(MAJOR irreverence ahead. No, seriously. Ok, don’t say you weren’t warned…)
He sat at the tiny round table next to the window, dark suit absorbing most of the light around him while the white shirt seemed to glow. Long, slender fingers caressed a red tie made of the finest silk, and his unlined brow furrowed at a smudge of dirt on the toe of his right shoe. With a twitch of an eye, the dirt disappeared and a tiny smile played at the corner of his mouth as he imagined the offending blotch screaming in eternal pain.
“Oh, please, must you do that?” Another man came over, put two drinks on the table and sat down. Unlike his well-dressed companion, he wore a wrinkled Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Well-worn flip-flops adorned his feet. “It’s dirt. It has no feelings and therefore doesn’t give a shit if you cast it into your lake o’ fire.”
“Sure, spoil my fun.”
“Here’s your strawberry banana soda with extra cream, extra whip. I had them put a cherry on top for you.”
“I hate those cherries. They taste like…hell.”
“You certainly would know.”
The two men were silent for a few moments, each savoring the first few sips of his drink.
“Nice of you to dress up, Joe.”
“What? I’m on vacation, and stop calling me ‘Joe’.”
“Fine. How’s ‘Al’ grab you?”
“Sure. Short for Almighty—”
“Joe is fine,” he said, holding up a hand to stop his companion from saying anything more. “What name are you using today? ‘Dev’?”
“Don’t be such an asshole. Call me Nick, everyone else does.”
“I suppose that beats ‘Stan’ or Santa.”
“Fucking dyslexics.” Nick sniffed and wrinkled his nose. “What is that smell?” he asked, checking the bottom of his shoes and under the table.
“Could you please be a little more specific? Is it fear? Incense? Car exhaust?”
“I’d say a mix of burnt toast, charcoal, and…” Nick sniffed again, “motor oil. Old motor oil.”
“Oh, that’s my espresso. Want a sip?” Joe grinned.
Nick rolled his eyes and shook his head. Light glinted off the bleached blond spiked hair and Joe raised an eyebrow.
“That’s an interesting look for you,” he said, running a hand through his own unruly salt and pepper mop.
“I wanted something different.”
“Rumor has it you had gone red for a while.”
“Yeah…” Nick sighed and stared for a moment out the window. Nothing was moving. Time had been stopped.
“She’ll be back, you know.”
“Shut the—how did you—whatever.” Nick stammered. With a heated glare at Joe, he took a long pull from the straw in his drink.
“Are you kidding me?” Joe asked, brushing the scorch marks off his shirt, “your domestic rows are legendary and the walls between us aren’t that thick.” He wrinkled his nose. “We really should do something about that, you know. There are just some things I DON’T want to hear.”
A faint smile grew into a grin on Nick’s face and he began to laugh. He laughed until tears ran and Joe handed over a crumpled blue bandana. “Here.”
Nick took one look at the well-used fabric and laughed even harder. He gave it a quick shake and a cloud of dried sweat, dirt, and Joe-knew-what-else, filled the air. With a wave, it was quickly consumed by a small, but highly effective, fireball. Once the handkerchief was deemed clean enough, Nick used it to carefully dab at his eyes and nose, then handed it back. Joe took it and shrugged at the acid burns in the cloth before tucking it away.
They sat in silence for a few moments before Nick finally spoke. “So, which one of my darling little tattle-tales spilled the beans about her departure?”
Joe rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Not yours, mine.”
“Got yourself some Nosy Parkers, eh?”
“They’re a little crankier than usual.”
“Must be molting season again,” Nick said, and patted Joe’s hand.
Joe groaned and put his head down on the cool table top. “I hate molting season. They’re itchy, bitchy, and oh, the feathers. They’re EVERYWHERE!” He raised his head and Nick noticed the shadows under Joe’s eyes. “Do you know, this is the first beverage I’ve had in, I don’t know how long, that hasn’t had a feather floating in it?”
“I suppose this would be a bad time to mention that you have one in your hair,” Nick said, pointing.
“Oh…shit…” Joe reached up and plucked the feather. They both watched it float to the floor.
“So, how’s the boy?”
“Huh?” Joe asked, “Oh, he’s fine. Gone camping with some shepherds at the Dead Sea, and yes, we checked them all for aged papyrus and ink,” he said before Nick could even ask.
“What about his blanket? I don’t think the Turin folks could handle another one.”
“We’ve already got a crew ready to go in and clean the place the moment they leave. Believe me when I say, we’ve all learned an important lesson after that last little debacle.”
“I’m hungry,” Nick said suddenly, breaking the pall that threatened to settle over the two of them. “Lunch is on me. What sounds good to you?”
Joe brightened and Nick averted his eyes. “Sorry,” Joe said, kicking the glory down a few notches. “Food sounds great. How about some Thai, or Szechuan, something with some kick to it?” He leaned close, even though no one else in the coffee shop could hear him, “Are you aware that angels cannot cook?”
Nick shook his head slowly, his eyes wide, “Seriously? I had no idea. Where did that term, ‘cooks like an angel’ came from, do you suppose?”
“I have a feeling you might have had something to do with that, you bastard.”
“Actually,” Nick frowned and pursed his lips, deep in thought. “Well, now that you mention it, maybe I did, but honestly, I had no idea it wasn’t true.”
“Angel food cake. They can make angel food cake. They can top it with berries or chocolate. And whipped cream. Once, when I asked for a chorizo omelet, it threw every last one of them into a wing-flapping frenzy that it extended hurricane season by two weeks.”
“Is THAT what happened,” Nick said, “I wondered about that. Remember that deep freeze on the east coast?”
“Uh-huh, and wow, I can’t quite thank you enough for that.” Joe rolled his eyes. “I was backlogged in weather requests for months. Kids thanking me, and asking for more because they wanted the schools to stay closed, everyone else bitching ME out for the inconvenience and demanding that I get it fixed.”
“Hey, all I wanted was a dish of ice cream. Vanilla. Every meal I get has more piquin peppers than whatever food they’re serving. It’s all so damn hot, there’s no flavor. And let me tell you, those things burn all the way through.”
“I hear you.”