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Dissolve of the Rubber Scream
Jerry Gordon
On the table top, in thin pencil, in a straight forward script:  “It isn’t love we miss; it’s memory.”
    Craig spilled a small oblong of his coffee near the quote and contemplated wiping it out.
It wouldn’t last long after he left anyway, he thought. Probably the waitress would wipe the table clean and the line would vanish. But, then, it had survived upto him. From when? Who knows? Maybe they don’t wipe the tables down, expecting us to self-service them, like everything else.
    He let the oblong wait.
    He put a cube of brown sugar in the mirror of his spoon and let the coffee soak it slowly from below, climbing up the square of it. Each time he did this, he found himself thinking about the cloth-wrapped black Kabba in Mecca. Millions of muslims circling it counter-clockwise. For no reason, that he knew of. The cube going soft and collapsing to mush. He stirred in the sweetness.
    He enjoyed coffee mostly because of the ritual of slowness that it allowed him to perform. He'd considered taking up smoking because he thought there’d be potentials for publically accepted acts of stillness in it too. But, with all the hatred and glaring looks people are perfecting towards smokers nowadays, why get into it? Besides, smoking’s expensive and even smoker seem to be becoming guiltily self-conscious, like they're suspecting themselves of being psychopathes poisoning trick-or-treaters against their own will. He wondered if drivers would one day feel the same shame for bringing the imminence of death into public consciousness.
    He stirred more, the sound of the submerged spoon ringing against the cup.
    A woman with a dog passed, her bag of crap in hand. Nails going chik chik chik chik on walk-polished concrete. The even and light padding trot.
    He wondered if the woman remembered the feeling she must have been capable of probably 25 years ago, as a girl, when she would have shivered near to vomitting at just the thought of walking each evening with a bag of dog shit she’d collect behind her spry springer spaniel.
    The dog didn’t mark poles on the street. Perhaps that had been bred out of its breed.
    He took a first sip and looked again at the oblong next to the line.
    He took out a book he didn’t plan to read. Just something to put on the table in relation to the coffee cup, saucer, oblong and line. Arranging things into meditative stillnesses.
    Then, he remembered. He pushed a button on his phone, waited and spoke:
    “Hey, dickweed, check the registration number on your camera! Write it down. Put it in your wallet, you fuck!”
    He dropped his phone back into his bag and took another sip.
    A man with a well designed shopping bag came out with a cup of coffee on a tray. He set the coffee on the table and went back in with the tray. He returned with a spoon and a napkin. The bag in one chair. Him in the other. He looked at the table-top and wiped a small area with the napkin. He relaxed in his chair and stirred the coffee. The high pitched ringing spoon high in his cup. He stared at the bag in the chair.
    Craig sipped, arranged things and kept his eye of interest on the man. Checking how his staring was getting along. The man turned to his coffee, picking up a cube of sugar between his fingers. Dipping the corner of it into the liquid. Slowly holding the transforming structure. It went gradually grey-brown and he scraped the edge of his spoon across it, removing just enough of the sweet. He set the uneroded half on the table. An act Craig liked and would remember to adopt.
    Craig smelled and sipped from his cup.
    Cars were making distorted vibration sounds, panning past him as they poured down the street.
    “Kathy!” Craig yelled across the street, waving like a Californian. “I’m here,” he called, clarifying the evident.
    Kathy raised her hand in what looked like part of a pop-dance gesture, and indicated she’d be over in a second. She continued down the street and Craig didn’t watch her because they didn’t know each other well enough for that yet. He waited and tried to build a reason to appear surprised again when she finally arrived.
    In Craig's attention towards Kathy, the man had picked up the bag from the chair. A light-years' leap, Craig thought and cleared some space in his arrangement of objects for Kathy to occupy. For Kathy to fulfill.
    From the bag, the man took out a purse. A purple purse. He examined it, opening and closing the clasp. Then he removed some wads of newspaper from the bag and set them on the table. Sip of coffee.
    The man at the table turned the purse over and over in his hands.
    The man touched the surfaces.
    Craig hoped Kathy wouldn't come now. Things were building.
    The man picked up a wad of paper and unwadded it, the architecture of locked creases releasing its shape into newspaper flatness. Slow motion drama. Then another wad. The man sipped his coffee and read his wrinkled newspaper. And, Craig watched as a secret explosion of anxiety occured. A private and mysterious shock ran across the man's body. It was clear and vivid and unexplicable. A spasm of complete understanding, like your shirt catching fire. Bodily response. Something in the paper. Some news.
    Craig heard sandles slapping heels at a distance behind him, and growing. Kathy was coming. Time was running out, which built the drama--packed it with speed.
    The man sat in an energy of absence. Hollowed out by memory.
    Kathy came, tapping Craig with suitable playfulness on his shoulder, pretending to surprise him.     She bowed over to lean into his gaze, like she was looking into a key hole. He whispered her into the free chair, which he knew she took as an escalation in their privacy. A risk. A random committment. She pulled the black metal chair wrapped with tan plastic wicker away from the table, making a scraping sound. A noise.
    The man at the table broke out of his privacy. Kathy's sound did it. He stuffed the paper into the purse and checked nervously around himself, forcing himself to make sure that he wasn't forgetting something. He stood up  as Kathy leaned closer into Craig's shushed space, aware that there was something to be aware of, but not knowing what that was. She silently voiced, "Whaaat?"
    The man left his table. He waded into the street without care for the corner crossings, LA pedestrain laws or the panning cars. The two chairs abandoned. The cup on the saucer. A single wad remaining so vividly weightless atop the table.
    Ready to tumble away in a wind.
    Kathy watched Craig watching the man, gradually cluing into general issues.
    The man became more aggitated out in the street, amidst the chaotic unconscious cars enjoy as they race free from stop light to stop light. The man studdered and bobbed. His head flashed back and forth. Walking in a new gravity. He looked at his own feet. He pranced like in tiny shoes. These were obvious reasons to justify a jay-walking ticket. Aesthetic humiliation. The drivers beeped after passing by him; to inform him that he was in the street? To not lose the chance to honk at an unexpected asshole? They swerved, but none stopped and there were no screeching of tires. This was not a film.
    He made it to the far sidewalk and then ran gracefully in front of storefronts. Purple purse dangling by it's strap from his right hand. Then, out of sight beyond the far corner onto Beverly.
    Craig turned back to Kathy, touched her arm in welcome.
    "Crazy, huh?"
    "What was that? Who was he?"
    "Nobody, I guess. But, he seemed to get some wierd news from his paper. And then just took off."
    "You were watching?"
    "No. I just noticed."
    "You ready to go?" Kathy said, not wanting to have to order a coffee.
    "Yeah. It's just..."
    From a distance, there was the sound of car violence. A too long screech. Full of tonal nuances. They send different messages. An announcement. No crash sound, just the dissolve of the rubber scream.

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