By James Bates
Licorice Spice Tea
Dave was sprawled on the couch watching the evening news when an incoming text beeped. He glanced at it and sighed, "Shit, JT, what the hell?" He set his phone down without looking at the message. "Man, just give me a moment to myself," he was thinking, "Just let me chill and unwind a bit."
He'd been home for half an hour, had showered, put on some clean clothes and fixed a plate of fruit: a sliced up honeycrisp apple, a hand full of red seedless grapes and a little chunk of havarti cheese. All he wanted was to chill a little; hang out and relax. He was beat. He had just finished a ten hour shift as what his boss called a sous chef at a local restaurant. Right. Dave grimaced when he thought about his job, because he was under no illusions whatsoever about the work he did; what he did food prep and that was that. Pure and simple. Any idiot could do it. The fact that The Egg and I was a locally sourced, natural foods eatery that regularly made the top ten list for places to eat in the Twin Cities didn't hide that fact, not one little bit. At least to Dave, anyway.
But, he didn't mind. He liked the work. Liked that he made enough money for he and JT to rent the one bedroom apartment in the hundred year old brown stone on Emerson Avenue in an older neighborhood of Minneapolis. Liked that he was close enough so he could walk to work in ten minutes and not have to drive his old Ford Fiesta. Liked that he could help pay the bills. (JT made good wages working for Gibertson's Environmental Services, cleaning high rise office buildings in downtown Minneapolis late at night.) He liked that he could even save some money so maybe he could go to college one day; if he ever decided he wanted to.
But for now...now he had to deal with JT. He fired up his water pipe and took a hit of Raspberry Crush, pulling the smoke down deep into his lungs and savoring it as he reached for his phone, "Let's see what the guy's up to."
He read the text. It was short and sweet. Well not all that sweet. What it said was a cryptic, "Come get me."
What the hell was going on now? Dave knew JT had had the day and the night off. He knew his friend was going to ride his fat tire bike somewhere. But it was the middle of winter and cold out for christ's sake. How far could he have gone?
Dave looked out the window. Their apartment was on the third floor of the three story building. It was in the middle of the block, right across from a street light. Through the bright illumination he could make out the snow flurries that had begun to falling earlier in the day. It was beginning to snow harder, now, showing no sign of letting up.
"What's up?" he texted back.
"At RR. Need ride."
Well, for double christ's sake. RR was the Red Rooster, a bar in Long Lake. It was the bar Dave and JT would sometimes stop at when they rode their bicycles from Minneapolis to the little town, twenty miles to the west. It was an area of woods and fields in western Hennepin County known for its well kept bike trails. They enjoyed going fat tire riding on those trails. Liked it a lot. But that was during the summer (or spring or fall, for that matter), not in the middle of February. Not in the middle of winter. Not with a foot of snow on the ground and more on the way. What the hell had JT been thinking?
Well, Dave had a guess. JT had developed a thing for the bartender out there. A serious infatuation. At least he had last Christmas when the weather had been mild and they'd both ridden out to check on the trails. On the way home they'd stopped at the Rooster. The bartender was a handsome guy named Jeff and JT had immediately been drawn to him. In fact, he'd stayed drawn to him even though he'd never once been back to the bar to see him. JT liked to imagine the best when it came to relationships, instead of taking steps to show the person how he felt - imagine being the operative word here. He liked to pretend that whomever he'd fallen for was going to reciprocate his feelings. The way Dave saw it, it was easier for JT to just play the game in his head rather than act on his feelings. Except for now. Now, apparently his friend had decided to follow his heart and take things a step further. Yep, the more Dave thought about it, the more he figured that, yeah, that's exactly what JT had done.
"Jeff?" Dave texted back.
"No. Jeff's gone. Marybeth."
Dave sighed. Jesus. When it came to infatuations, JT was an equal opportunity kind of guy. A good looking man or a good looking woman, it didn't matter. If there was a spark that JT felt, that's all it would take. Next stop, Love City.
