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Caffein
by Steve Katz


I was fifteen when my father died. He’d been sick for seven years already, was rarely home, usually bed-ridden in some dreary hospital in the Bronx, or upstate at some rest home. That was treatment for a heart condition at the time — stay in bed! Had my father been around, my fate might have been different. Without a father to slap me into the future I felt like upcoming life had been placed on the far side of a high slick wall. I couldn’t bust through it, nor could I scale it, but against its unyielding concrete I constantly slammed the enigmas of my adolescence.
Mr. Jacobs, who was the father of my classmate, Vernon and his little brother, Hubby, was office manager of an import-export company, Amtria (American / Austrian) Trading Company. Because he took pity on me, or maybe sought to take advantage of me, he gave me a job at the Broad Street office on Saturdays and on some late afternoons. It was probably illegal for them to hire a fifteen year old.

I was a gofer, a messenger, the kid to blame when things went wrong, generally an office boy. If coffee spilled, I wiped it up. I opened envelopes. I stuffed envelopes. If a file was missing, I hunted it down. I cleaned windows, tidied the desks. My favorite task was to leave on a postal trip, or to deliver a document, or to buy office supplies, just so I could get out into the population on the streets.

That winter the canyon of Wall and Broad Streets were particularly cold, full of snow and slush, winds that cut like knives. I sloshed around in galoshes, kept the papers dry under my mackinaw, moved invisibly among invisible people breathing ghosts into the air. I walked past the steps of the stock exchange, rested at the foot of skyscrapers. Everyone inside the buildings look competent and busy, in identical suits and ties, women prim and neutral. It was on one of the most frigid, blizzard-like days that I discovered coffee. Returning to the office after a delivery. I let the wind blow me into a Chock full o’ Nuts. That was the major coffee joint in the city, I’d never been in one before. All praise goes to William Black, who founded this chain of black-owned businesses, and to the great Jackie Robinson, who signed on as personnel manager. I straddled and settled down on one of the stools at the counter. It was all blue and yellow in there, and it smelled of coffee and sugar. The waitress, a light brown woman with straightened hair streaked with blonde, asked me what I wanted. I hadn’t thought about it, didn’t even know why I was in there. “Regular coffee?” she asked after I didn’t respond. I heard someone else oder a light coffee, so I said “Light.” “What else?” “A donut,” I said. I was proud to that out. “Whole wheat?” “Yeah.” “Sugared?” I nodded affirmative. The storm mixed it up outside, snow blowing horizontally down the canyons. People skidded on the sidewalks, were whipped akimbo, out of control in the wind, I felt warm, snug in Chock full o’ Nuts. I wanted to return to the office never.

The waitress brought my donut and my first cup of coffee. I checked the other people at the counter, sipping comfortably. The cup was heavy. The cream swirled through the dark liquid. The acrid smell was a tough barrier. I tried to sip, but it was too hot. The waitress, who seemed to know I was a virgin, enjoyed watching me. “Put some sugar in it, sweetheart.” She dumped in some sugar from the dispenser, then heaped my teaspoon, handed it to me and I dropped in more.

It was cool enough now to taste. The sweetness made it familiar and welcome, the bitterness gave it an edge and mystery, the cream and warmth made it feel like the protection from the cutting slants of wind on the street. Perfect! I bit the donut. It was soft and crunchy. I haven’t tasted anything like it since. The world looked great. My first cup of coffee was beyond delicious. The clutter of storm outside flew down the street on wings of jubilation. “Good stuff, huh, sweetheart.” “Thanks,” I said I laid down a tip and stepped out to part the wind. “The snow melted off my face. I headed back to the office, ready for anything.

Near the termination of my career with Amtria Trading Company the office called and asked me to come in on a Sunday. They were moving, and needed me to help with the furniture. I had sprained an ankle shooting hoops in the schoolyard, and didn’t feel ready to do heavy work, not on a Sunday. I told them about my injury, and that I wouldn’t be in for a week. When I did return Vernon’s father greeted me with my pay envelope, which contained a pink slip. “You have outlived your usefulness with us,” he said. The shock backed me into a seat. I was fired. It was the first time I had ever been hired and now I was fired.

I left the office. It was my last day on Broad Street. I headed for The Chock full o’ Nuts. The waitress recognized me and brought a light coffee and a whole wheat donut, and I sat there like a workingman with the workingman’s blues. I was fifteen years old and I had outlived my usefulness. How was it possible? I drank the coffee. This time it made me a little jittery. The donut was good. I was dizzy. Fifteen years old. Oulived my usefulness. I’d read Dylan Thomas. I’d read T. S. Eliot. I’d read Archibald MacLeish. Do not go gentle, must not mean but be, this is the world ends. It was then the first time I ever realized I would have to be a writer. If you are fifteen and have already outlived your usefulness you’d better wise up and become a writer. There was nothing else I could do.

