Waiting for JJ at the Dollop Café. Lila, his girlfriend, and Carl, his best friend, are catching up. JJ is the only shared area in their friendship Venn. Meaning they only hang out when Lila and JJ are together. Except for that one time, of course.
Lila asked, “Still baking the bagels?”
“Yup,” Carl said. “Someone has to do it. They sell them here, in fact.”
“Oh yeah? Doing any writing?”
“Working on the novel.”
“I don’t know. Most people just blog. They blog about not writing their novel. And the pain of not writing their novel. And they don’t have time to write their novel.”
“You don’t have a blog?”
“I used to,” Carl said. “It was called BageLit. It was about bagels and literature.”
“I would start by describing a type of bagel, ingredients, and the finished product. Then compare it to a piece of literature. Usually a poem.”
“Birches, by Robert Frost. That’s like a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted with butter. Comforting and nostalgic. Simple. Evocative of the way things ought to be. A reset after a tough spell.”
Lila looked at him, this rough-around-the-edges-bagel-baking-freak. “You always did march to your own drummer.”
“What are the options? The prevailing beat sucks.”
The waitress brought them that good Dollop Café dark roast and they fixed their coffee in silence.
Lila asked, “Did you ever tell him about that one time?”
“No, it would just thicken the plot. He doesn’t need that.”
“No one needs that.”
“How do you think he’s doing?”
“Obviously better not drinking,” Carl said. “But…”
“He’s somehow more and less at the same time.”
Lila sighed. “I think I know what you mean.”
“I mean, it’s good, right. But something…creepy maybe? About him sober.”
“Shh, here he comes.”
JJ was coming toward them, moving through the tables, a man feeling good, in the flow. He reached the table and smiled down upon them.
“Worlds collide,” JJ said. “Finally.”
“Finally again,” said Carl.
“Yeah,” JJ said. “Finally again. But it’s different now.”
“That’s for sure,” said Lila.
“This is what’s important,” JJ said and took the seat next to Lila. “This is what I’m grateful for.”
JJ read the menu while Carl and Lila shared a look. “More and less at the same time,” their glance confirmed. “Exactly.”
The waitress came back. “I think I’ll have a cinnamon raisin bagel,” JJ said and put the menu back in the stand. “Toasted with butter.”