The Twin Drop Cafe - Flat White
I sat astride the motionless motorcycle, its powerful engine rumbling.Â I idly wondered what had possessed me to turn off the road snaking through the autumn forest, and into this deserted car park of The Twin Drop CafÃ© â€“ an establishment I'd never noticed before.
I had intended to go for a long, non-stop cruise through the forest.Â To swing through corner after magic corner of the winding road.Â To savor the autumn colours, to smell the musky dankness, to taste the wisps of early morning mist, and to feel the bracing wind upon my face.Â To hear the engine throbbing, then snarling with a roll of the wrist of the throttle; with the bike lifting its skirts and racing along, the acceleration like an invisible hand pushing against my chest.Â And to have a broad grin glued to my face, and a song surging in my heart.Â At one with the forest, and just flowing with the moment â€“ with life.
Although I had already done hours of that, my soul thirsted for more.Â Yet here I was stationary and facing The Twin Drop CafÃ©.Â Why?Â And still I resisted the desire to nudge the bike into gear, roll the wrist and roar away.Â Instead, I switched off the engine, kicked out the side stand and swung off the leaning bike.Â I even took off my open-face helmet and hung it from the uppermost handlebar.Â This was all very odd, and needed mature contemplation.
Thus I fished out and lit a cigarette â€“ purely to help the cognitive processes.Â It was not beside the point that the cafÃ© would be zoned as smoke-free, for all establishments now had fallen from grace to pay homage to political correctness.Â Undoubtedly to cater for the worshipers of conformity: notably, car drivers and pedestrians.Â Wowsers one and all, too timid to live â€“ and too fearful of dying; picking their cautious way with imprisoned hearts and souls weeping to be free.Â Of course, I fully recognized that when the dementia of senility finally caught up with me, I too would have a car.Â And I'd probably fall to my knees and pray for fate to spare me for one more trip to the shopping centre.Â I mentally repeated this mantra of biker riders â€“ unkempt knights of the road â€“ and lit a second cigarette, just for the hell of it.Â As scruffy knights are wont to do.
Of course, I knew that puffing away was probably killing me.Â But then, every breath and every heartbeat were slowly but inevitably leading me to the grave.Â So why not live life in the fast lane of the open road?Â Before I could ruminate further, I noticed the cafÃ© door swing open, and then closed.Â Obviously, God was telling me to get a move on â€“ to go inside and enjoy a piping hot coffee.Â God is like that!Â And not wanting to disobey a divine injunction, I ground the cigarette butt underfoot.Â There was no alternative but to grasp the nettle and pamper myself.
Obeying the Will of God, I walked bright eyed and bushy tailed into The Twin Drop CafÃ©.Â Naturally, I ordered a double strength bracer of skinny flat white.Â Sensibly, I declined the offer of bacon and eggs on special, such being bad for the heart.
I gazed around.Â A slender blonde in a long, white dress waved cheerfully at me from a table in a discrete corner.Â She smiled broadly and beckoned for me to come over.Â She obviously recognized me as a cool dude.Â Or just had a superb taste in men.Â Or was near-sighted and mistook me for someone else.Â Or all three possibilities.Â Was she Miss Right?Â Oh, my beating heart, be still!
I gallantly swaggered over and introduced myself: "I'm Prince Charming.Â You must be Snow White."
"Saint Nicholas!" she giggled, "Don't be so silly!"Â She laughed at my taken aback look. Â "There, there," she said, chortling.Â "But really, you've got to do something about the fags.Â I just couldn't wait any longer for you outside.Â The smell of the coffee was just too wonderful."
I gawked in astonishment.
"Do park your butt!" she said with a laugh.Â "And I'd just love a mug of flat white coffee.Â No sugar, please."
"Well," I spluttered, unusually lost for words, and began to sit down.
She stopped me with a wave of the hand.Â "Nicholas, you are a duffer!Â Shouldn't you order my coffee first?Â I've already paid you for it.Â Many times over, in fact.Â Remember, a mug of coffee, and not a cup!"
At the counter I canceled my order of skinny flat white and asked for two mugs of strong flat white.Â I ignored the man's observation that I must be thirsty.Â After all, why reply to the self-evident, even when it's not self-evident.Â It was a Zen thing I'd once read, not that it's ever made any sense.Â And nor did the blonde.Â There was no earthly way that she could look through my knightly disguise â€“ freedom rider's boots and leather jacket - and recognize me as a blessed saint.Â Yet she had.Â Obviously, she wasn't a bimbo, worse luck.Â I stomped back, determined to solve the conundrum.
"How on earth do you know me? I asked, sitting down.
"I don't know you in an earthy way," she replied, her blue eyes twinkling.Â "Nor you, me!" she added with a smile.Â "Not in the very least!"Â Her laugh was deep and throaty.Â "But know you, I do.Â Better than anyone else you've ever met, including your mother."
I raised a skeptical eyebrow â€“ something you do when gob smacked and totally lost for words.Â Any other reaction paints you as a real fool.Â And I didn't want a real fool to paint me.Â Masochism and sainthood are uneasy companions â€“ at least for me.Â Other saints, obviously, have the opposite view.Â But to each his own.
The lady in white gazed at me with twinkling eyes.Â "Oh, Nicholas," she said, "I think I'd better stop teasing you and introduce myself.Â I'm your guardian angel.Â And it's not drawing a long bow to say that I've saved your bacon many a time â€“ even though you don't eat the stuff."
"Oh," I said, as one does on such occasions.Â "Oh!"
"Is that all you've got to say, Nicholas?Â Anyone else would be gushing with questions if they suddenly came face to face with their guardian angel."
