Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

Epicenter (Short Story Excerpt)

January 19, 2016

author-1

September 1st, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
7:09 a.m.
On his way to the bus stop, Martin Jericho decided to have breakfast at The Stark City Cafe. The tired old man knew he’d been under constant surveillance since the last incident—which resulted in several broken windows—but refused to live his life like a hunted animal. Besides, it had been almost two years.
Just a quick bite before I go home, damnit. In public. Like a normal person.
Of course, the P.O.P. team in the van across the street wouldn’t be too thrilled, but Martin didn’t care. They could always deduct the cost of his meal from his next isolation check.
“Miss?” Martin asked for the third time, prompting the teenage hostess to raise her finger like a disapproving schoolmarm.
“We’re full right now. It’ll be at least a ten minute wait.”
Would it be asking too much for you to look up from your phone tablet or whatever it is while we talk?
“Alright.”
“Name and number of people in your party?”
“Jericho. Party of one.”
“Jericho, okay. You can wait over by the door.”
“Thank you.”
Sighing, Martin turned and walked to the waiting area. Two wooden benches faced the restaurant, both already taken by customers. Martin smiled. No one smiled back as Martin leant against the wall. Feeling self conscious, he reached into the front pocket of his gray parka and extracted a small book of classical poetry. Soothing, comforting; just what he needed.
Good old Longfellow…
All in all, Martin had a pretty good life. Not a life he’d ever envisioned for himself, but a decent one, nonetheless. He worked for the government as a nightwatchman downtown. He had his own office in an empty building surrounded by a chain-link, barbwire-topped fence. The place didn’t need a guard, which made it ideal for Martin. He didn’t even have to patrol the floors, though he often did for the exercise. From eleven at night to seven in the morning, Monday through Friday, Martin sat in his cozy office, reading or watching T.V. The P.O.P. paid him well for this and gave him premium insurance. At first, they’d insisted on giving Martin an armed escort to and from work each night. But after eighteen disaster-free months, Martin had begged for the autonomy to ride the bus like a grown, free man. Wanting to keep Martin content, the P.O.P. acquiesced. He’d earned it, they felt, and Martin agreed.
“Jericho, party of one. Table’s ready.”
Martin looked up, smiled, and walked toward the hostess.
“Hey, wait a minute!” a young woman called. “We’ve been waiting longer than that guy!”
Finger raised, the hostess looked past Martin. “Sorry, but this guy’s by himself. You have three people in your party, and a two-seater just opened up.”
“Well, give us the table and grab another chair from somewhere! It’s not rocket science!”
The hostess gave Martin a weary look. Embarrassed, Martin looked down.
“Just hold on. I’m sure a three-seater will be ready soon.”
The angry young woman snickered. “This is bullshit!”
“You don’t like it,” the hostess replied, “go to McDonald’s.” Then, to Martin, “Come on.”
“Thank you, miss,” Martin muttered, following the hostess through a maze of tables. Behind him, the young woman cussed and argued with her friends about whether or not to leave. But Martin hadn’t meant to cause any trouble, and wished the hostess would’ve given them the table instead.
Too late now, I guess.
Before this decent yet isolated life, Martin had lived an ideal one. He’d met and married his high school sweetheart, Alma Rankin, in Eugene, then moved to Stark City after Alma got hired as a librarian for the Stark County School District. Martin also worked for the school district as a bus driver. He and Alma loved children, and had two of their own. Dennis and Dianna, who both married in their twenties and blessed them with grandchildren. They’d lived in a beautiful brick house in the Dibert District, the children and grandchildren visited often, and their golden years had indeed seemed golden. Then Alma got sick, and the luster began to fade.
“Here ya go,” the hostess said, gesturing at a table in the middle of the restaurant.
“Thank you.”
The hostess didn’t reply as she plopped a menu down and walked away. Sighing, Martin peeled off his parka, draped it over the chair, and sat facing the entrance. Waiters and waitresses bustled around him. To his left sat a married couple; she heavyset and fussing with their three children, he sullen and cowed. One of the kids had smeared grape jelly all over her face, one had begun banging a fork on the table, and the third screamed for no apparent reason. Resisting the urge to smile at the parents, Martin looked away. He knew how they felt, but they didn’t seem too agreeable at the moment. To his right sat a couple in their thirties; both slender, well dressed, and somehow detached from their surroundings. The din of rattling silverware, idle banter, and smacking lips filled the cafe.
“Good morning. What’ll it be?”
Martin looked up to see a thin young man standing beside him. Flushed. Out of sorts. Pen and notebook in hand. Picking up the menu, Martin smiled.
“Hello. How are you this morning?”
“Busy.”
Martin’s smile faded. “Oh. I see. Well, I’ll start with coffee, please.”
“And for breakfast?”
“I just sat down, sir. I’ll need a minute.”
“Right.” Rolling his eyes, the waiter left.
Guess I’ll just order the special, whatever it is.
Feeling somewhat guilty, Martin set his menu aside and moved his cup to the edge of the table. Trying to make this harried young waiter’s life a little easier, whether he appreciated it or not. Ahead of Martin sat two large bearded men wearing dirty overalls. They looked like farmhands; mean and hungry in the soft light. Martin looked down, reached into his coat pocket.
“Okay, coffee…”
Martin smiled as the waiter began to pour. “Thank you, sir. I’ll have the breakfast special.”
“Sure.” The waiter didn’t make eye contact as he walked away.
Martin frowned at the table. This was a mistake, he decided, pulling a small, framed photo from the pocket. I should’ve just went home and made my own damn breakfast. Or sent the P.O.P guys to get me something. It’s not like they’d ever say no…
Martin stood the photo against the condiment rack. In it, Alma smiled, frozen in time at age thirty-one. Her hair hung in dark blonde curls, her blue eyes sparkled with delight. Remembering, Martin’s frown became a grin. Whenever he felt stressed or anxious, Martin either read poetry or gazed at Alma. It always helped, just as his doctors had assured him.
Good old Alma. Always there for me...
Gazing at his late wife, Martin warmed his hands around the steaming cup.
The world is so cold nowadays, Alma. People are too damn busy with their gizmos to just sit and talk anymore. And they can be so rude. It’s like they’ve forgotten how to be decent to each other...


