Teddy Levine, on Line to Buy Girl Scout Cookies, Outside the Wild Weed Dispensary: Denver “The Girl Scouts of Colorado have decided it’s now cool to peddle their baked goods outside marijuana dispensaries.” —The Denver Post Jesus-freakin’-Christ, this woman’s taking all day, can’t make up her mind, so she’s demanding free samples of every variety. The girls behind the table roll their eyes, but afraid to tell her to screw off, so the scout leader informs her, with a smile tight as a dolphin’s rear end in a rip tide, “I’m so sorry; we can’t break open boxes.” Madam Entitled stalks off as if a butcher had tried to pass off gristle for T-bone. Finally, it’s my turn! But I forget what I want, the kids snickering like I’m already stoned, which, I confess, I am, a little. I point, while the ounce in my pocket gets hot as a fired .45 on old TV westerns, when cowboys rode off into the sunset, free as mustangs, and schoolmarms waved goodbye and tried not to weep, not like Wendy and me. ** My Father-in Law’s Hands Surgeon’s fingers: long, lean, strong as pliers. When not operating, he’d practice by darning the socks your mother would’ve tossed, but a son of the Great Depression, Albear believed, “Use it up, make it do, wear it out,” so he darned as if to remove a gall bladder or more delicate, stamina draining surgeries. He was never so happy as when tinkering with a car, laying out the parts in logical order, cleaning or replacing them, and re-starting the engine that now purred like a sated jaguar. I envied his gift for fixing things, me the eternal fumble-fingers, no sense of how parts fit together, more likely to smack my thumb with a hammer than the nail I’d aimed at, or to send screws flying like taunting crows; and as for a drill: as dangerous in my trembling hands as a chainsaw. But Albear was a happy man with tools, and the patience to show me how the job should be done; indeed, the patience of a saint. ** Gary I thought I saw Gary today, his thinning pennant rising and falling in the zephyr of his 70’s Buick’s open window, as he pulled out of a parking lot. I was about to call out, to ask how he was doing, had he gotten married, did he have kids, grandkids, was he happy, did he have time for a cup of joe, to catch up on old times, when it hit me: he’d never come home from Vietnam, had insisted he could do the two-year stretch easy as his flicked-off folk riffs on his acoustic guitar. When I saw him one last time, his straw-colored freak-flag had been shorn by the army barber: the first warning he’d be left with nothing. ** My Father and John Garfield The star of Body and Soul, among other Forties flicks, he died in flagrante, which impressed my dad even more than that Garfield was Jewish and a dynamo on the silver screen. “That’s the way to go,” Dad chortled, to make me squirm, and Mom stare as if he’d farted at a synagogue funeral. Years later, he’d brag he and Mom still did it, about the last thing I wanted to hear, but I’d nod and smile, “Cool, Dad.” and escape to my apartment, and try not think about Dad’s boasts or Garfield’s tsunami coronary, though dying “in the saddle” far preferable to the screaming agony of a Vietcong Bouncing Betty taking my legs, exploding my chest and intestines. Mom was spared the horror of Dad going out the way Garfield had. But lucky for him, terrible for us, he went in a flash, one night: a super-nova heart attack, behind the wheel of his car, slumped over for my brother to find after Jeff had talked on the phone for a good ninety minutes to a girl he thought he loved in high school, Jeff knowing what he’d find, cops standing sentry by the driver’s door, Dad all alone, so very all alone. ** Jeremy Lind, Buying Girl Scout Cookies Outside the Wild Weed Dispensary: Denver “The Girl Scouts of Colorado have decided it’s now cool to peddle their baked goods outside marijuana dispensaries.” —The Denver Post Marijuana? Smells like every skunk in the state let loose a stink bomb: what led to Ella leaving, accusing, “God, you’re such an old man! Where’s your sense of adventure?” Adventure? All you do is cough and giggle: little to laugh about, when love’s fickle as a kitten testing its claws for the first time. But I do love Girl Scout cookies, always look for the kids setting up tables and boxes outside supermarkets or at mall entrances. So I stand in line now, scowl whenever someone bounces out of the Wild Weed with a smirk and a stuffed brown paper bag. I love all the flavors, but Thin Mints are my favorites: that little snap when you bite down, the mint and chocolate mingling, better than the hippie incense Ella used to reek up our house with, her and her friends all laughing, getting off on how square I was. Square? That means “dependable.” Exactly the kind of person this world needs more of.
Robert Cooperman is the winer of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry, for IN THE COLORADO GOLD FEVER MOUNTAINS. MY PARENTS’ WARS was named one of Ten Great Reads for 2017 by WEST WORD MAGAZINE. His latest collection is THE GHOSTS AND BONES OF TROY.
This is his first feature on The Fictional Café.