Coffee, hot, heavy cream and honey. I like it blonde and sweet. I breathed in the steam from the opening in the plastic cap, closing my eyes for a moment in grateful devotion. Oh caffeine from which the force of life flows, guide my thoughts into cohesion, give my heart and soul strength to face the day. I took a tentative sip. Styrofoam is pretty much the devil, but it does keep the coffee hot, and you would think I’d had enough time on this earth to learn how not to burn my tongue on that first sip. You’d think that, and you’d be wrong.
Well, that did it. I was awake now, sore, but still alive. I was also very confused. Not a new feeling for me but usually I knew at least where to start looking for answers. Here, someone who I had been tracking down, meaning to confront, basically paused, noticed me, then went on her way. I don’t know if she didn’t think what she had done warranted an explanation. It seemed like she should have expected something. “waste of life””weak” her words echoed like the voices in my own head. In a tone that wasn’t meant to be mocking or cruel her words cut down to the core of self-doubt.
What had even happened? Why was I here? What the hell did I think I could do and what could I hope to get out of the confrontation? I didn’t have answers, so maybe it was time I went over what I did know, again. Sometimes you look through a problem so many times you lose track of where you thought you were. Pieces that seemed important shifted down, details that seemed off at the time filter up. Then they switch places. Hire a detective? Call the police? Sure sure, these things might have made life easier to start with. Given me simple explanations like “crime of opportunity” “tragic accident” “wrong place, wrong time” all those things were true, but there was something there that ate at me, wouldn’t let me go on with my life because, because my life wasn’t there anymore. “We fix things” had burned. Some tools had survived, like my hammer, things well crafted. Things that were so solid they would never need fixed. I think that’s why I brought the hammer with me. It was the one thing in my life that didn’t need fixed. Maybe it could help me.
The deed was in front of me. The shop, the loft above. Pops wanted me to sign, he wanted to transfer ownership and have me take over the shop. What could I say? I couldn’t conceive of a time when that shop wasn’t run by Pops. I thought he would die there, that some day I’d find him leaning over one last fix. A little nothing shop, but it was everything. He said he wanted to go visit the old country, his great-grandfather had brought his grandfather over as a boy, there wasn’t even a hint of accent to his speech, yet he wanted to go back. He’d never traveled outside of Washington, much less to another country. I’m pretty sure this is what insanity feels like. It broke my brain to think of this shift.
“It’s important to me.” He said, “that you stay here, run things.” He was never much of a talker, I feel like he communicated without the need for words. People came. He fixed. I helped. It seemed like a waste of time to discuss the whys of anything. He was going and that was that. “You’ll be fine” He smiled at me. “I’ll send someone around to check on you” I tilted my head at him. “No seriously, You just keep fixing things and it will all work itself out” He had already packed, this was pretty much our 5 minutes on his way to the station.
“Wales though? Really?” I couldn’t think of anything we hadn’t said last time. “I’ve been with you 20 years, and now you get an itch to explore the wild yonder?”
“It’s just like here, rainy, gloomy, and filled with the truly cynical at heart!” He shook his head, amused at his own humor. If nothing else he embraced his own abrasive ways. “It will be alright” He smiled, then quickly turned. Abrupt, the stillness left behind felt so much emptier, quieter. I couldn’t know then it was his last smile I’d see, if not the last words I’d hear.
Oh gawd, so late and now the phone rings? “It isn’t alright” out of breath
“It’s 2am, of course it isn’t alright, I just got to bed!” I am at my grumpiest whenever I wake up not by choice.
“Baby girl, I’m so sorry, you just get up now. Listen to Pops, you get up and get out of the shop”
“What wait, what is going on? Are you kidding me? Oh gods, I didn’t even get to sleep until 12 and you are scaring the crap out of me. You never joke like this, you never.. ”
“Stop. Now. Get up. Get out.”His voice had shifted and sounded like the thunder you hear as lightning strikes.
I sat upright dropping the phone, I looked around swearing I’d see a some kind of boogeyman. Clear room, quiet night. I pick up the phone.
“Stop stalling ditherbrains, Get. Out. Now!”
I grabbed my backpack and bolted. Glad it had been a rare night I’d worn my clothes to bed. Kicked on my shoes by the door and opened it to a blast of wind that pushed me back. Mind you I’m not a slight creature but this blew me back, hard. I blink my eyes and clear my vision. My vision. I’m not sure what I look like, I mean we all know what we look like in a mirror, but we rarely get a full view of our whole body, and yet, there I was standing in front of me with a look I know better than to try to fight. I wear that look when I’m ready to bite heads off, when I deem myself unsuitable for company and bolt my bedroom door for a day to cool off.
“Huh” She glowered at me. “Unexpected, but it makes sense I suppose”
“Uh” I said. “Excuse me, can I help… you?”
—–Things just were, and you either let them be or fixed them. If it needed fixing, we were occupied. If it didn’t need fixing, we left well enough alone and enjoyed the rare break. It was a small town, developed out of what used to be a couple of vacation lodges. The kind of place where rich people went to get away from it all, but still be surrounded by the luxuries of everyone taking care of your laundry, cooking and entertainment. 50,000 people made it just big enough to provide service and still be rural enough for the elite. Our little shop