Not me!Â I was a seasoned veteran of tripping over the oddballs tramping along life's highway of weirdos.Â This stunning blonde was just one more.Â But being a free country, she could say what she liked.Â She had a perfect right!Â And a perfect left, but the saintly don't notice the bust line â€“ even though some knights do.Â With such knightly observation fraught with a possible storm in a C cup.Â But be that as it may, it was merely plain courtesy to answer the lady.
I smiled hesitantly.Â "I meet some pretty strange people â€“ apparitions, even â€“ all of the time.Â So, what's one more, here or there?"
She laughed.Â "Yes, we've certainly met some unearthly types."
"Of course!Â It's my vocation to be with you.Â Always!"
"Well, if that's the case, were you there when I metâ€¦?"Â I hesitated to say the name a dark haired woman had used on meeting me.Â I took a deep breath.Â "Death!" I blurted out.
"Oh, Nicholas, really!Â She's a good friend of mine.Â What's your problem with her?"
"Well, I imagined Death to be a guy.Â You know, the grim reaper!"Â My voice trailed away.Â I suddenly felt somewhat foolish.Â I shrugged.Â "I just didn't think of Death as a woman," I added lamely.
"Oh, Nicholas!Â Death is an angel, just like me.Â Our functions are different, that's all.Â But neither of us is female or male.Â We just take on the appearance which is the least threatening to the perceiver.Â It can be any gender, colour, race, and of any size and shape.Â A woman might imagine her guardian angel to be male â€“ you know, a friend and strong protector.Â And that, dear Nicholas, is precisely what guardian angels are.Â We are your very best of friends."
Suddenly a lyre appeared in her hands - I'd seen pictures of such â€“ and she began to pluck the strings, and to hum the tune of Green Sleeves.Â Just as suddenly the lyre vanished.
She smiled.Â "That was to illustrate a point.Â Angels are the music singing in your soul â€“ we are that close to you."
I had to allow the possibility that she was the angel she claimed to be.Â Why fight it?
"We're also your guides in troubled times," she continued.Â "Try this for size.Â Think of your life as being a ship, with you as the captain.Â It's you who issues the orders.Â But I'm the pilot who knows the local waters.Â My suggestions guide you safely into harbour.Â Of course, you're totally free to ignore them â€“ but at your peril.Â And that pretty well sums it up.Â It's all quite simple, really."
I looked askance at her.Â "I don't recall any suggestions ever to come floating out of the ether."
"And nor have they!Â That'd freak you out, and thus is counter productive.Â No, my suggestions come as quiet urgings to do or not to do.Â Intuition, vibes, going with the flow.Â They all actually describe me putting my bib in, so to speak.Â That's why we stopped here at the cafÃ©.Â You needed the break.Â Half an hour ahead from here there are tight corners with ball bearing gravel.Â You need your wits about you or we'll come off the bike.Â And at the speed we've been traveling, wellâ€¦."
"You're telling me that you know the future!"
"Nicholas, do pay attention!Â I've only just said that I'm with you always.Â Think on it!Â Always has no direction!Â It must mean this instant â€“ constantly!Â To help you understand, don't think of time as a straight line stretching from what is past to what might yet come.Â Imagine it to be a like a carousel, with this instant being at the very centre around which time rotates.Â Thus all I do when I supposedly look 'ahead' is merely to fast forward the carousel and take a peek.Â Right here, in the present.Â My actual viewing point hasn't changed at all."Â She laughed at my somewhat befuddled face.Â "Your eyes are glazing!Â But, Nicholas, believe me!Â It's all quite simple.Â Very simple!"
I shook my head.Â "I must be tired!Â It's not all that clear."Â But I rallied, and took a long sip of flat white coffee.Â "I'll no doubt understand it later on â€“ if you kind of slide a few insights my way."
We paused, because the man brought over the two mugs of flat white coffee.Â Somewhat rudely, he ignored my companion, and placed both mugs in front of me.Â Then with an, 'Enjoy!' he returned to the counter.
"That was rude of him!" I said indignantly, on her behalf.
She shook her head.Â "He can't see me."
"But if I can, why can't he?"
"His beliefs keep him blind to the eternal.Â What you believe is what you see.Â Regardless of whether anyone else does.Â And what you do not believe is shut out â€“ it remains unknown and untrue for you.Â Even if it is the truth, and that it is staring you in the face.Â So what you believe either makes you blind or gives you the vision to see.Â The effect of belief is simple â€“ you either see or you don't.Â Nothing more, and never anything less."
There was a long silence, she appreciatively sipping her coffee, and me savoring that she was my guardian angel.Â And it didn't even occur to me to ask her name.
"Wonderful, wonderful!" she said, placing the empty mug on the table.Â She leaned back in her chair and gazed at me with a smile playing on her lips.Â "Nicholas, I thought it was timely for both of us to actually meet.Â And just not me quietly urging this and that, all the while unseen.Â And often unheard! Â Unheard because you tend to be pre-occupied with cranking life's throttle.Â To rush nowhere in particular, to do nothing in particular."
"Not all of the time!" I protested.
"No, not all of the time," she agreed softly.Â "Your dark curtain of disbelief against the true has begun to open.Â That's why we've actually been able to meet."Â She rose up.Â "The open road is calling.Â Shall we go?"
"You're the boss!" I quipped, standing up.
"My dear Nicholas," she said.Â "I'm never ever that!Â Always, I'm the pillion passenger along for the ride."
I grinned.Â "Always has no direction."
"True!Â But it helps to know where we're going."Â She nodded towards the door.Â "How about if you work the brakes and throttle, and I read the map?Â That way there's no danger, and nothing to fear."
I nodded.Â "Let's hit the road, babe."
For much more - the jackpot, even - see also Prose: Humour & Surreal - Table of Contents (for hyperlinks to all my collected humorous and/ or surreal prose tales)