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please subscribe, like, and share.

A revised version of “Epicenter” was featured in Empty Sink Publishing, Issue #18.

Read it here: http://emptysinkpublishing.com/fiction/epicenter/


“Epicenter” was reprinted by The Rye Whiskey Review @ http://ryethewhiskeyreview.blogspot.com/2018/06/epicenter-by-jesse-lynn-rucilez.html


Thank you for reading!

JLR

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Driftwood (Short Story)

March 13, 2015

March 4th, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
7:33 a.m.

Last night, Lareyn fell asleep with her hand on my back. Lareyn, of course, is my wife. My beautiful, elegant, gracious wife. I say this as if I’m just now finding out how beautiful, elegant, and gracious she is; as if I’d somehow forgotten and have only begun to remember. Well, rest assured, I have always known. Since the first time I looked into the bewitching pools of her eyes, since I first heard her sultry voice, I have known. But I must now confess to at times being a rather dense man, easily distracted, which causes this knowledge to lose its way. Like lonesome driftwood upon a frothing sea. Simply put–and much to my discredit–my appreciation often wanes for my dear, tender wife. I can, at least, honestly say that I’ve never neglected Lareyn, nor have I ever treated her badly. It’s just that I don’t always express my admiration for her as much as she deserves.

In this respect, I suppose, I’m a typical husband.

But last night…that hand. Her hand. My wife’s warm, gentle, reassuring hand upon my back. The simplest of gestures, which nonetheless brought my regard for Lareyn back to the fore–not just of my brain, but of my very being. Do you know that mental contraction you feel when something or someone you see and experience every day suddenly seems brand new? Like a picture with a new frame, an orchestra with a new conductor? Well, that’s what I felt last night. That’s what I feel right now. That’s what compels me to write these words.

Once again, my view of Lareyn has sharpened, narrowed, and I feel the same way I did the night we first met. Only now my appreciation is tinged with nostalgia; a deep layer of warmth and intimacy which spans two decades.

What can I say?

The driftwood has returned to shore, and I love my wife.

