He had mentioned it before, Miles knew, but would he follow through? He sat in the silence. They waited.
“Let’s go to Sioux Falls,” Jeff said. They got up, the three of them, and walked downstairs. “What vehicle should we take?” This decision would normally be an easy one for Jeff, but his car was in for repairs. He had hit a deer on the way back from his last Sioux Falls journey.
“We can take Carl’s car,” Miles suggested. This was the first choice since Carl was not even here. Carl drove an old Celebrity. It was supposed to be black, but age and rust had made black the minority color. The vehicle had this odd habit of sounding like a jet plane when you depressed the gas and being completely silent when you let off. Sometimes it would start and sometimes it wouldn’t.
“Let’s take Collin’s car.”
The ride down was uneventful. They listened to Tom Waits on the radio, discussed the humour inherent in suicide, and thought about how much fun this air conditioner would be when they took it home. Previous trips had been known to include killing birds accidentally, navigating road construction, missing exits, and crying uncontrollably. Thankfully, God was having an off night for misery.
Their first stop was a place called the “Coffee Clay”, in downtown Sioux Falls. A friend of Jeff’s, called Ziggy, worked there. After locating the building, parking the car, and donning sunglasses, they went inside the establishment.
This would be a typical coffee shop. There was the requisite art on the walls. There was a “bar stool” section, a “kitchen table” section, and a “furniture for writing artsy angst poetry” section. There was also coffee.
They walked to the bar stool section where Ziggy was working with one other employee who was talking to one of the three patrons. Ziggy seemed surprised to see them and walked over to where they stood.
“Heeeeeey, guys. What’s up?” His expression said, “Do I owe you money?”
Jeff spoke for the group, “Hey, man. We’re just in town buying an air conditioner. We thought we’d stop by.”
“Coo, coo. Uh, can I get you anything?” On the counter was a clear plastic display that held one or two muffins. Also on the counter was a pile of advertisements. Miles grabbed one, to examine later, and turned his attention to the large menu on the wall.
The items read as you would expect. “Coffee, latte, steamer, cappuccino…” Miles summed up the menu in one word: sucks. He said, “What do you have that’s good? I really don’t like coffee.” There were snickers.
“Well, we have soda -” Ziggy started.
“No ice,” piped up the other employee.
“- but it’s warm.” He smiled. “I’ve been without ice since one or so.”
“Me and her are going to get ice, since there’s no one here,” said the other employee. He walked around the bar and led the girl out the door. One of the patrons got up and walked to the bar. Ziggy, now pressed with doing his job, had to cut the conversation short.
The three guys sat down. They by passed both the “bar stool” and “kitchen table” sections and made for the real seats. Too bad none of them had brought any notebook paper.
Collin and Jeff, like an awkward gay couple, sat on the couch-for-writing-artsy-angst-poetry while Miles sat in the large-arm-chair-for-writing-artsy-angst-poetry. Miles smirked. “You two can sit next to each other like an awkward gay couple. I’ll sit in the chair like a straight man.” And so he did.
Miles pulled a book off the stack. It said, “Pictures of Writers” on the front with an introduction by Norman Mailer. The book featured portraits taken of writers. Simple premise, simple book, somewhat boring. A lot of the writers were unknown to Miles.
Suddenly an unearthly, soul-wrenching scream broke out. It hit the boys hard, and the siren stayed long. It was one of the machines at the front of the room, Ziggy being the culprit.
“Do you hear something?” Collin shouted.
“It’s a nice neighborhood, but it’s a bit loud,” Miles shouted.
“What? What?? WHAT??” Jeff shouted.
Miles began to shout, “Honey, could you turn it down? I’m trying to read.” As he got to “I’m trying to read” the sound died and his voice echoed over the Coffee Clay. The other two people turned and looked at him. “I’ll have one of those.”
The bells of the door rang and a new customer came in. His name was Mike. He stopped where the boys sat and stared at them. Mike looked to be Latino in decent. He wore a hat that made his stooping stature slightly taller. He walked over to Miles and gestured at the book. Miles was unclear of the strange man’s motives.
