Original article posted by ravenpaine:

Joe was the first of the regulars to arrive each day. He would appear promptly at 7:10 and bombard the rest of the clientele with his theories, philosophies, and views until 11:15 when he would run into the night like a spooked gibbon.

The rest of the regulars would begin to trickle in at 7:30 until 9ish and stay until close or the wind took them elsewhere. In order of respect, appeal, and tips they were Paula the bassist, Raymin the philanthropist beggar, Charles poet-laureate of the masses, Jen the outspoken, Mark the dark, and Carmen the cellist. Each was as useful as they were annoying and all of them shared a particular satisfaction at being less mainstream than anyone else.

This sense of individuality was not a construct. It did not occur as a conformity to non-conformity or a reaction to a rabid society, no, it was a carefully guarded sense of accomplishment at being someone over something and being able to guard it under a haze of indifference and quiet grace. This they shared with knowing looks, slow nods and concealed gestures. They knew it was there and they could see it in others. It was all they needed to stay sane until tomorrow or until it was no longer worth their time to keep up the pretense that sanity and insanity were not the same thing.

Tuesday would see them enter and leave as always, Wednesday would be the same, Thursday, however, would change all of our lives and end one of theirs.

This is not to say that a life changing event cannot occur any day of the week, nor that death need necessarily prompt these changes, but it is important to note that these things happened and that these things have a bearing on the story. You will need to go further to get everything, and there is no promise that the author and narrator agree on all of the details.

Thursday the Year and a Day Cafe featured a spoken word night. This was not the same as many other spoken word nights where would-be poets and faux-intellectuals took to a stage and bored the guts out of everyone in the room, this was a night that Regulars would routinely speak louder than necessary about a topic secretly given to them on Monday until someone in the room could identify the impetus for the discussion. The winner won a free round and their name on a board displayed above the register. So far no one had been able to win more than once and tonight they would find out why.

(The Year and a Day officially opened at 7 p.m. but that did not stop many people from dropping by as early as 6:00 to grab an eye opener on the way home. The Year and a Day was built into the ground floor of a three story row house built before the second war. A short walkway lead down into the Cafe proper while a spiral staircase of wrought iron took you to the third story apartment where I slept. The middle space came and went with the seasons. No matter what breaks I gave someone to open a business three it would fail within a month.

The Cafe was round in structure the corners choked out by kiosks layered into one another. Posters, flyers, notes, advertisements for college bands, counter culture attractions and notable political movements waxed and waned in tune to the moon. Every month I would rip down all remaining papers and what every conscious citizen should know was replenished. The tables were also round, three chairs per five tables in all a total capacity of fifteen for the room, twenty with the bar. The bar was latched into the wall with a thin walkway behind, enough to stand if you had to, arranged at the right side next to the restrooms in the back right corner. The stage could support a total of six musicians and their instruments (limit one piano) and was found at the far left. A window looked partially outside and partially into the under workings of concrete below the sidewalk. It was decorated in blue and black with a spinning star mural set into the ceiling that would rotate in time to the clock and produce a bright sun in the center when it became time to close at 2 a.m.)

Joe arrived late by five minutes. He swept through the door as always and approached the counter, his usual (mocha breve with Irish cream) was already cooling there, he handed me a crumpled five and nodded, I prepared a second and he took a place at table two. He was neurotic, fidgety, and unable to stop itching at that spot on the left side of his face that would probably never be able to grow hair again. None of this was out of the ordinary for Joe, but something about the general tone of these actions seemed off today. These were not the actions of a mildly harmless eccentric man but the signs of a deep set worry of impending doom.

He wore a tattered green coat over a disheveled t-shirt and jeans combo that left him looking like a stereotypical Vietnam vet. As far as I knew he had not been in Vietnam despite his age. He was a genius of high caliber, he had taught at Berkley when he was fifteen and wrote a set of shocking papers on the status of post colonialism in America before crumbling into obscurity from a mental breakdown. His keen blue eyes stood watchful over his hawkish nose and no one could do anything with his ever growing mop of dark curly hair.

