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Nihil
A Speculative Fiction
© 2024 James LaFond
JUN/30/24
Nihil
A Speculative Fiction
Copyright 2023 James LaFond
A Crackpot Book
Lynn Lockhart Publisher
Dust Cover
Waiting tables in the Post Magnetic, San Jose night was the life left to Martitta. Los Angeles had simply become uninhabitable for a woman who loved the sky. Over this past year life had become… tolerable. Then, as the many-feared fingers of Dawn reached unseen for them far beyond the eastern mountains, as the guests hurried for cover, a last guest for Brin’s Cafe limped confidently in, as if the wicked Day was not coming to kill them.
Dedication
For Damien, doing his youthful best to curate a mournful past
Begun on location, in real time, December 5th thru 7th as the year 2023 pined unmercifully for that one, sure serenity.
Continued, on location, January 28-31st, 2024.
Completed, on location, March 24-28th, 2024.
To The Reader
A chill struck me when I entered the San Jose diner across from the dive motel where I nuked instant coffee in paper cups for five days until they began to catch fire. I had avoided the upscale cafe across the street. For I could not afford San Jose prices. The Whole Foods down the street did not sell signature coffee mugs. Nor did the hipster coffee house on the North Side, both so near to where the train had disgorged this sorry wreck of a man, and where it would swallow what was left of him again in three days.
Such places, I thought, as this upscale Latino Cafe, catering to hipster and conquistador tastes, both empathetic and sympathetic, might have such a cup. It would be a $20 cup, but a cup I would have. Taking a full half hour to cross the street and limp one block, I arrived and edged my way through the chattering academics and stylistics under the side walk umbrellas.
Upon entering, a fine young man asked, “One, Boss?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, and he ushered me off to a corner The Operator would approve of, back to the wall, eye on the window, in the front slot. He attempted to take my order, but did not have the English to fathom my request for coffee with a mug I could buy as a keep sake.
“I’ll be right back, Boss,” and he walked around the corner and called, “Martitta.”
She came around the corner in a light winter coat, her hair as wonderful as the younger ones of her make that displayed their charms in tight jeans and pushed up bras, tights sweaters, bunny ears and horse tails even, a parade of lovely Latinas…
Her voice was rich with sorrow and smoke. She could have fronted for a rock band. Her face was tired, but her accommodating charm beamed from eyes that had seen more of the world than their trapped owner wished they had.
Seeing a lonely, lame, old man, she put on the Ritz as they used to say, sounding like she was dressed in a five star evening gown and the broken, broke-ass critter at the tiny table beneath her carried that cane as a matter of style—and she smiled.
I had to obfuscate the fact that I was trying avoid breaking my last Grant and Franklin notes, so as not to arrive in the upper left quarter of hell known as Portland, Oregon with less cash than required for an ill-situated motel.
“I was wondering if your establishment had signature coffee cups—my Granddaughter would love one.”
The relationship grew from there, grew into this old cracker going along with order suggestions, and even ordering takeout he wouldn’t eat, because he could tell, that she had recently traveled a troubled road and yet felt sorry for a man that was supposed to have in his possession the world-straddling privilege of a great conquering race, yet sat beneath her like driftwood thirsty for her matter-of-fact, compensated grace.
After an extensive interview of the seated hobo, carried out over six table visits, she told me I must return each morning for breakfast since I was traveling alone. Three days later, and $120 lighter, I boarded the train enamored with San Jose’s lazy grace, mostly because a dark-haired woman, too young for an old bum, had smiled down into his tarnished soul.
So, I decided, that a novel framed in my mind for some time, to be set in Baltimore, would best be set in that winter-repellent place. This novelette, to be put away until I return to San Jose.
-James LaFond, Friday, November 24, 2023
The Yarn
-0. Undertaker
-1. Prospect Nihil
-2. Citizen Nihil
-3. Scientist Nihil
-4. Post Officer Nihil
-5. Detective Nihil
-6. Doctor Nihil
-7. Suspect Nihil
-8. Empath Nihil
-9. Executor
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