Author’s note: I wanted to test out a few version-control ideas using cloud drives and different hardware platforms, so I started writing this story and saved it in different places as I went. That’s why it has the title it has. I could probably come up with a better one– or even rewrite it into something more legitimitely a story, but quality control’s really not my style, is it. Enjoy.
Fiction by Jason Edwards
A man dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt, a really tasteful pattern actually, cargo shorts, but well pressed, nice socks, appropriate sandals. Deputy’s badge on his chest, mirrored shades, and of course, a gun belt. Not a joke. Not Hawaii 5-0. But not an actual policeman, Just a deranged motherfucker, trying to look different. And if it weren’t for the gun, nobody in Starbuck’s would have given a damn. A bunch of hipsters, unimpressed. But despite their best efforts they had medullas, and those medullas saw the gun, and got nervous on their behalf. And when a person gets scared against their will, that leads to anger, and anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side. Yoda said that, the little green bitch.
Man orders a latte. Some of the hipsters get it. That he’s trying to be different, that he’s trying to look cool and laid-back at the same time, with the shirt and the shorts and the November outside. The badge and the gun. The socks and the goddamned sandals. And the ones who get it, they’re all like, why order a latte? If you want to be different, drood, order a complicated drink, and halfway through the order, say something that shows you know what you’re doing and the you’re refined and you’re not just saying it for the benefit of the other wool-cap and scarf wearing assholes in there.
Something like “Hi, yeah, um, I’m going to need a grande half-calf mocha, um, is your milk sourced locally or does it come from anywhere in Idaho? The recent Republican deregulation of phato-phosphates in grain for dairy cows in Idaho means their milk has more macrotannin granules and I have an allergy. No? Okay, good. Two percent. No lid. I want to add a little cinnamon, which they used for currency in ancient Mayan cultures, you know. Kind of a coincidence, right? Since it’s a mocha?”
But a latte, that’s so weird. What the fuck. Does this guy actually like lattes?
And the ones who don’t get it, who are sort of taking this guy seriously, the latte, well, it just confirms their suspicions. That he’s a civilian, and he’s odd, and they are in real actual honest not-to-be-flippantly-disregarded-via-a-social-post-on-Tumblr danger. Some of them are blogging madly about it, in horribly put-upon ethnic accents. “Muh-fu just rolled into my ‘Bucks sportin; sox n sand anna ninner on his twerk-fulcrum? Ah nah he di’in!”
Oh, yes. He did.
Some of them are tweeting, the ones who get regular phone calls from 2010 asking for their technology back, and they tweet: “A man dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt, a really tasteful pattern actually, cargo shorts, but well pressed, nice socks, appropriate sandals.” 140 character exactly, so no mention of the gun. But a feeling of pride, maxing out at 140.
The gun! Is it real? Yes it’s real. Even though most of them have never seen a gun, except on The Wire, it is for sure real. Even though it can’t be real. There’s no way a sane person would walk around with a gun. So it’s not real. Please. As if. You totally thought it was real? Noob. Even though this guy’s definitely not sane. So it is real. See how he cleverly got around the concealed weapon laws by not concealing it? Like when that one hipster wore green lantern underwear for, like, a month? And never told anyone? And never told anyone he never told anyone? Jesus.
The man gets his coffee (latte!) and sits down at a table and sort of sits back from the table so he can sort of spread his legs wide and he’s got a huge grin on his face. Is there a difference between a grin and a smile? Do grins have teeth? This smile has teeth. Big ass smile. The buzz in the Starbucks is muted but not absent. Fella whispering into his iPhone, another listening to Gotan Project on his iPhone and the sound bleeding out of his Beats, another tapping madly away at his keyboard, the overhead muzak, the sound of coffee machines steaming and spurting and gurgling, the drive-through window, people slurping.
And then the man says, in a clear voice “If wasabi and horseradish had a fight, doesn’t matter who wins ‘cause I’d eat both!”
You can taste the exclamation point at the end of his sentence. Silence falls on the Starbuck’s as everyone freezes instantly. Even the coffee machines evolve pan-dimension sentience, shut up, and stare.
In the back, by the restrooms, a girl’s voice almost whispers “Oh my god.” Probably a Pinterest user.
The other hipsters are aghast. They’re thinking, oh my god, is this guy Asian? He sort of looks Asian. His hair is jet black and the way he’s smiling, his eyes are almost slits. Oh my god, are we racist for thinking He’s Asian? We love wasabi! We almost literally cried when they stopped serving wasabi mashed potatoes at Blue C Sushi! Does he even know how to use that gun?
The clever ones know that a man who doesn’t know how to use a gun is probably more dangerous than one who does. Which would make a great title for this story, except it’s too long. Accept it’s too long!
The sounds of indifference to insanity slowly leak back into their shared existences. A few screenplays are written, a few articles for Utne Reader. The rasp of Tibetan wool on shaved scalp, the perkly-burble-gurk of water through beans from somewhere in Africa. The muzak raising money for breast cancer. And the man just sits there, not a statue because he’s breathing, but otherwise still, doesn’t even touch his latte, the merlot of coffees.
But then the man does it again. “Andy Warhol? Andy Peace Hall, if you catch my meaning.”
Again, utter silence. A conspiracy of red lights for a few blocks around as even cars stop driving. Hipsters going out of their neckbeards. Is this guy for real? Is this what they’ve become, are they seeing the future, is this how they’re supposed to evolve, shed the skins of irony and shallow participation in disparate culture juxtaposition and slowly don the mantle of weird via random, random via weird?
One of them takes a chance. He’s brave because he secretly likes craft beers, jeans bought at Macy’s, and books by conventional prize winners. “You tell ‘em, cowboy.”
It’s meant to be funny. Instead, the man’s head swivels, smile never wavering, and makes eye contact. The one who made the remark instantly develops cancer of the soul, dies, withers, and looks down in shame at his Windows phone. A new game of Wordament starts, so he plays it, but without heart. The man’s head and smile swivel back.
And now it’s sounds of people gathering their things, quietly. Google docs saved, Chromebooks powered down and stuffed inside canvas bags. Brought-from-home packets of Stevia-In-The-Raw sealed inside Ziplocs and put back in hand-woven purses. iPads, thrift-store copies of Moby Dick, fingerless gloves, billfolds on chains. Even the baristas are stacking up cups the way they stack up cups so the morning shift will find them like that and like them for it.
One by one they leave. They space themselves out. They’re so not obvious about it they’re obvious about it. One of them gets his army jacket caught in the door for a second, and he’s thinking It’s not a real gun, It’s not a real gun, It’s not a real gun, and then he gets his jacket free and he’s walking quickly, thinking oh my god yes it is a real gun yes it is yes it is.
Eventually, the man is alone. His blue Hawaiian shirt, with the really tasteful pattern actually, well pressed cargo shorts, nice socks, appropriate sandals. Just him and his smile and his cold latte. And his badge and his gun. Speaking of, he whips it out, takes it apart, used the legos to make a bird. A raven or some shit like that.
He stands up, takes a deep breath, and heads for the door. There are 424 Starbuck’s in Seattle. Only 423 left to go.