Morning News 1
There was talk of a shooting that occurred five blocks from Cory’s home last night. Not a mass shooting, but a gunfight between two fellow gang members. Both shooters were killed. Cory thought that something woke him up last night, but he wasn’t sure. He thought it might’ve been a bad dream since he’s hard to wake when he goes to bed. He looked outside the window and noticed the streetlight was brighter and appeared more yellow than usual, then went back to sleep.
As Linda waited for the 43 to downtown, she watched Cory sitting across the street at the coffee shop. She was wearing a little black dress and stunner shades E-40 would’ve wished he owned. Her hair was black, shining, and long, draping down her chest and her spine. But her black dress hid her black hair, as if the dress was also comprised of a hood. She was listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue. A classic woman, she never really enjoyed anything out of the nineties — though classics exist everywhere and she admits this to those that argue for Ja Rule and Missy Elliot. But to her, sitting in her little black dress with her Louis-Vuitton around her shoulder, there was nothing more beautiful than the seventies and eighties. Maybe Richie Valens.
Morning News 2
A man in Georgia, while looking at his garden, had noticed a strange plant that was blooming. The footage on the news showed the old man place his cane on the ground and kneel in the shade, getting close to the plant, softly touching a flower and its multicolored petals. Picking it up and slowly bringing it to the camera, the whole time holding a quiet smile on his face, the old man said, “I hope people call it the Dakota Aster, after my wife. She loved this garden.”
Michael had made Linda eggs, bacon and coffee with cream before she took the bus. They ate as they listened to the News. Michael made fun of a strange flower a man had discovered. Linda laughed, keeping her thoughts to herself of this old man and his little flower on the news. For this moment at least, he was so innocent. He could be any sort of demon. But at that moment, he was a boy again. Linda wanted the aster to be called Ally.
Cory woke out of a bad dream to the sun shining in through his window. In his dream, he had to ask his mom for money again. Not that that’s so bad. But in the dream he had already asked her a week before. He woke up in his bed alone, with the sun shining on him, with a sense that nothing much would happen today being recently fired from his editing position at a publishing house. He kept thinking about the dream. There were other parts to the dream. He vaguely remembers a lion at some point. And he remembers it calmed him in the dream, as though he were surrendering to the lion.
Cory sat at the only outdoor table at the small coffee shop, vigorously scribbling in his notebook with his coffee that, Linda presumed, was getting cold. However, the coffee was not cold, but freezing. Due to the heat of the day, Cory had ordered an iced coffee to be put into his mug. Cory loved this coffee. The beans were from Mexico. From a large farm. Linda knew none of this. The only thing she knew was that a man was sitting outside a coffee shop across from her most likely writing. She assumed he was writing was bad poetry directed at his boredom.
There’s a woman across the street, but she is gorgeous. What is she doing at a bus stop on the westside? She looks like a big-time executive. She straight up looks like a Kardashian. I wonder what her name is. Is she married? Can’t see a ring. Does she like to write too? Is she into museums or does she really just like McDonald’s? Is she my dream boat? Here’s hoping. I should drink some coffee.
Linda looks at her phone to change her music on Spotify. Though classic things are always classy, and one must be surrounded by classy things at all times, she changes from Joni Mitchell to Young Thug. She likes Young Thug. She never mentions her love of this kind of hip hop or her time with Michael around her friends. Michael being, a carpenter, would appear low to them as well. Elise would probably make a comment about how this materialism has killed the heart of hip hop as they sit at a cafe, drinking four dollar cappuccinos and eating five dollar croissants ordered by the cafe from Costco. Linda would agree with Elise, ignoring her remarks, without recognition of this irony. They would never call a coffee shop a cafe.
She grows hungry again as she thinks of croissants.
The cars roll past. I can’t help but just dream of her and what she is in her little black dress like some sort of rich executive. Who am I to guess these things. Maybe she just dresses like that because she’s got an interview. Why do I care? Who am I to be questioning her, to be aweing at her? That’s not good manners. She’s just standing there, listening to music, waiting for the bus so she can go downtown. I guess I’m trying to distract myself.
Coffee Shop and an Aging Young Man
She wants a muffin. Waiting for traffic to pass, Linda crosses the street. She goes into the coffee shop and buys a muffin that she puts in her purse. And a Latte. She looks outside at the man writing. She watches him stop and sigh. He is older than she expected. Still young, but not so young. She can see his hairs beginning to turn grey and his neck beginning to wrinkle. He looks like a man who has wasted his life. A man who hasn’t tried hard. But she knows she is merely assuming. She receives her Latte and proceeds to walk across the street.
