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coffee chaos
a late night blend
by heath jackson

I can’t believe I’m even standing here. It’s 2am, Evan is drunk off his ass, and I don’t even want coffee. And the line is barely moving. Who are these people and what are they doing out at this time of night? Don’t they have a home to go to? I do, and I’d like to be there right now, sleeping, but as luck would have it, I’ve also got Evan.

He’s wobbling again; Leaning to the side, then catching himself and jerking back upright. He’s bumped into the girl in front of us twice now, and so far she’s been cool, but I can tell her boyfriend is getting miffed. He’s not a small guy, so I’m hoping he’s got some patience left.

“Hey man, I’m not in the mood for coffee, can we just go?”, I ask Evan, hoping that maybe he’s lost interest.

"Nah, dude, c’mon. Ya gotta have coffe.”

Shit. He’s still fixated on the damn coffee. “C’mon, I’ll make some at my place.”, I say, putting my hand on his shoulder and aiming him towards the door.

“No way, man. It’s fuckin’ freezing out. I ain’t walking. And besides, your coffee tastes like shit”. He pulls away from me with a jerk and losing his balance, slams his shoulder into the guy in front of us, who in turn bumps into his girlfriend, sending her stumbling into the aisle.

Great. The guy is turning towards Evan and he's got this look of rage on his face and I'm pretty sure someone is about to get pummeled. Definitely Evan - Probably me.

Then he sees his girlfriend.

She’s stumbling backwards down the aisle, trying to maintain her balance. Her knees are bent and her weight is pulling her back. Back, towards the waitress.

My stomach sinks as the entire room shifts into slow motion, like a scene from a western when the gunslinger draws. For a brief moment, I begin to hope that the girl will somehow miss the waitress; That she’ll manage to get a grip on the table edge, or the seat cushion, or the customer, for god’s sake...anything.

But she doesn’t, and as quickly as the room had slowed, it returns to normal speed and now accelerates as the air explodes in a shower of ice, water, and coffee. The patrons are screaming a symphony as the wave of hot brown liquid meets their cold white skin. The big woman in the striped wool scarf leaps to her feet far faster than I would have thought possible, arms and hands and fingers thrusting out into the air, and in the process overturns the table.

Time seems to have slowed again as the sugar packets fly by like a flock of little blue geese. I can’t help thinking that the customers too look like birds, mouths open and wings flapping. All of them, that is except for Boyfriend.

Boyfriend looks more like a wolverine. Crouched on the floor next to Girlfriend, he’s turning towards Evan and scowling. Coffee is running down through his dark hair leaving long, thin streaks across his chiseled face, and he’s snarling. He’s actually freakin’ snarling!

Evan is too drunk to even turn around, so he can’t see Boyfriend diving through the air at him. It’s gonna be messy if I don’t do something, and do it quick.

I grab Evan’s scarf and pull down hard. He’s off-balance and drunk and has no time to react. His head follows the tug of the scarf straight down into the top of the small wooden table. He drops to his knees, and Boyfriend sails neatly over him and head first into the condiment stand. He’s lying there dazed in a puddle of cream and stir sticks, opening and closing his eyes in an attempt to focus. I can’t help thinking he looks an awful lot like Evan did a minute ago.

Girlfriend is screaming now and crawling across the floor to him. Behind me, behind the coffee counter, a voice is booming, getting louder as it approaches.

I slip my head under Evan’s shoulder and put my arm around his waist. I heave him to his feet and stumble out the door into the cold. We’re a block away and slipping into the cab when Boyfriend and company hit the sidewalk and start yelling. I begin to breath again as the city blocks click by.

We’re running out of places to have coffee in this town.


Heath may not be completely sure where he is right now, but he knows how he got here, and is starting to figure out where he might want to go. Now, how to get there...? It's all about the journey, and this boy's not happy unless he's behind the wheel.

more about heath jackson


robert melos
1.16.04 @ 5:09p

This is funny. Very familiar situation. Kind of universal funny.

wendy p
1.19.04 @ 3:28p

So, without trying to sound like Paul Harvey, where's the rest of the story? Are you planning on expanding on this, maybe releasing a scene every once in a while? Don't mind me, I'm between reading material at the moment.

heath jackson
1.19.04 @ 7:44p

I have to admit, I hadn't really considered it as part of a larger story, but I suppose I could build off of it. What's your impression of the narrator based on this piece? Any thoughts?

sarah ficke
1.20.04 @ 3:00p

For me, the last line really makes the scene and gives you the room to expand in. Also, I love the description of the coffee falling all over the place. Beautiful.

michelle von euw
1.20.04 @ 6:14p

Gorgeously rendered -- I love the progression of the story, the description of the action, and the teasing last line. Great piece!

wendy p
1.21.04 @ 9:58a

Well, how do you mean impressions? He seems reluctantly stuck in the situation and yet, it's like he feels responsible for Evan in some way.

heath jackson
1.21.04 @ 1:48p

Well, I think we've all been in situations where our friends have put us in some kind of predicament, and we hate it but can't desert them.
Do you feel that the narrator's actions were appropriate (practically knocking Evan unconcious) in the situation? Do you still feel sympathy for him? Anger or resentment towards Evan?

wendy p
1.21.04 @ 2:28p

I would say his actions were typical in trying to help his friend out of a situation and I wouldn't say it's so much sympathy that I feel for him. I'd say I know how he feels and was rolling my eyes along with him.

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