“Aw, for the love of Pete,” George slammed his coffee mug on the table, brown liquid splattered his newspaper.
The bell on the door jingled. “And it just keeps getting better,” George rolled his eyes.
“Mornin’,” Stan nodded his hellos to the usual crowd in the tiny coffee shop. The waitress met him at his table in the back corner, facing out, so he could have a view of all that went on inside and out via the large window. “Thank you, Annie. I spotted fresh maple bars. I think I’ll have one today.”
“So… what’s your blood sugar this morning, Stan?” Annie winked.
“Let it soar,” George blurted. “Maybe he’ll go into a diabetic coma and we can all be at peace.”
Everybody ducked their heads. Generally the regulars would sit in their usual places and carry on a lively discussion; the ritual of the retired. The pattern was always the same. They started with local high school sports, then college level, and on to professional leagues.
Once that horse was dead and beaten, they’d move to local politics, state capitol happenings, and the President’s inability to let us truly be free Americans. If time allowed, they’d touch on religion, to which none were truly qualified to have a substantial opinion. That’s when they’d involve Annie, the local preacher’s wife turned barista.
Stan opened his newspaper with exaggerated flair. “Well looky here, George. I think Derrick caught your better side in this photo with the ever-present gaping hole in your face.”
“Did you notice the bumbling idiot in the background picking his nose?”
“I was picking my teeth with a toothpick.”
“In public…equally disgusting,” George shook his head.
Annie refilled cups and winked at the other customers. “This oughtta be good,” she whispered.
Everyone knew exactly what George and Stan squabbled about. The son of the Graham-Gazette editor recently took over the photography and some of the local reporting. Derrick had a knack for riding the edge of controversy with the same skill he’d used to grind down the courthouse railing in the wee hours of the morning as a rebellious teen.
All eyes riveted on the newcomer. Derrick strode in with peacock pride. “Mornin’ Miss Annie.” The use of her Sunday School title never failed to add charm to his glowing-white, ornery grin.
“Good morning, Ricky,” Annie couldn’t resist the childhood nickname. “Usual?”
His shimmering smile was the only answer she needed before she cranked out a triple-short-Americano with cream.
“Guess what I saw on my way here, Miss Annie?”
“Umm…” She noticed several pairs of eyes on them and decided to play along. “The cross country team streaking again? Did you get photos?”
“That’s a good one, but no. Actually,” Derrick stuffed a dollar into the tip jar, “the public utility truck parked by that 60’ Douglas fir that was the heated discussion last night at Town Council.
George spewed coffee all over his newspaper and bolted for the door. Stan couldn’t let this go without being a witness, and stumbled out on George’s heels. Everyone tried to appear casual, but it didn’t take long for the restaurant to empty and gather up the street to observe stubborn Swede behavior at its best.
“You know you only want that tree down for your own selfish gain…you and your need to see everything.” George’s jugular veins protruded with fearsome ugliness.
“George,” Harriett tried to calm her husband before he had a coronary.
“You’re so stupid and stubborn,” Stan counter-acted. “The way the wind comes off the marina it’ll only take one good storm and that thing’s gonna fall right on my house.”
Marge tugged on Stan’s arm, embarrassed at his behavior.
“Enough already.” The PUD manager stepped between the men. “The tree is unstable, George. Either you arrange to cut it down or we’ll bill you for our services. You have one week to make arrangements.”
“Stan!” Marge shrieked hysterically from the balcony.
Half awake with twisted boxers, Stan stumbled through the glass door. “What the…?”
The giant fir had toppled during the first fall storm, alright, and landed on George’s garage.
Stan roared in laughter. “I can’t believe that thing didn’t fall this way. Serves him right.”
Marge angrily pushed past him and returned a few minutes later, hauling his chainsaw. “Get dressed and go help him.”
Best friends huddled together under a blanket on the balcony, sipping hot mochas, the drone of chainsaws below.
“What a lovely view you have, Marge.”
“Why, thank you, Harriett.”
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