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No Room for Cream (Flash Fiction)

September 12, 2013


I had a girlfriend once call it my blue-collar disorder. It came over me while standing in line at the coffee stand. The lady gave me a funny look and just like that, I wasn’t a lawyer anymore. I was that guy from down the way where folks get told exactly where they can take their eye problems and, in fact, why don’t I show your ass right now.

Can I help you, she asked, because I must have been standing there too long and so I say I’m just standing, you know, because there’s no law against it.

She said to me, You would know, I guess, then rolled her eyes.

That’s when I knew I wasn’t hallucinating this shit from her with her grinning sidekick in his dirty brown apron and his chest out like he’s got a pair.

I must have looked aggro at that moment because they faded back to collude, pretending to wipe down nozzles and espresso filters, eyeballing me all posted up by the muffins—the only person anywhere near their counter. It was like nobody in the courthouse was thirsty for coffee anymore. I was counting down the heartbeats until I was going to ask these motherfuckers just what the hell was so funny. And then the woman leaned over to say, Really, can I get you something, counselor?

I wanted to shove her misplaced resentment back in her freckled face. Why do you think I’m a counselor, I said, shifting my stance in a way that said maybe I’m here on trial and you all just fucked up. Maybe I’m no stranger to walking up on counters like this and perforating idiots like you in the fat of your arm with a Philips screwdriver just to get that seven dollars in change you got in this mutilated mayonnaise jar with TIPS scrawled on it like this is fucking nursery school, and the rest of us should drop all our change in there because you finally got the loop on your “p” to go the right way when you wrote it, and not because you do a fine job of getting me coffee without rolling your eyes at me as you do it.

I swear she could smell what I was thinking.

She gave me the once over, snorted, and turned back to her partner to continue talking about how a neighborhood dog, some fucking pit bull or something, showed up in her yard the other day to scare her cat and her grandkids. I pegged her for forty, tops. Then the other dude gets all froggy looking at me dead in the face and says to her about the dog, I woulda shot that sombitch, still looking right at me.

Philips screwdrivers rain on these jokers in my mind and I’m two steps away from throwing my whole career out the window over this shit when my client and his family walk up.  It happens right as I’m asking the guy behind the counter if he’d care to elaborate on the gunplay comment.

The case was a standard possession with intent. No contest. All I did was get the guy to plead for rehab and here’s his mother and grandmother and half his Sunday school class or whatever rushing up on me, hugging me and shit and telling me how I’m an angel and that I saved his life and now he’s going to cure cancer and solve pi to infinity and it’s all because of me.

As they dragged me off, all hugs and smiles for a series of group shots with Mr. New Leaf Turned Over, I shot the coffee wench a look. Something that said without any mitigating circumstance whatsoever, You’re lucky lady. Real lucky.



<originally published in Molotov Cocktail 3.17>

From → My Stories

  1. The opening lines pulled me right in, as I wanted to know what you were going to say about “blue-collar disorder”. I think the most fascinating characters are highly conscious of being torn between worlds. This awareness is solitary and tends to devastate them. Without the timely doses of love they receive from those they devote themselves to saving, these unlikely characters understand they will not survive long as fish on dry land. This condition, this desperation they must daily face humbles them and makes them deeply relatable. This conflict is truly eternal; whether in real life or in fiction, I never tire of seeing it manifest in the characters I come across. As living the war between unspoken worlds tends to destroy most people, these stories often go untold. Because of their rarity, I’m always a little giddy to find one still breathing. Nothing compares to being in the presence of battle-worn creature who yearns not so much to become a prince, but a simple frog. It breaks the heart, and somehow that’s a nice feeling.

  2. I found it quite fascinating so finished it in one gulp. And thanks kindly for the like of my short story “The Meeting”! Regards.

  3. I love the psychology of this. You never know when someone’s gonna go off…

    • Yeah. I like stories, situations, and psychologies that center on the conflicted. I’m not a lawyer, but my brother still swears that this story is more confessional than fiction. It’s not. But he liked it, and continues to see it as a mirror. The worst I’ve ever personally done along these lines is make up a fake name in the Starbucks line. When the barristas ask for my name, I say with pent-up aggression something perfectly absurd like, Dumbfolio or Pettuti.

  4. I totally bought this guy’s inner voice, which I think is tough to nail when it comes to the tough guy characters. It wasn’t just regurgitated cliches!

    • Thanks, Julia. I worked hard pruning this one. I think I did actually collect a bunch of macho-isms while writing it that I dumped into a prose poem, where I joyously eviscerate them.

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