Or so I thought. It is entirely possible that I was imagining the whole thing, placing subversive and dire tones over the whole event as a matter of hindsight. I’m prone to that sort of thing anymore. Too many days working here, not enough time wandering the streets and dealing with what could be considered “normal” people.

Jen was the next to arrive, her usual (café American with cherry) was ready by the time she finished her intro monologue, a habit of hers that I can scarcely place the origin of.

“On Hellespont, guilty of true love’s blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoin’d by Neptune’s might;
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
And offer’d as a dower his burning throne,
Where she could sit for men to gaze upon.
The outside of her garments were of lawn,
The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;
Her wide sleeves green, and border’d with a grove,
Where Venus in her naked glory strove
To please the careless and disdainful eyes
Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;
Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,
Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.”

“Hero and Leander: The First Sestiad, Christopher Marlow,” she said as I handed her the drink. A small round of applause came from the five other patrons scattered about.

“Lovely,” I said. “Setting the tone both heavy and bright tonight?”

Jen’s tone was always lovely. A rich dark sound like chocolate mixed in honey. “Just a little something for the chorus and all the folks soon to be headed to the vomitorium for a wee bit more. Any requests?”

“Not for me, no. But I am sure that someone will want to hear something ere the night is through.”

“Your sweet love, but leave the recitation of verse to the patrons and sling your overpriced caffeinated swill like a proper peasant.” She smiled at the end, to lessen the blow. Her brown eyes glowed more clearly in dim light than they did in daylight. I had always been fascinated by Jen. From the smoothness of her skin to the jagged line of her hair and the swirling mystique that encompassed her like the scent of cloves. She was a petite black woman standing 5’9”, she wore a purple silk blouse and slacks with purple suede flats to match her blouse.

I glowered and headed back to the bar. Jen turned to Joe and began our little game. “I would rather see a thousand sunsets drifting past distance dark horizons then draw one last breath before its time.”

Joe was slow to respond. His first was gone and his second stood piping hot on standby. “Nothing to obvious my dear. Nothing so droll and dross as a time spent mopping at the brow and plowing for worms.”

I could see where this was headed, and it wasn’t pretty.

My attempts to cool things down and retool the game was thwarted by the sudden appearance of Carmen’s cello, promptly followed by Carmen proper and flanked quite closely by Mark. Carmen approached the stage and I gave her a nod while setting up her usual (coffee, plain). Mark was brooding, which is a longer way of saying Mark was being Mark. His Victorian style great coat billowed from a wind created by his halting/dashing/swaying manner of walking. He was wearing his biker glasses and snarled at non-regulars on his way to the bar. He was impressively tall and imposing in the coat. His black hair flowed over his shoulders and encased the right half of his face in shadow. He wore a Vandyke, “out of a sense of duty” and grew the nails on his left hand long and thick.

“Mark,” I said.

“The night has thrown me from her tender sultry bosom and forced me into the acrid filth of your establishment once more. Tend to your duties man and give me a… uh…” At which point Mark stalled out. He lowered his glasses to survey the board of ingredients and drinks. He always did this. No usual for Mark, a different something all the time, barely touched by the end of the day but always ordered with great difficulty and an unerring sense of disproportionate time spent to decisions made.

“Try the Ultralisk. It’s five shots of espresso with cinnamon and small cup of chocolate covered espresso beans beside it. No one has tried it yet. You, “I paused for dramatic tension, “Could be the first, assuming that you will take the advice of this lowly tavern runner.”

“Well, you’re word is good even if your goods are unspeakable. I shall have one now and one later, avente!” He turned and strode to the regular table in two long steps. He swept into the chair like an ophidian around a hamster.