 

IN THIS ISSUE–––

• DAVID S. WARREN
Memoiretorial
• MICHAEL CHAPPELL
Remembering Afghanistan.
• GEORGIA E. WARREN
The Woman Who Wore My Hat
• DAVID S. WARREN
The Third Leg
• FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
Dear Diary, 10,000 B.C.
• DANIEL LOVELL
Stain
• DAVID ROLLOW
Glad To Be Unhappy
• RHIAN ELLIS
Intercom
•STEVE KATZ
Caffein
ANNIE CAMPBELL
Cody
•NANCY VIEIRA COUTO
Lily, Mister Bluebird, and the Beginning and End of My Singing Career
• GABRIEL ORGREASE
Stormy Daniels, Full Disclosure

• DYLAN THOMAS Before I Knocked
• MARY GILLILAND Vertical Before Dawn Strips the East
• FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
Burn the Timeline
• CHRIS MACCORMICK Disremembrances of the Russian Twilight
• PETER FORTUNATO
1984

• MEMORY NUTS
OREN PIERCE Memory Nuts

• COVER
R. Saminora, - Paris

 

 


Before I Knocked
by Dylan Thomas

Before I knocked and flesh let enter,
With liquid hands tapped on the womb,
I who was as shapeless as the water
That shaped the Jordan near my home
Was brother to Mnetha's daughter
And sister to the fathering worm.

I who was deaf to spring and summer,
Who knew not sun nor moon by name,
Felt thud beneath my flesh's armour,
As yet was in a molten form
The leaden stars, the rainy hammer
Swung by my father from his dome.

(the entire poem)
______________________


by Nancy Vieira Couto

"Nancy, I want to ask you something," my cousin Lily said. By the look on her face, I could tell it was important. "How would you like to be a flower girl at my wedding?" she continued. I didn't know what a flower girl was. I had heard people talking about sweater girls, and I sort of knew what they looked like, but I didn't think I could look like that. I was only four years old. "You would wear a pretty gown," Lily said, as if she were reading my mind, "and you would carry a bouquet of flowers." I was still worried about the sweater, but I liked Lily. So I said OK.
(go to story)
______________________

 

________________________

Caffein

by Steve Katz

I was fifteen when my father died. He’d been sick for seven years already, was rarely home, usually bed-ridden in some dreary hospital in the Bronx, or upstate at some rest home. That was treatment for a heart condition at the time — stay in bed! Had my father been around, my fate might have been different. Without a father to slap me into the future I felt like upcoming life had been placed on the far side of a high slick wall. I couldn’t bust through it, nor could I scale it, but against its unyielding concrete I constantly slammed the enigmas of my adolescence.
(go to story)
_____________________



by David Rollow

The writer sulked. She wasn’t wrong. In the flush of inspiration he’d typed up a report of her most recent visit, while still at the office (he had a day job to support himself), and he had unthinkingly left by the typewriter a second sheet for all to see. He didn’t use a carbon, so to anyone not overwhelmed by curiosity it would have seemed to be only a blank sheet of rough yellow paper. (go to story)
______________________



CODY
by Annie Campbell


I had gained only five pounds during my pregnancy, but walking in that oven-like heat made me feel like I had gained two hundred. My toes were so hot and swollen they looked like red potatoes and felt like they might explode. I could hardly wait for the heat wave to be over and my mysterious baby top reveal itself.
(go to story)

_____________________



The scandal does not seem to be with
Stormy, but one
that is generated
by a host of people
that think there
should be a
scandal.

Review by Gabreal Orgrease
(go to review)
_______________________

POETRY

DYLAN THOMAS
Before I Knocked (go to)

MARY GILLILAND
Vertical Before Dawn
Strips the East (go to)

FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
Burn the Timeline (go to)

CHRIS MACCORMICK Disremembrances of the
Russian Twilight (go to)

PETER FORTUNATO
1984 (go to)

___________________

by Daniel Lovell


I’d already been in bed four hours before I found out what the mattress pad was for. You don’t ask too many questions about hospital beds, in general, and I didn’t ask any about this one. They let me have a laptop, and the hospital has free wifi. My assumption is those things are supposed to make up for the horror I’m sitting on right now, just barely covered by the ratty mattress pad. (go to story)

(You may view the complete print version here)
(Click to Purchase as a print magazine
_______________________

 



The focus of our next Metaphysical Times will be
"Weird Tales" (see full size)

© 2018 The Metaphysical Times Publishing Company - PO Box 44 Aurora, NY 13026 • All rights reserved. For any article re-publication, contact authors directly.

 

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