My simulacrum of a waitress is coming back, far ahead of schedule. She has my coffee (which I don't recall ordering) and a few packets of artificial sweetener, "Simulacrose." I cannot believe this is an accident. She is as alert as she is lovely and capable of peppering her waitress banter with arcane referencia and office-madated product placement. The only act of which she seems incapable is speaking to me comfortably. I guess I haven't helped, but that is the way of cafe conversations and I need to practice this real-time journalling if I expect to make any pals at this colony.
Evidently I said the last part aloud,
because the lovely asked, "What kind of colony?" She looks at me like
she's waiting for the last line in a dirty limerick. I replied, "Sit down
for a minute, and I'll tell you all about it. If its a problem with your
manager, I can talk to him."
"Her, and it won't be." She sits down across the tiny marble-topped tablette and tucks her likewise tiny notebook into the waistband of her apron. Her smile is pleasant, but the coffee is terrible. I will not drink even one more drop.
I smile at her and she laughs again.
I like your laugh." To punctuate this clever opening, I sip the coffee
again. She shakes her head. I add, "But I have to wonder why I hear it so
much. Is something wrong?"
"No, my boyfriend has a jacket just like that. Actually he has several. Three or four shades of beige and brown."
"That's funny," (and by funny I mean mandated by the cosmos), "because I just bought this jacket a week or so ago, at an auction. I picked up a few."
"Why?" She seemed baffled by my purchase. "They look like shit."
"I know, but I have to think of them as a uniform. I am on my way to a sort of collective, tommorrow, and I need to blend in. I thought of several variations of the camoflage--monacle and beret (referred to in the appropriate circles as 'La Classique'); barefoot and unkempt, reeking of patchouli and van-sex; bourbon and cordite--the persistent and unmistakable aroma of the creative misogynist. Eventually I decided on comfort and ease. Brown courdoroy jackets with patched elbows (preferably chamois or suede) are relatively common and easy to secure on short notice.
Her mind was elsewhere, and apparently on something unpleasant.
"That's fascinating, but what do you mean colony? What kind of colony?"
"A writer's collective. It's basically a rustic getaway style resort for writers."
She was getting more impatient. "Where is it, exactly?"
"I am not sure. I have only been there once, for some interviews, why?"
"My boyfriend is at a writer's camp or something like that, and I have been seeing less and less of him."
"Perhaps you should see more and more of someone new. Someone you just met." I tilt my head forward and ravage her with my patented broadway wink--jazz hands for the eyes. My lashes banged so loudly that children on the street outside started crying.
She waved off my suggestion immediately and asked, "What is the place called?"
"The Edward VI Recreational Center and Memorial Park. It's not a great name for a 'creative gestalt established in the wilds of the
She said "'…sole purpose of encouraging a select community of writers, and the craft of writing.' Right." She was shaking her head in disbelief.
"What's the problem? Have you heard of it?" This was getting better and better. "The E6Rc&MP?" She cursed her beautiful face with a sneer. "That's all I heard for about 3 months before I came here. My boyfriend, Morgan, is a poet. We lived together in New York until he decided to 'expand the borders of his verse' by staying at some colony he heard about at an open mike night. He quit his job at Books&Shit and convinced me to resign at the gallery."
"What kind of gallery?" Calmly draw the crosshairs to the target. Steady your breathing and listen.
"A little place in
'I have found my voice!' he shouted, arms spread wide with legs held straight and at shoulder width.1
While I was impressed with his mastery of the universal gesture for rain catching and epiphanic delerium, I was pretty unhappy about the actual shouting." "Did you quit?" Establish prolonged eye contact with gently interested smile. Nothing is more important to me than what she is saying. Sell it.
"Nope. I didn't have a chance. I got fired." A tiny, frustrated chuckly peeked out from between her lips, looked around, and got frowned out.
"What?" Straighten in my chair and appear shocked. Wear an expression that says clearly, "How could anyone fire someone like you?" Shake head and offer the masculine version of her deliciously girlish chuckle.
