Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coffee Has a Serious Talk

Evening padded across the landscape in its stockinged feet, the day's hum of activity and sense of urgency winding down like a switched-off turbine. I sat on my porch, a half smile on my face, a mug of hot beverage in my hand and watched the sky empty itself of birds. This was one of my favorite times of day, when no matter how busy you were earlier and no matter how much work was still left for tomorrow you could put it out of mind and just stare into the middle distance without feeling guilty or lazy.

Evening is lazy incarnate, I thought, a kind of pastel hued carelessness wrapped in stars and moths.

"I like this time of night," I said to Coffee. "It's one of the only times I can forget about all the stuff I have to do, all the stuff I should be doing, you know? I don't feel quite so behind the pack on evenings like this."

Coffee looked up from the little pile of sticks he was making. "I hate this time of day because you never want to do anything fun. Just sit out here with your stinky slippers on and look at bugs. The mall's not even closed yet! You could be putting those bugs in a jar."

I allowed my smile to temporarily expand to the other half of my face. "They are kind of stinky," I said, nodding at my old slippers. "But outside in the breeze, nobody would notice."

"I notice," Coffee said. "They smell like a buffalo that died angry. Let's go find a driveway with pine cones in it."

"Don't you ever wonder why so many people seem to be disappointed with their lot in life? What or who are they comparing themselves to? By what measure do they fall short?" I asked, changing the subject.

Coffee swatted a mosquito. "It sucks out here. People are disappointed because they have to hang around in the bugs with soppy guys who don't want to find pine cones. Come on! We could get some jars of bugs and some pine cones and go camping in the mall until those guys with the tie clips throw us out."

"Evening just makes me feel kind of philosophical. Sometimes I like to take a break from the definite and rational and sort of allow my mind to wander into areas of more imaginative thought," I shrugged.

"So evening makes you stupid. Got it. Now how about we go over to your neighbor's house. He has that ReMax sign in his yard. We could go fall down by it!"

"What? No. Well, maybe a little. It's like the only time I feel okay with taking a break from reality as I know it to be and pretend it's a little different. Evening is a kind of private room where I can be alone in public and think whatever I want without fear of reprisal."

"Evening is a bathroom where I can groan in the aisle!" mocked Coffee. "Pfft. You're just mad because your oatmeal doesn't have walnuts in it."

"I'm just...what?"

"That's it. I'm going without you. You can go ahead and sit here and wax philosophical to the moths. I'm going to have an adventure, and I won't be bringing you home any postcards or naked ladies."

I waved. "Seeya, Coffee. Have fun."


I looked back into the sky. The faint cirrus clouds gave the sky a posterized look as it gradated from deep inky blue to the red of the Western horizon, still lit beneath the surface by the sun. I could hear Coffee angrily stomping through the sticks around the south side of the house.

It's not so much a race, I thought, as an arbitrary list of goals I felt the need to accomplish despite not having authored the list myself. All I contributed was a vague outline based on things I enjoyed and things I felt were important, and some of those things were still there, buried under the annotations and massive expansion that society--someone--added.

A sharp metallic clang from the back of the house jolted me from my reverie. "Leave the air conditioner alone, Coffee!" I shouted.

"Nuts to you, you dirty commie! I know this is where you hid the gold! Why else would you put a fan on it?"

"That doesn't make any sense, Coffee!" I replied, patting ineffectually at the damp spot on my shirt where I'd sloshed my beverage.

"That's what I was told you'd say!" he shouted back. "It's to keep the shrews away from the gold, and you and your propaganda can't tell me otherwise."

"I thought you were going on an adventure."

"All good adventures need funding. Aha! Here we go." There was some rustling and a damp crunch, like a soggy tree branch snapping. Then an unsettling few seconds of silence.

"Coffee? What--"

"Oh my god! There's a bear back here!"

I sat back down on the porch, sighing. "I'm sure. Maybe the bear can answer some of my less cerebral questions about life?"

Shuffling leaves and spastic branch-swatting announced Coffee's arrival around the north corner of the house. He had leaves in his hair, and one of his sleeves was missing.

"You missed everything!" he screeched. There was a moose and I got your pansy gold out of that bladed safe you have it in. I spent it on a whole barrel of naked ladies and I didn't even save you one."

"And what happened to the bear?"

"Hey, look at this. I think it's a some kind of grub," he said, thrusting a dirty golf ball into my face.

"No it's not," I said. "What do you think about the concept of divisions? Are there really any sharply delineated divisions when it comes to human behavior? I think there's a lot of gradients and a lot of those are relative. So given this huge variability, how can you make a quantitative comparison of your life with someone else's? It sounds like a lot more work than just being happy with what you've got. Of--"

"I've got a grub!" howled Coffee.

"Of course, I guess that's easier said than done," I finished. "And no you don't. That's a golf ball."

"Holy twitters! Are you sure? We could take this to the mall then! You think the geese are still in that fountain out front?"

"We're not going to the mall tonight," I said.

"You know what you are?" asked Coffee, pocketing the golf ball. "You're a big hollow stump full of dope moles, you know that? You're a mayonnaise sandwich. A mayonnaise sandwich that never wants to throw anything at anything." He walked to the garage door and pressed his face into the aluminum.

I bid the departing evening a farewell exhale. "Come on inside, Coffee," I said.

"Hmph," he said, banging the door with his elbows as he petulantly crossed his arms.

"You can have some cheese doodles," I coaxed.

Coffee uncrossed one arm and looked sideways at me. "In a Target bag?"

"Yes, in a Target bag," I said.

"You know what you are?" Coffee shrieked, scampering up the porch steps and following me through the front door. "You're like a big space ship full of fancy screens, you know that? Fancy screens and howler monkeys!"

"Thanks, Coffee," I said.