Dave and JT had been friends for almost their entire lives, having met back in grade school in Miss Whipholt's third grade class. Back then parents and teachers called the two boys introverted and socially awkward. Labels notwithstanding, Dave and JT only knew they preferred to not be around a lot of other people. They bonded over a love of bicycles and bike riding. Over time, their small coaster brake Huffys evolved to trek dirt bikes, diamond back mountain bikes and Schwinn fifteen speed racers, until finally, now, to each of them owning a treasured Raleigh Pardner fat tire bicycle. Riding bikes was a pleasant, solitary activity, something they could do alone or together. As the years passed, they did it together, more often than not.
Now in their mid twenties, they were still friends, close friends, best of friends, in fact. Close enough that Dave texted back, "What a bunch of BS."
Apparently unperturbed by Dave's response, JT responded with a smiley face. Then, after a short pause, another text pleading, "Come get me?" and another smiley face.
Dave could see it now. JT had ridden his bike out to the Red Rooster on his day off, thinking he'd be able to make it with Jeff. Jeff had been gone. Who knows, quit maybe; maybe even hiding in the back room, but gone nevertheless. So JT strikes up a conversation with Marybeth, a new bartender, and one thing leads to another. It gets to be make it or break it time and MB informs JT that she's not interested. Maybe she has a boyfriend. Maybe a girlfriend. Whatever...The point is, she's not interested. JT starts drinking and time goes by. It starts snowing. He's getting drunk. Suddenly he realizes he can barely stand, let along ride a bike all the way back to Minneapolis. So what's he do? He sends a text to his pal. His good buddy. Good old Dave.
Dave sat back on the couch and glanced at the television. Colbert was just coming on. He watched for a minute or so and laughed once or twice at some jokes made at the expense of the current president. Colbert was really pretty funny sometimes.
Beep. Another text. "U coming?"
Dave lit up the pipe and took another hit. He looked around the living room, the main room of the apartment. It might not have a lot of furniture but that was all right. He slept on the couch he was now sitting on, JT had the bedroom. There was also a small bathroom and a tiny, galley kitchen. It wasn't the biggest space in the world, but the price was right and it worked for them. And it was clean. They both made sure of that. No one said that just because you were a guy in your twenty's you had to be a slob. Both he and JT liked to keep their place neat and tidy and looking good. And it was.
On the table across from him was the television. Next to it was a red lava lamp with a gold base they'd bought together over three years earlier when they'd first moved in; a kind of housewarming gift to themselves. Dave watched the red mass bubble away for a few seconds and then got to his feet. He turned off Colbert, picked up his plate, went to the kitchen and washed it. Then he took out a stick of sandalwood incense, put it in its holder and set it carefully in the base of the aluminum kitchen sink. It'd be safe there. Then he lit it. JT would like the aroma when he came in.
He picked up his phone and texted, "On my way. B there in 45."
He put on his boots, winter jacket and wood cap before grabbing his car keys. He locked the apartment and made his way downstairs to the parking lot where his old Ford Fiesta was parked. He started the engine and turned on the heater. While the car warmed up he took his brush and stepped outside to clean off the snow. It felt like the temperature was around ten degrees. What the hell had JT been thinking, riding out to Long Lake today? Twenty miles in the winter. Man...Dave shook his head, fighting back a grin. What a crazy guy.
When the snow was removed, he got back inside. The warmth from the heater felt good. Some of the snow on the sleeve of his jacket started to melt. He put the car in reverse and backed up. It usually took about thirty minutes to drive out to Long Lake, but what with the snow and all on a night like tonight it'd definitely take longer. That was okay. It'd be good to see JT. He'd been kind of been missing the guy.
Just before he pulled out of the lot his phone beeped. Dave stopped and checked it. JT had sent a message: a smiley face and a thumbs up emoji.
Dave texted a smiley face back.
Then he put the car in gear and headed out into the snowy winter's night. Yeah, it'd be good to see JT. It'd be nice to see his friend.
About the author
I have been writing for a number of years: haiku, poetry, short and long fiction. In addition to CafeLit, my stories can be found posted on my website: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com