I started his drink and sent Carmen’s to the stage. She was already tuning and nodded lightly as Ayla, Thursday’s help, placed the cup on a small table on the stage. The somber hum of the bow changed the atmosphere. The patrons hung their heads and swayed gently in their seats as Carmen delivered a thrilling rendition of the theme from Finnegan’s Wake. Carmen was the second youngest of the regulars. Barely out of college she wore thin-square-black glasses that framed her delicate oval face with a combination of charm and beauty. Her hair was light brown and curled just past her shoulders. Her lips stood out in such a way that no one could stop watching them, which made listening to her pert chilling voice even more pleasurable. She was dressed in a long green and brown patterned skirt with a black top.

I completed Mark’s non-existent drink and took it to the table. “You can’t take a thing like this too lightly. The days of eventide and the nights of evermorning must conjoin in all things,” said Mark, for some unfathomable reason. Things were clearly out of hand.

Jen refuted the comment with a huff and a wave. “Drivel. Pure, solid drivel. Like a solid brick of pewter: heavy, solid, worthless. I can’t that I cant for when I scant I shant reply to that which has been turned to shit.”

Joe itched his spot. “Figuratively speaking, of course.”

“Is there any other,” said Jen.

“Hold on here, what are you doing tonight? Are you trying to…?”

“Shit! Ha! Instead of scat as in scatological or dealing with shit. I get it it’s great.” Said a lowly patron of no importance and unmemorable name.

The regulars froze. Carmen stopped playing. Charles, who had just arrived, put forth the most outrage from his position just inside the door frame. “I must be in the wrong hood. Scuse my steppin’ ass, this punk ass bitch be headed back to his crib.”

Mark reacted a moment later by jumping from his seat and looming over the poor man. “I say we eats him. Please let us eats him?”

“Charles, get back in here. Mark, no eating anyone. Poor fool, keep your head down and order a second drink and in a moment we’ll have forgotten you.” I headed to the bar. Charles usual (caramel steamer) was delivered while Carmen launched into a retooled version of Aerosmith’s Jaded.

“An intellectual death of the highest proportions masses of masses seeping across a vast plane of idolized intellectualism,” said Charles as he removed his blue windbreaker. He adjusted his brown tweed blazer and pulled his poetry journal from a brown leather satchel. Charles was ever the scholar, in appearance and in manner, but nothing he wrote was worth the money he spent on the journals he penciled it in.

Mark had, to this point, not taken a sip of his drink but had picked up an espresso bean which he flipped delicately from finger to finger in an enchanting rhythm. A female patron across the way at table 5 stared enraptured with the tall dark figure. The Poor Fool from before sat beside her, trying to catch some attention. The couple had come in around six and had been chatting brokenly since. The Poor Fool had done most of the talking the woman looked as if she was going to leave until Mark’s arrival. She had been staring since.

Mark, “Pity, pity, the ivy that grows up and around leaves behind the tyranny of the ground only to find that as it rises it is forever bound to the pedestal it set itself on.”

Joe, “A dearth, a dearth, life upon this here earth. Be it piety be it grace I shall never regret leaving this race.”

Jen, “Thief of night and burglar of thought comes round and round night and day but only those who invite him in does he steal from those who object doth he allay.”

Charles, “Mistress of speech and master of nine taking taking all of the time, where he walks and where I lay will never cross, meet, or twain.”

Carmen bowed to a halt and paused for minor applause. There was a silence of moments and the room itself seemed ready for the next entrance.

Paula maneuvered her huge instrument into the café and lugged once and then twice to place it on the stage. She nodded to Carmen and readied the standing bass. They discussed briefly what they wanted to play. Paula’s usual (raspberry and mint Italian soda) was readied and delivered to the stage. Paula was the youngest of the regulars. Barely nineteen years-of-age she held her head proud and played with confidence. It was no small secret that the rest of the regulars favored her as something of a mascot, but no one patronized her or let it slide when she was, as they all were, occasionally wrong. She wore her red and brown striped hair up in a back bun with chopsticks.

To be completed when um I… You know?

Orginal comments:

Nickname: gandhi2
your a bug…..
this is not like you at all–you, the master–the king–of genre fiction. very kafka. you should do it more often.