Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights


by Larry Maxcy

Once I got to town I drove down to check out the old coffee shop. Progress has happened. What was called Willy's is now a vacant lot. There were a couple of cars parked there, but it wasn't a parking lotójust a vacant lot.

As I sat in the car across the street, I wondered when Willy's had been torn down. Probably the result of changing habits. The neighborhood still looked pretty much the same, slightly seedy, but it was always slightly seedy. People were busier now, didn't have time to go down to a coffee shop for an hour, drink some coffee, talk to whoever was there.

You and I spent a lot of time there, a long time ago. Break time, after work time, before work time. Remember how Willy kept an eye on you, making sure were able to handle yourself? I can still hear him, in his Austrian accent, warning you about one guy or another, trying to tell you those young guys just couldn't be trusted. You'd smile at Willy, thank him, wink at me, telling me I didn't have to worry about those other guys.

There was that low counter with even lower stools, but we always liked the small table at the back. Formica, sort of a dull white, with a chrome rim. Chairs were green leatherette and chrome, very modern. The table was by a window, and in a trick of memory, it seems it was always raining outside that window, the black pavement shiny.

One day your hand was resting on the table, and the nail on your ring finger had a little notch in it. I remember thinking what my ring would look like on that hand. I had years to find out.

You rarely ate anything at Willy's. Just coffee, cup after cup of black coffee. I had an odd habit, looking back. I'd get a little bag of peanuts at the drug store, and eat them along with a cup of chicken noodle soup. Peanuts and soup, black coffee. All that salt, all that caffeine. But we were young, and it didn't matter. Nothing mattered, except you and me together, always to be together.

A man walked down the street, and got into a car in the vacant lot. He looked across at me, kind of shrugged, started his car, and pulled away. A simple act, but it reminded me what we had done, We pulled away too, first across town, then across the country. Willy's faded as our life took on new places, new people, new vistas. Funny how now I decided I had to come back, see Willy's, park across the street, find a vacant lot. How many years has it been?

It's not so much the lengthening number of years but the shortening distance. Why are those distant years now becoming so vivid? Why are those memories coming back so strongly? And another thought as I gaze across the street, and see what used to be. How many heartbeats were there together? How many heartbeats alone?

Larry Maxcy lives in the California desert, beyond the Inland Empire..

Sixth Flash

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