a cappuccino for him and a mimosa for his wife. ‘You’re not a child anymore. Might be time to try the stuff.’

‘Ok.’

When it came, the boy added milk and sugar and took a sip. Jay watched discretely, thinking about all that had transpired in his life since his first cup of coffee over twenty years ago: a failed marriage and a son of his own he hardly saw; hundreds of parties and a string of stale affairs; thousands of drinks and cigarettes and substances consumed; possessions acquired and sold and broken. A perpetual feeling of loss, warmed through on resentment. A life already lived, its opportunities nonchalantly squandered, its potential running on empty.

All since his first cup of coffee.

And sitting with his eggs on an old-fashioned chair, Jay acknowledged sadly, that he’d still had a chance back then, and for a second, had a bizarre notion that if he had never had that first coffee, things might have been different, that he might have lived the life of another. But of course, it hadn’t been the coffee’s fault; he owned the blame entirely.

‘What do you think?’ the father asked his son, good-naturedly.

‘I don’t like it,’ the boy answered, making a face, and Jay remembered disliking his first cup too.

‘Fair enough.’

‘I don’t get it, dad. It’s so bitter. It tastes awful.’

‘Ha! See if you feel that way in five years.’

Jay cut into his eggs, allowing the golden yolk to ooze onto his plate. ‘Waiter,’ he said solemnly, cup raised. ‘I need a refill.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #49: Nothing in Common

We had nothing in common, Jack Cork and I. He was 67, I was 28; he tucked collared shirts into cotton slacks, my T-shirts hung over my jeans; he was a staunch Republican, I despised both parties.

My sister, Sylvie, had agreed to watch Jack’s turtles while he and his wife went on a cruise (something I’d never do on holiday. I would also never choose turtles as pets when there are so many cooler options: dogs, parrots, ferrets, etc.) Anyway, I’d come to pick the turtles up for her, and, being a civil type, I accepted a drink from the old man.

‘Coffee would be good,’ I said and he said, ‘coming right up.’

He disappeared for a short while and while he was gone I thought again about how little I had in common with this man: he’d been married to the same woman for 43 years and had 8 grandchildren, I never kept a girlfriend long: he had served in the army, I was ecstatic I’d never have to; he collected WW2 memorabilia and clocks, I thought collecting stuff was cheesy.

Jack Cork returned with a French press and two mugs on a tray. No milk, no sugar. He depressed the plunger and poured us each a cup, then sat down.

‘Say, Jack. What kind of coffee is this?’

‘Oh, you like it?’

‘Yes, but I’m curious where you got it?’

‘I go to this little shop in The Village where they roast it themselves. It’s a blend they make there – I trust that black, no sugar is fine with you.’

‘Absolutely. Milk and sugar would ruin it.’

‘I wholeheartedly agree.’

Truth is, I knew the place and knew the blend: Home Brew #2 they call it at the shop. Before tasting, I had already suspected it by its scent. I am not good at much, and who knows why we are given the talents we get to exploit, but I have a remarkable palate for coffee; in fact, I should really become a professional. I know and love the stuff. I can taste and smell details at an intricate level and as a hobby, spend a great deal of time looking for coffees that surprise and enthrall me. In my opinion, Home Brew #2 is one of the best NY has to offer.

‘I’m impressed,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ Jack said. ‘I think it’s one of the best blends in the city. There’s just something special about it.’

‘I wholeheartedly agree.’

We sat for a while enjoying the fine brew, and while we did, I found myself thinking once more about how little the two of us had in common, apart from a similar taste in coffee, of course: he never cursed, I dropped f-bombs like crazy; he had no tattoos or jewelry other than his wedding ring, I was inked all over and had 4 piercings; he ate dinner every day ay 6.30, I ate when I was hungry.

‘Some music perhaps?’ Jack suggested. ‘I always enjoy my coffee better that way.’

‘If it’s the right music.’

‘True. I’m a bit of a jazz man myself.’

‘Are you?’

‘I am.’ Jack was over at his crappy old stereo, fiddling with a CD case. He put the CD in, turned it up modestly, and came back to his coffee.

‘Charlie Parker!’ I exclaimed eagerly and approvingly. I couldn’t believe he was playing What is this thing called love?

‘You bet. You listen to Bird?’

‘Are you kidding. I fucking love him, and this has got to be my favorite number.’

‘Mine too. I have a bunch of rare stuff on vinyl if you ever want to hear it.’

‘Fuck yeah,’ I said and old Jack smiled, at once disapproving and amused.

I had a second cup of the excellent coffee as we took in another tune, then checked the time. I still had to drop off the turtles before going out to meet Claudia at the movies. She was pretty, and sweet, and she seemed to like me but I wasn’t sure about her. Not to sound too superficial, but her boobs are really small. Anyway, I had to hurry up.

‘Hey, Jack?’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you have an Internet connection? I want to check on the movie times.’

‘Got a date?’

‘In fact, I do.’

‘I have a PC in my study. First door on the left. Should be connected to the Internet already.’

‘Great,’ I said.

Walking over, opening the door with a soft squeak, and sitting down in front of the old Dell, I thought about how weird it was that Jack and I shared two such specific tastes, while having so little else in common: he’d gone to the same barber every sixth Sunday for 20 years, I shaved my own head; he complained about people playing their TVs and music too loud, I could never get mine loud enough; he thought immigration and drugs were America’s biggest threats, I bought my drugs from immigrants.

Who would have guessed! I could probably go another hundred years without finding another similarity.

I got on the movie site but closed it by accident before finding the show times. Looking it back up in the history I almost pissed my pants. I literally thought I was hallucinating. The menu was filled with porn, and not just a random assortment of generic sites, but one specific genre, with one specific site in particular: Big Tits at Work, featuring heavily. It is without a doubt my favorite porn site. I am totally into the huge titty broads giving boob jobs with glasses on, and apparently, he was too.

Yes, we had plenty in common, Jack Cork and I.

By E.M. Vireo