"My boss took one look at that screaming turd in a smelly jacket and threw him out. I started to offer and explanation and realized I didn't really have one."
"How about, 'What a crazy person. I wonder who he was." I am nothing if not helpful.
"It was too late for that. I had already said, 'That's my boyfrie...' "
"So your boyfriend cost you your job so he could 'find his voice?' That sucks. Well at least you followed him out here so you could work in a cafe while he whooped it up in relative secrecy at a resort." Comfort her. Wait for the brief period between heartbeats, when the crosshair 'sleeps.' It sits for an instant, motionless on the target. Finger on the trigger. Squeeze, don't jerk. Patient.
"Drive out there and visit him. I have directions to the place right here. I'm sure he would be glad to see you." Steady. Squeeze. Careful.
She shakes her head again and her shoulders drop for a second. Then she gets mad and her sneer returns.
"They don't allow visitors, except on special days, so I can't visit him."
Test the wind. Make a tiny noise so the target raises its head a little. One shot, one kill.
"What?! That's not a rule. I asked about that during the interviews, and the said, 'Anything that contributes to the craft of writing, and the community of writers, is fine with us.' Maybe you should just drop in on him."
She seemed confused. "Well, I will get in touch with him and check it out."
"Nah, they don't have phones. I get letters from him about once a week." Fire.
"Why don't you ride with me out there? I'll be in and out of the compound for the next several weeks."
A loud crack and a flight of birds from a nearby tree. A shattering of bark six inches above the target's head. Damn.
"Nah, that's allright. I'll just call him and chat about it. I don't have any idea who you are and, no offense, but I get the feeling you are full of shit." I'll write him and get it straightened out. Thanks anyway."
I am too close to do anything but reload and wait.
"Yeah, just call him and find out what the deal is. It's only an hour or so by car. Maybe I'll see you at a reading or something." Chamber the round quietly. Do not allow the sound of a hasty chamber to startle the target.
She laughed her earlier laugh. "They don't have phones out there, Cam. I get letters from Morgan about once a week."
Ornithologists are by nature a detail-oriented and patient breed. They tend to be soiltary creatures. However, they hold fast, collectively, to the following belief: The rarest of all birds is the Ruby-Crested Second Chance. I did not intend to let this feathered lovely escape.
"I'm not sure, but I think I remember seeing phones in the cabins, and in the offices. In any case, I have a phone, so call me if you want to get a message to your poet. Here is my number."
I give her my card, which reads simply, Cameron Schitter: Guy." She stood with her fist clenched and glared at me. "Fuck you. They don't have phones." She turned to flee to the relative safety of the bar. I stopped her with a concerned and steady hand.
"Look, I'm sorry if I upset you. Forget it. I'll get out of here. I have to drive out to this phoneless enclave. If I see you at a reading, feel free to pretend you have never seen me."
She smiled and said in parting the words which will no doubt haunt me as I read, write, drive, and otherwise pretend to care at all about what I see at this literary campout.
"Now I know you're full of shit."
As I left, I turned in the doorway, intent on walking back to the bar (I hadn't paid my bill). Despite her apparent rage, she continued with her cafe duties as though she had, in fact, never seen me. She cleaned the table where we'd spoken about 30 seconds before. She wiped away the ring my cup left at its center. She took my bill and crumbled it, throwing it away a moment later in a tiny wastebasket behind the bar, kept for the sole purpose of discarding tabs. She shook her head, said something to herself, and picked up my card. What happened to it then remains the sixth of the holy mysteries. I will see it again when I am sleeping. I hope. Even as I resigned the poor card to its fate in the garbage, she stopped and put it in her pocket.
1 New World PoseMasters classify this gesture as The Conduit. The Conduit has experienced a burst of popularity in the last 50 years. Its utility is almost without rival. A subject performing the Conduit is equally at home receiving the holy ghost (as the transformed soul begins to speak in other tongues as the spirit giveth utterance, the Conduit's wide base provides excellent balance and support) and lost in dramatic reverie (such as revealing to a starving population that the delicious foodstuff provided by the government is made of former compatriots).