I love Lareyn as she lays on our sofa in the den of our home, still asleep, curled up on her side. Her dark hair tangled around her soft cheeks. A slight smile on her lips as if she’s in the midst of some contented dream. Sunlight streams from the window above our sofa, giving her olive skin an angelic glow. During the night, Lareyn must’ve gotten up and slipped off the thin black skirt which now lies on the carpet. One bare leg has slid from beneath the blanket, revealing her shapely and manicured foot. If only she could see herself lying there through my eyes. Then, Lareyn would understand the true meaning of beauty.

Ah, if only…

Our get together last night was nothing special. Just a few friends who’d come over for dinner, drinks, and relaxation. Lareyn had wanted to cook, but I insisted on ordering takeout. Had a craving for Indian cuisine, and felt Lareyn deserved a night off. Our friends arrived in due time, and I opened a bottle of Pinot Noir to go with the curried feast. One of our guests brought homemade cheesecake, which topped everything off nicely.

After dessert, Lareyn and I cleared the coffee table and set up the Monopoly board. The game lasted well into the night, with Lareyn going bankrupt second. She didn’t seem to mind, though, and curled up beside me as I continued to roll the dice and renovate property. Around ten o’clock, two of our friends left, leaving a merry band of five. Shortly thereafter, Lareyn leant back, closed her bewitching eyes, and drifted off. Her hand, which she’d slipped under my shirt to massage my lower back, became still…but didn’t fall away. As if some part of her, though fast asleep, still craved to be in contact with her husband. Of course, I was in the midst of a financial battle with three of our friends, and couldn’t let on how touched I felt at that moment; how I relished the warmth of her soft, unmoving hand. It was with a heavy heart that I rose an hour later to hug two more friends goodbye, then sat back down to finish the game. It had come down to me and a bright young man named Mark, whom I work with.

The spot on my back where Lareyn’s hand had been tingled and felt naked, and I craved its return. But I soldiered through the rest of the game with the proverbial stiff upper lip.

Well, Mark finally won when I had the misfortune of landing on three of his highest priced properties in a row. But he was gracious in victory, and left quietly so as not to disturb Lareyn. For that, I was grateful, and returned from seeing Mark outside with a growing sense of desire for the beautiful creature lying before me. For a moment, I pondered waking Lareyn to make love, but decided against it. That would’ve been selfish. So I just sat there for a long while, admiring her in the bright moonlight. She lay so still, so calm, so comfortable. Her earrings sparkled. Her lips glistened.

Finally, I began to nod off myself.

Now, a decision had to be made. Though I longed for the warmth and solace of our bed, I also longed for the warmth and solace of my wife. To have the best of both worlds, I would’ve had to rouse Lareyn, thereby ruining her tranquility. That, I could not do. So I slipped upstairs, peeled our comforter from our bed, and returned to the den. Lareyn hadn’t moved, and looked more gorgeous than I could ever remember.

Outside, it was cold. Inside, it was perfect. I stripped to my boxers, left my socks on, and draped the comforter over us. I confess that the couch barely contained us, but I held Lareyn close to prevent her from slipping off. Her soft flesh melted in my arms. Our breathing fell into a steady rhythm, and her scent–not her perfume, mind you, but the smell that is specifically Lareyn–left me more intoxicated that the wine ever could.

And that’s how I fell asleep last night. With my wife, Lareyn, in my loving embrace. A satisfied grin on my face. Tears pricking my eyes from the memory of her hand upon my back. I did not dream, and it was the best sleep I’ve had in years.

When I woke, Lareyn was still in my arms; exactly where I wanted her. Reluctantly, I rose and stretched in the morning light. A slight chill pervaded our home, but it felt refreshing. I don’t work today, so I took my time brewing a pot of coffee and making ready everything I’ll need to cook. When Lareyn wakes, I’ll surprise her with a long kiss, a steaming cup, and the declaration that breakfast will be served shortly. If all goes to plan, we’ll spend most of our day on the sofa, laughing, loving, and dozing.

A perfect day.

But for now…

For now, I’m content to sit here. Just sit and write and gaze upon Lareyn. My beautiful, elegant, gracious wife. Lareyn, who is also my life. My love. My heartbeat. I’ll sit and watch over her until she awakens. ’Til then, there’s no place I’d rather be.

What can I say?

The driftwood has returned to shore, and I love my wife.

–March 12th, 2015


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Thank you for reading!

JLR


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