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Harald's Idea

Every morning Harald looks out the window of his third floor apartment and drinks a cup of instant coffee. Rachel, his model, sits on the sofa in the middle of the room, a sheet wrapped around her like a toga.
   "What do people mean by an accident waiting to happen?" he asks, blowing across the surface of his coffee.
   Rachel tucks her feet beneath her. "You know," she says, swallowing a yawn, "something bad is going to happen."
   "It's a one-way street," Harald says. "Dogs play in the park across the street. At any moment, one could dash out to fetch a ball and get run over." He puts his cup on the sill and raises the window all the way up. "I've stood here every morning for years and have never seen a dog get hit by a car. Is there still an accident waiting to happen?"
   "I suppose there's always an accident waiting to happen," Rachel says.
   "Yesterday I saw a woman passing under the mulberry tree. She was tiptoeing around all the smooshed mulberries on the sidewalk when one fell from the tree onto the shoulder of her jacket, a light blue, as I recall. With that background, even from here, it looked like a charred worm."
   "You just imagined it."
   "The incident?"
   "No," Rachel says, "the worm."
   "She didn't even notice it," he says. "Just kept walking, her eyes to the ground."
   Rachel stands up and drapes the sheet over the sofa. She wonders how much longer Harald is going to work on this nude series, The Empty Interior. The show is in six weeks.
   "If she had noticed the mulberry," Harald continues, "would it have been an accident instead of an incident?" He sticks his head out the window and looks up and down the street.
   "Maybe just an inconvenience."
   Harald pulls his head back inside. "I have an idea. Go stand at the window. Hold the coffee cup in your right hand and look up and down the street. There aren't many people out right now."
   Rachel goes to the window and picks up the cup.
   Across the street, a man walks into the street to avoid the mulberry tree. He looks up for a brief moment.

No Waiting for Coffee

Danny staked a claim to a table by the window. He draped his jacket across the back of the chair, placed his laptop square in the middle of the little round table, and went to the counter to order a double espresso and a ham-and-cheese croissant. It was a ritual of survival he had been following Mondays through Fridays since his divorce. Breakfast alone at home was painful, the silence like a noose around his neck. Evenings were okay. He'd drink a bottle of wine and pretend to read a book. Weekends were bearable because he'd drink more than a bottle of wine and wake up in the afternoon.
    Maya, the dyke at the cash register, and he knew she was a dyke because she had the word tattooed on the back of her left hand and would raise a fist when coffee orders were backed up and customers complained. "Talk to the hand, bitch, and ponder the sign," she would say, pointing to a quote from Erasmus on the wall, something about in heaven, thank god, there is no waiting for coffee.
   One thing Danny was sure of – this wasn't heaven, but Maya was as close to an angel as he could get these days. She was kind in a spiky sort of way. When things were slow, about the time people were folding up their newspapers and heading for work, the two of them would chat. He would pretend to be trying to pick her up, and she would pretend to be flattered. When business got brisk again, Danny would get online and check the stock market and the classifieds. Sooner or later he'd have to find a job and maybe even get laid.
   One Thursday morning Maya wasn't there. "Where's Maya?" he asked the pimpled emo at the cash register as he handed over money for his espresso and croissant.
   "I don't know," he said. "She's gone. I'm new here."
   The following morning Maya wasn't there again. Danny showed up on Saturday afternoon hoping he would find her. Perhaps she had a new schedule. He asked the baristas where she was, but it was as if someone had slapped a gag order on them. He asked them every day until one of them snapped at him, "She's gone, dude. Like how many times do we have to tell you?" He looked straight at Danny and whispered, "Sticky fingers."
   Danny sat down at his table and stared at the one tree, a scrub oak, in the corner of the parking lot. A couple of squirrels spiraled up the trunk. He nibbled at his croissant while the espresso grew cold. That damn dyke stole my heart right from under my nose, he thought.
   The next day Danny was gone.

Talking About What Made Him Happy

He was giving the question some serious consideration. From his place on the sofa he had a magnificent view of Puget Sound. It was a bright, brisk spring day, one of those days in Seattle that keeps people there for the three hundred others on which for entertainment you come up with imaginative ways to kill yourself. Or you hang out in bookstore cafes, drink too much coffee, skim through piles of books you don't intend to buy, and on the way home have to get off the bus several stops early and find a bathroom before you wet yourself. Or you drink a couple bottles of wine and call yourself a connoisseur. But he was digressing and he knew it. He closed his eyes and tried to refocus, but talking about what made him happy was not something he wanted to do.
   Examples. If he could come up with some examples maybe he could figure out a plausible response. Scoring that case of 1983 Barca Velha was high on the list but not the kind of thing that would be appropriate to bring up now. The birth of his daughter was up there, but that lacked a certain purity because of the responsibility that came along with it. Acquisitions might count. His first Martin guitar, though he was never much a player. His first new car. But one thing leads to another and it becomes an addiction. You climb one mountain and there's another waiting somewhere, and quite frankly he preferred admiring mountains to conquering them.
   The therapist coughed quietly. He turned toward her and she smiled as if to remind him of the question. She was nice enough and had been trying to counsel him for weeks, but there was something in her smile that set him off, the way the left side of her mouth turned down slightly and the right side turned up. It was women like this who were constantly prodding him, wanting him to explain what made him tick. They were always asking what? but really wanted to know why? He couldn't answer why?
   He sprang from the sofa and slapped her hard across the face, knocking her out of her chair. When she yelled for help, he kicked her in the ribs. She begged him to stop. He grabbed her by the hair and set her back in the chair. He couldn't say he was happy, but he felt better.

- Bob Lucky (USA – Ethiopia)

Bob Lucky's work has appeared or is forthcoming in
The Prose-Poem Project, Modern Haiku, Shot Glass Journal, Rattle, Shamrock and numerous other journals. He is co-author of the chapbook _my favorite thing_ (bottle rockets press, 2011). He has an MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso and currently teaches at the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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 Copyright © Emerald Bolts Magazine, 2012
The front page image is copyright © © by Anthony Kitterick, 2012