A little fictional roadside whimsy this week . . . Enjoy!
Lea stares at her reflection in the glass window at Starbucks. She likes having blue eyes in a brown-eyed world. She settles back with her hot coffee, breathes in the aroma like a fine wine, and gently sips. People coming and going in the cafe seem to be on their own little planets. Many gaze at their small screens while others stare into space. It reminds her that everyone has a story. But will anyone listen to their tale? Does anyone care?
Lea likes to ask questions, to engage. But today she’s happy to observe. Lester sits beside her reading the Times. “You’re so retro,” she says. “Still enjoying the paper newspaper?”
“Yeah,” he replies. “I like the feel of it. Besides, you can’t fold your phone in half or rip out a good article or cartoon. I still prefer living in the real world — you know, where things have weight and texture. Just look at all those automatons on the coffee line staring at their screens.”
“Hmm. I was just thinking that those people all have stories. Some of them are probably even interesting. I like to ask older people to tell me their stories. More time, more experiences, wars, marriages,” Lea says.
“And deaths. Lots of death and loss too I’m sure.”
“Well aren’t you the cheery one?”
“Sorry. Was just reading another story about some fool-ass politician putting the screws to helpless immigrants. Tends to bum me out.”
“OK. Maybe this will cheer you up. Let’s play a game. Pick a person in line or anywhere in the cafe and make up a story about them. We’ll take turns. You go first.”
“Really?” Lester lifts the newspaper, hiding behind it.
“C’mon. What’s better, my game or the freakin’ news? Look, if you play along, I promise to make it worth your while when we get home,” Lea says.
Lester drops his newspaper and smiles, “Now I’m interested, but you go first.”
“OK. You see that teenager in line with the red hair, chewing gum? I bet she just came from cheerleading practice. She’s texting with her boyfriend. They’re plotting how to get some alone time so they can make out.”
Lester laughs, “Maybe you’re projecting into it a bit?”
“Of course. I’m not a mind reader. I’m a writer. So, we make stuff up. Where do you think the stuff comes from?” Lea says.
“I’d say it comes from your experiences and maybe dreams.”
“Bingo, that’s why I like to write in the morning — closer to my dreams. OK. Now it’s your turn. Pick somebody and tell me their story.”
“OK. Give me a minute . . . See the old man stooped over with the black cane. He has lots of stories I’d bet. But he lost his wife a year or two ago, and things just don’t mean much to him anymore. His kids have moved away and he lives alone. My guess is that loneliness is the leading cause of death for the elderly.” Lester takes a sip of his coffee. A tear rolls down his cheek.
“I’m sorry about your Dad.” Lea says. “I know how much you miss him.” Lea takes Lester’s warm hand. She can feel a slight tremble. Change the subject. “See the guy sitting over there with his hard hat on the table? Reminds me of a sign I passed on the way here. It made me think of an image that would make a great New Yorker cartoon,”
Lester’s hand is still under Lea’s. He raises it to his pursed lips. “What’s the image?”
Lea frees herself and weaves her hands in the air to paint the image, “There’s a tall tree with many craggy old branches. In the branches of the tree, men are working at their desks. The desks are perched high up on the branches. Some are talking on phones. Others are typing at their computers. The sky is pale blue and the wind is blowing. The leaves rustle all around them. But they don’t seem to notice. They’re too absorbed in work to notice that something is different, strange.”
“That’s quite an image,” Lester says. “What’s the sign say?”
“Men Working in Trees,” Lea says.
Lester laughs again, “I can picture that. Now when do I get the make it worth my while part?”
Lea smiles back, “When the men come down from the trees.”
– END –