Some of you may know that for a while, I’ve been working on a novel. Recently, I haven’t been working on it much, but I want to. So I’m going to post the first page or two here. Please read it and let me know what you think in the comments. My writer friend Sarah teases me about it being “chick lit” which I suppose is true if any novel with a female lead can be considered chick lit. So feel free to tease me in the comments, too. 🙂 Comments are love.
Random Acts of Coffee
As I was getting ready for work, I knocked the fishbowl over. The water cascaded across the kitchen counter and down onto the floor, and my beta went with the flow. After I cleaned everything up and thought about it, I was surprised at my reaction, or lack thereof. My mind was on the things I had to do instead of the things I was doing, but I would have expected myself to give a little scream and rush over. Instead, I just stood there for a moment and watched it all happen. The weird thing was, you usually think of fish flopping around, unable to breathe. The beta just sat there, looking kind of bored, with his fins swept back. I just picked him up gingerly in my hands, put him back in his bowl, and filled it with a half-drunk bottle of Ethos I had in my fridge. Crisis averted.
With plenty of time to spare before work, I left the house and headed out to the pier, and there, leaning against the rough hewn rails, looking out toward everywhere and holding the last letter from my last lover, I sipped my venti non-fat cinnamon latte and, as nonchalantly as possible, let the letter slip from my fingers. My eyes followed it as it fluttered down, but it was gone as soon as it hit the turbulence of the salty waves around the pylons of the pier. There was a feeling not unlike closure. The only accompanying thought that came to me at that moment wasn’t about him, or what happened. The only thought was to call myself “litterbug,” though I knew that, even as I silently spoke the word, the ink was bleeding and the paper was breaking down.
In the spring, we didn’t have enough rain in Florida, and everything was brittle and dry, even though we’re on the ocean and the water table is so close to the surface, you can pretty much tap into it with a soda straw. With the drought conditions, there came a series of fires, burning forests and houses and closing down roads. A few of them were started by an arsonist who was throwing Molotov cocktails made from rags stuffed down the necks of bottles of bourbon, filled to the brim with gasoline. But one of the fires, probably the first fire, started when a girl burned a love letter in hiding. The flame leapt from letter to leaves, and was out of control before she was able to do anything. They didn’t press charges against her, and I was happy to hear that. You shouldn’t be punished for feeling passionate.
I didn’t have that kind of passion, so my letter was down there in the deep, slowly dissolving instead of flaming out. I didn’t even have to go out of my way to destroy it. Routine brought me to the pier every time I worked a closing shift. I love the smell of the salt blowing in from the ocean, and the way it mingles with the sweet comfort of my coffee.
I watched a cruise ship disappear into twilight shadows as the sun set at my back, and thought about those passengers on board, where they came from and where they were bound. I’d never been on a cruise, and wasn’t sure I would enjoy it, confined to the ship in tiny cabins, on the way to exotic tourist traps. But my thoughts, already mildly melancholic turned to envy as I thought how luxurious it must be to be pampered by the staff, also trapped on board with nothing to do but serve guests twelve hours a day. I was envious of just being on vacation at all.
A chilling autumn breeze blew across my bare arms, bringing gooseflesh and a violent shiver, breaking me free from my thoughts before they became too wistful. I took a long, warming pull of coffee through the small travel lid hole and enjoyed my own personal piece of luxury – good coffee, the beach, and the orange glow of the sunset. Magic hour, I thought, the time when everything was lit as if from within. Tipping back the paper cup, I closed my eyes, taking in the last drops of the complex flavors of bitter, sweet, and spice as it spread across my tongue, the taste of a sunset in the fall.
I slowly opened my eyes and braced myself against the rails and took one last long inhale of salt air before turning back toward land, then tossed my empty cup at the mesh metal trashcan to my left. It bounced of the rim and fell like a brick onto the boardwalk and began to roll away. I was able to grab it with an awkward lunge before it could blow into the ocean below. As I gently set the empty cup deep in the bin, I heard one of the fishermen.
Smiling, I made eye contact, recognizing him as one of the regulars who cast their line into the waves below. I didn’t know his name, but could recognize him from the dirty white Dixie cup-style Navy hat he always wore cocked jauntily on his head. I shrugged a what-can-I-do look at him with a crooked half-smile.
“You do me a favor, Shaquille?” the weatherworn man asked in his weatherworn voice.
“What’s that?” I asked, still smiling, curious.
“You have a great night.”
I could feel my smile blossom along with the color on my cheek, and laughed. “You do the same, sailor.”
The man chuckled back at me, eyes sparkling and mischievous, tickled by my reaction. He tipped his hat as I walked past him before turning back to his fishing. I walked past and smiled to myself at the brief exchange.