Mike made a gesture that translated into “flip the pages back.” Miles did so, and Mike began flipping through and pointing at various pictures. Then he lost interest and hobbled toward the bar. Seriously creeped out and confused, Miles put the book back.
They looked around decor of the place. The walls were a purplish-mauve color. The ceiling had been decorated to look old and decorative, but the paint had been put on in such a thick manner as to de-emphasized the look. In a bold artsy move, the designers had put a pitchfork and a container of wheat.
“What is this, the cover of Led Zeppelin IV?” Collin snidely commented.
Miles laughed. He understood what Collin meant. Also on that wall was a strange shape. It looked like it was perhaps a cover for a vent end.
“It looks like they started doing geometric shapes on the walls, but stopped,” Jeff commented. He got up and started walking towards the bar again. He knew what he wanted now. It had only taken 30 minutes of thought. He stood at the bar talking to Ziggy about what he wanted.
Miles laughed, “‘Look, fellows. I know you hired me to do geometric shapes on the walls, but the only one I can do is parallelograms. I hope that’s okay. Look I did one for you already. Maybe I can paint instead?'”
The other wall had these grotesque shapes on it. It turns out that some dyslexic retard had decided to be “artistic” and the results were horribly deformed children. There were cute saying written next to the figures that said things like, “Your voice is like the sweetest golden sunshine” and “When he laughed I knew the world would never be the same.” The part the artist left off of that sentence was “- because he only laughed while ripping off other people’s appendages and eating them.”
Jeff came back and sat down. Miles said, “What? No screamer?” The people who had gone for ice returned. They did, indeed, have ice. Miles contemplated buying a $10 soda with ice in it, but decided against it. He looked back at the pile of books, but was afraid to pick up the photography book again because Mike was making his way out again.
None of the other books seemed interesting, so Miles turned to the advert he had picked up. It read “Live at Nutty’s Burly and Qui July 27th.” There was the location of the event and the cost as well as the age restriction (21+). In small print at the bottom it read, “Qui is from L.A. and this is the last stop on their tour. They are heart of the champion recording artists.”
“Guys, listen to this. ‘Qui is from L.A. and this is the last stop on their tour. They are heart of the champion recording artists.’ So, these guys, this band, are from Los Angeles and they come to South Dakota? And the last stop, the showstopper, takes place in Sioux Falls? How sad must the rest of the tour been that Nutty’s Pub is the best for last? Where else did they go? Winner, Huron, Webster, Mitchell, Pierre, Garretson, and, the arc d’triumphe, Sioux Falls!”
Jeff came back with his coffee. They listened to the sweet sounds of Smashing Pumpkins over the speakers. Collin commented on how he had never really gotten into the Smashing Pumpkins. “I guess my life never sucked enough.”
Jeff meekly reported that Mellon Collie, one of their albums, had been his favorite for a long time. There was no reply to this and the silence got awkward. Just then a girl walked in, a customer perhaps. She was relatively tall and thin. She smiled at the three boys, then walked to the exact opposite of the Cafï¿½ and sat down next to the ice bearers.
After sitting and talking with Ziggy for a short bit, the boys decided to get up and go. Jeff checked for the five dollars he was going to give Collin for gas. He couldn’t find it. He asked Ziggy if Ziggy had seen it.
“Mike. There was a five up here. I said, ‘Is that yours?’ and he said, ‘Yes it’s mine.’ I knew it wasn’t his and now I have proof. Here’s five dollars. I’ll beat it out of him.” Good ol’ Ziggy, thought Jeff. He’d kill anyone for money.
As they started their way out, they met Ziggy’s parents. Jeff was shocked. He stood there, unfeeling. How had they found me, he thought. It turns out, though, that they were there to talk to Ziggy. Feeling returned and the three of them walked back to the car.
Their next step was to retrieve the air conditioner. Oh, this story was far from done, they thought.