Monday, August 25, 2014

Just a Cup of Coffee

The dogs in the painting hanging from the north wall of Joseph's apartment looked down on Garret and Joseph. The sun shone through the apartment's front windows as the hands of Joseph's grandfather's old clock struck Ten.

"What's going on today?" asked Garret.

Joseph lay on a beaten up, very comfy leather loveseat. "Let's go to a diner."






"It closed."

"Oh yeah, I forgot. Bummer."

"Huge bummer."

"Hmm. Spring Garden Restaurant?"

"I was just there."


"The coffee shop?"

"No, the diner on York."

"Haven't been yet."

"Let's check it out."

Joseph shook his head. "I don't feel like trying a new place."

"We could bike to South Philly. Oregon, Broad, Melrose, Penrose…."

"Penrose? You crazy? I love it, but dude we're in Fishtown. You realize how far that is?"

Garret threw his hands into the air. "Okay, I give up. Pick one or let's just hang here."

"Let's go to Aramingo."

"Dude, that's the first one I said."

Fifteen minutes later, a white haired waitress stood before them in a shirt a little too tight and a little too low cut. The decade could've been any of the last six – nobody there would know the difference.

"Eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes, white toast, small stack on the side. Coffee, small orange juice, water please."

The waitress seemed to absorb Garret's order. She looked at Joseph.

"Coffee, black."

"That's it?" asked the waitress.

"Yeah, Joe, that's it?" Garret prodded, surprised.

"Yes please."

The waitress traipsed away from their table and checked in on another.

"Whadja wanna come to a diner for if all you want is coffee? We coulda made coffee at your apartment."

"Dunno. I just wanted to get out."

The walls around them listened on as they spoke of nothing important. The world and all of its problems, those of the '50s and the aughts and those of today, were far away and almost unreal. People in booths and at tables around them touched their forks to plates of scrapple and chipped beef and waffles and looked at each other and talked about family and friends and their dreams.

Garret and Joseph finished up and rode back to Joseph's apartment and didn't do much for the rest of the day. They weren't hungover or jaded or depressed, but content to just be. Joseph looked for a while at the painting of dogs on his wall. He'd never noticed a faint smile on the face of a sitting beagle.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Freakish Growth

No logical explanation existed for the unique life of an apple tree beside Righteous Pond. It grew taller and sprawled wider than any tree of any kind before it or since. And it nearly drained and destroyed the pond.

The tree seemed innocent enough at first. It soaked up the sun, drank in the rain through its roots, and grew at a pace consistent with its surroundings. Apples fell to the ground and into the pond and didn't much bother a thing. The tree reached a typical twelve foot height and could have lived out its days at that size.

But this apple tree developed something other plant life lacked. Its branches liked growing. Its roots enjoyed drinking. When its natural growth slowed, the branches reached out still farther. When the roots felt thirsty, they dug themselves deeper. Eventually the roots broke through the bank of Righteous Pond and tapped into more water than the most torrential of rain storms ever brought. With this new access, the tree learned to manage its own growth.

Around the time of the tree's fiftieth birthday, it was already bigger than any apple tree in history, over forty feet tall and equally wide in its wing span. Gradually the branches spread out over the pond. The more it grew, the more its growth rate increased, and the more this escalation in growth rate became essential to its happiness. By the time it turned one hundred years old, it was taller and reached wider than any California redwood, defying nature with its freakish size. Its apples grew in size concordantly with its body, falling like small boulders onto the ground and into the pond.

By year one hundred and fifty, its growth was no longer sustainable. It had nearly drunk the pond dry. Branches hung low, strained by the weight of heavy apples, and began to split and snap off. The tree's trunk leaned over the pond and its roots could no longer support it. It was only a matter of time, it was always a matter of time, and one day the tree collapsed, uprooted, and fell into what was left of Righteous Pond.

In the years thereafter, the pond was lucky enough to slowly refill. Water surrounding the dead tree gradually caused the wood to wither away, erasing any evidence of its existence.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Backyard Portal

It looked like your typical city row home backyard. Three walls and the back of the house. Brick patio laid when the place was built in the late 1800s. The walls were newer cinders with curved, hollow centers that allowed people to see through to the yard next door. The neighbors were hardly ever home.

He and his friend played paddle ball for the first time in the yard's tight space on a spring day. The ball flew over the north wall into the north neighbors' yard. Rather than walk through his own house and knock on their door and walk through their house to get the ball, he climbed over the wall.

When he landed on the other side, the air around him had color, a burning orange. He could hear a constant hum, like that of a large power generator vibrating. He felt it was perhaps ten degrees warmer than it had been on his side of the wall. He tried to look back into his own yard but the curved, hollow centers of the wall's cinders were filled with images of his own face – younger, older, much older.

Above the wall was nothing but that burning orange. He felt himself slipping into a trance, paralyzed with intrigue and fear. It occurred to him to get out of there immediately, and he decided to reverse the path by which he came and climb back over the wall. When he landed on brick and saw his paddle ball partner, he knew he'd returned safely.

"Did you get the ball?" his friend asked.

"Ball?" He remembered. "No."

His friend frowned. "You okay?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"Whether I can trust my senses."