Last week I met my friend John at the usual place for coffee.
We used to work together at Walt Disney Feature Animation, John and I, animating cute little characters loved the world over, until the executives came out from California and casually laid us all off, closing the Florida studio and throwing over three-hundred people out of work.
You know what they say: Managers go on forever, but artists only last a short time.
That was years ago, in 2004.
We’ve all passed a lot of water under the bridge since then.
Now John and I like to meet once a week or so, to stay in touch and encourage each other in our various artistic endeavors. I should say John’s various artistic endeavors, because artistically he is far-ranging, up to date, and never at rest. He’s always trying something new. Sculpting, drawing, painting, animating, teaching, he can do it all.
Me? I’ve been doing the same thing for the last four years; trying to write a 100,000 word novel filled with humanity and humor and maybe some cosmic truth.
Who knew it would be so difficult to write a book?
John and I went to the counter to order our coffees. To my surprise, there was a different person behind the counter today. The disinterested guy who was always texting and getting our orders wrong, with the tattoo of a cartoon superhero on his neck, was gone. In his place stood a smiling young woman.
“Hi,” she said. “What will you have?”
Her cheerful efficiency threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting that. “Uh,” I said, “I don’t know. Hmm. A flat white, please.”
To my surprise, that’s what I got. Usually I got whatever the disinterested young man gave me, whether I’d ordered it or not. Now, for a change, I had got what I ordered.
You can’t rely on anything in this world.
We sat down at our usual table. “What are you and your wife fighting about these days?” asked John with a smile. He knew fighting with the missus was one of my favorite subjects. Had been for years.
“Bob Dylan,” I answered.
“You’re fighting about Bob Dylan? How’s that?”
“We’d been fighting for a few days, I don’t remember what about. I think it was about her potted begonia plants. They’re everywhere, and sometimes it gets on my nerves. Plus she keeps moving them around, you never know where they’ll pop up. So I kinda feel like they’re always sneaking up on me. Anyway, to get out of the house and away from the fighting, I was going to visit my pals Tim and Aileen down in Kissimmee and have a few beers.”
“Yeah?” says John. “What happened next?”
“Well,” I answered. “Hearing this, she insists she’s going too. ‘What?’ says I, ‘if you think I’m going to sit in a car with you for forty-five minutes when we’re fighting like cats and dogs, forget it! Someone could get killed!’”
“Meaning you could get killed,” laughed John.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “So she jumps in my car and slammed the door. ‘I’m going!’ she says, folding her arms and adding a few oaths. ‘And you can’t stop me!’
“‘Oh yeah?’ I said. ‘What about me being such a grandpa driver? You hate the way I drive. Now you can’t wait to go with me!’ So I get out of my car. I just left her there. I needed to cool off. What else was I going to do?”
“I don’t know,” answered John. “You’re telling the story.”
“I thought it over for a minute and decided maybe we can do it. Maybe we can manage to sit next to each other for three-quarters of an hour without fighting. Who knows? Miracles can happen, can’t they? So I take a few deep breaths to relax and then I get back into my car. Looking at her though, I see it’s useless. She’s good and angry by now!
“‘Ha! Ha!’ she laughs. ‘So you changed your mind, did you? You’re such a weak bastard! And if you think I’m going to listen to Bob Dylan on the way, you can forget it!’ Then she pulled the CD out of the player and threw it out the freaking car window!
“Man, was I pissed off!” I added. “And we hadn’t even left the garage!”
“Well,” says John. “It’s better to be pissed off than pissed upon, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” I agreed. “I know that. Only she was trying to piss me off, you know? What’s the good of that?”
John just nodded. He’s married too, so he would probably know.
“It was okay, though,” I conceded. “She threw out Slow Train Coming*, So the joke was on her!”
* Columbia Records (1979)