vitality, beauty, coffee

or, Mostly the Latter. In blogalectic with Jenna and Masha, sort of.

“I didn’t expect to find a salesman drinking coffee this late in the morning,” I said. “How long you been here, Joe?”

“Oh, I dunno, I guess thirty—” He glanced at the clock above the bar. “Forty-five minutes, maybe. Why d’ya ask?”

“You must be making a lot of sales. Piling up a good income.”

“Oh, ah I’m doing all right, I could do better,but—” He crashed down his coffee abruptly. “Paul—someone’s listening.”

“There’s no one here but—”

He waved me quiet, stared furtively down at his coffee with the suspicion of man who expects his coffee to suddenly erupt to geysers of shaving cream. “I’ll tell you what it is, Paul,” he said quietly. “We’re in a story.”

“It looks like a diner to me.”

“Oh, that! That’s just the setting. This’ll be a short story, see—a  bit of flash fiction where the author needs to make this point, so he thinks, let’s find two guys talking in a bar. Only,” he glared at his coffee again, “for me it’s always coffee.”

I tried again. “You must be making a lot of sales.”

He scowled. “Think they tell me that? They can sell the stories where they like and I never see a dime. Who do they think they are, rushing into my life and using my conversations to prove whatever they want to prove? I tell you something, Paul.” He leaned onto the bar, waggled his finger. “They misquote me.”

“They what?”

“I says one thing,” he said, “they write another. They put their words in my mouth. They don’t care about me, see, about us. They just have this thing they’re writing, and need to blokes chatting over coffee to write it. You watch, Paul. This’ll be a short story somewhere, about—about—about—what’s that old time-is-money kick you’re always on , Paul?”

“Oh—ah, you mean, ah, time management? I’m not back on it, Joe. I’m—”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, see. Because you’d say, time is money, but they’d say you said everybody dies frustrated and sad—and that’s beautiful!

“That’s beautiful?”

“That’s what they say you say. It’s the sort of thing,” he said darkly, “they make people say. It’s like…”

“Joe,” I said, “don’t let’s start—”

“Start? It’s over, boss. It’s flash fiction. Soon as you start talking, it’s over. And you never even know about it” He gulped a mouthful of coffee and glared at me. “It’s like being a snowball in hell.”