Linda thought she may benefit from the flower on the news that morning. At least, in a cultural sense, she could talk about something more than the political climate of our modern chaos. She could just talk about chaos and forget politics. The flowers had numerous petals in alternating light pastel shades of green, yellow, red, blue. It was a new species of aster that had not been seen by humanity until that very moment. Maybe it would become political soon.
But that news was a distraction from the shooting. She was, after all, with Michael and close enough to the shots where, if they were not so close to one another at that moment, listening to Marvin Gaye, they would have heard the gunshots a block or two up. And while the flower was a sort of diversion, Linda couldn’t help but be calmed by the thought that there were still things out there that could be discovered, that this strange aster could exist and never have been known.
The breaking news that morning was of a large storm hitting Bangladesh, flooding more than half of the country, killing thousands. The world pushing water onto people who live so close to the coasts. So close to the brink. Cory and Linda heard this news. But it followed after the shooting and the discovery of the aster. They could not forget the shooting, which was over. There would not be a shooting so close by for another decade or so. Neither knew this however. The reporters made it appear that shootings might happen more and more.
As “Swizz Beatz” ended, “Family Don’t Matter” began. Perhaps her love of the flower had less to do with the man’s innocence. Perhaps it was his wonder that intrigued her, that made her continually play that news story in her head.
I remember being seven and walking down the street after going to the creek. It was close to dinner time and I had my bike and I was alone and I didn’t feel like biking. It was summertime and it was hot and humid the way it always seems to feel back home. As I crossed the street onto King Road, a bright yellow car sped up at me. So I ran as quickly as I could with my bike beside me. But the car was getting closer and closer. So I let go of my bike and jumped to the sidewalk scraping my knee. I ran home up the block and Mom and Dad were there. They comforted me as I cried, asked me what happened. My Dad found my bike in the street, mangled.
The next day when my parents were watching the news before work I heard the newscaster talking about a robbery at the bank in our neighborhood where a child was killed in the crossfire between the robbers and a heroic bystander with a handgun. The getaway car was some sort of yellow sports car. The car was yellow. I never had told my parents the color of the car. I don’t think they ever thought twice about a car speeding down King. Everyone speeds down King. Woah. I haven’t thought about that in years. I’ve never written it down either. I don’t get why we called that guy with a gun a hero. He didn’t kill them. He might’ve been the one who killed the kid.
Perhaps she loved the flower because she was reminded of her sister, Ally, teaching her how to make crowns from chamomile. It was in the summertime on the high school soccer field. After they made the crowns, Ally told her she could make tea from her crown.
Two weeks after she was gone. Linda was confused as to where Ally went. Her parents told her that she was dead. She died at the bank. She grew mad and confused. Why did she die in the bank? Why was this happening? Why couldn’t she see her again? But it became clear when she saw Ally in the casket, looking so sweet and kind, the way she always did, but not there. She wore a yellow dress. She rarely mentioned this to friends. Only those who were inseparably close to her, like Elise. But she only talked about it with Michael.
“Family Don’t Matter” was still playing, but about to end. Ally would’ve not cared for this music, but also not bothered Linda with a comment about it.
Cory stopped writing and looked out across the street to Linda again. He watched her change the music on her phone. Or maybe she was texting someone. It’s hard to tell. He sipped his coffee and looked at a man who walked up beside her at the bus stop in a blue hoodie, bobbing his head to some music as he stared at his phone. Looking at people on their phones is like watching a cloudy day. He kept looking out to the bus stop. He noticed the woman in sunglasses looking out to him. When Linda noticed this, she quickly looked away.
Linda saw the bus coming. She checked her emails. Work flooded in. The flower was gone. That strange man who just looked at her was gone. The office was now ten minutes away. She changed the music from Young Thug to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun.” Danielle emailed her saying that their potential client, a rapidly growing Kombucha company, changed their meeting with the firm to today. They would need to prep until the meeting at 9:30. It was going to be just past nine when she got into work.
Cole Hersey is a writer, designer, and illustrator. He works as an editorial assistant at the West Marin Review. Some of his work has appeared in Denali Arts Magazine, SILO, The Free Library of the Internet Void, and elsewhere. Currently, he is finishing a manuscript of short stories.