Below is my entrance into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #27. This is really only the beginning of a story. If folks think it has merit, I will continue. Writing stories is not the norm for me, so I’m turning things on their head, so to speak, for #MWWC27.
It had been another long day making calls, fielding calls and staying on message. That’s your beat when you work PR for a national trade association, and Patrick loved it. The job was a jealous lover, though, and left little room for any others. As he made his way home late yet again, he was looking forward to a relaxed evening. Maybe he’d continue his binge-watching with a couple of episodes of DaVinci’s Demons or listen to some tunes while enjoying a glass or two of his favorite inexpensive Zinfandel.
After a quick dinner of leftovers – his parents had insisted he learn to cook for himself as a young boy – Patrick decided against the couch and settled into his caramel colored leather recliner. With a glass of Ravenswood Zin now waiting expectantly on the side table, it was time for a tougher decision: music or TV? Tonight music won the toss, and he knew exactly what he wanted to hear – Peter Himmelman’s Synesthesia, an album his father had introduced him to years ago when Patrick was sure indie roots rock was a new invention.
As the first strains of Himmelman’s street-wise tenor began to fill the room, Patrick took a couple of sips from his Zin and pushed back into the recliner. Ah, yes! Now this was relaxation. Suddenly a well of weariness opened in his soul. With one more sip from his glass, Patrick thought he would close his eyes for just a few minutes, give in momentarily. Just a few minutes.
When he woke with a jolt, lines of light laying across the floor like whale bones on a beach told him it was morning. Holy crap! he thought. Am I late for work? No, no, please no! But one quick glance at his phone told him it was still fairly early. 6:45 a.m. “Oh, man, that was close!” he said. He knew he could catch a quick shower, down some oatmeal with honey and walnuts, and still make it to the office before 8:00. That’s why he lived here. It wasn’t the biggest condo or the most luxurious building, but it was only eleven blocks from work. And, after all, less space meant fewer things he had to buy to fill it. Fine by him. Normally, of course, he would have turned on Headline News or Bloomberg to get a heads up on what the day might hold. Not today. He could check online once he got to the office.
Leaving 45 minutes later, he knew he had time to stop by Java House, his favorite coffee shop, to grab a large cup to go. Emerging onto the sidewalk through the wrought iron and glass front doors of his building, Patrick was struck by the lack of foot traffic. It was Friday morning, a normal work day, no holiday that he knew of. So where was everyone? Odd.
The good thing, though, was that when he got to Java House, there wasn’t a long line of other bleary-eyed caffeine addicts waiting to get their hands on a hot cup of liquid energy. He was able to walk straight to the counter where his favorite barista, Mary Ann, was waiting. For him Mary Ann was the perfect barista – friendly, efficient, a good sense of humor. It didn’t hurt that she was a perky blond who looked out at the world (and at him) from a set of intense blue-gray eyes.
He greeted her with his usual pithy repartee, “Hey, Mar, I’ll take the usual.” She smiled her bright Friday morning welcome and responded. But …
Wait! What the heck?
As she spoke – Patrick knew she was speaking because her mouth was moving – he didn’t hear anything. No words. Nothing. Not one sound! OK, now Patrick knew this was an odd morning for sure. But Mary Ann did have that sense of humor he appreciated, so maybe she was trying to play a trick on him. Maybe she was even flirting with him. All right, then! He was willing to play along if this was some new game. So Patrick redoubled his efforts to understand what she was saying by staring at her mouth. He’d read her lips if he could. That’s when he noticed a strange white substance being extruded from her mouth as she spoke. It was like breath made liquid and lighter than air. It had to be lighter than air because it was curling up in front of her face and stretching up over her head. What kind of game was this?
As he watched, the white substance became a cloud that then began to take a more defined shape. It’s edges grew taught, almost circular, and the small tendril still reaching for her mouth tightened into a comma. Did Patrick recognize that shape? Yes, he did! He’d seen it hundreds of times in the newspaper and in some of his casual reading. Like many folks, he still read books – mysteries, biographies, and graphic novels. And that was it, you see. This thing hovering over Mary Ann was the same thing that populated every page of his graphic novels – a speech bubble. It was a speech bubble!
Just as the realization hit him, he saw her words appear inside the bubble like someone was typing as he watched. “Hey, Patrick. Happy Friday! One large dark roast coming right up.”
What was going on here!
* copyright oenophilogical.com 2016