Jake drinks his coffee as folks troll by asking about his back, the café door slamming with the coming, the going. He says he can bend a little. It’s better than last week, but it’ll never be the same. Elijah, wire-rimmed glasses, feed cap, is settled low next to Jake with his heavy coat too thick for the spring weather, deep dark eyes.
Time passes. The clack of silverware, the ceramic-formica click of a coffee cup finding its final destination.
When Virgil scrapes in at the table and rubs his scruffy brown beard, Elijah stares at a point out beyond the restaurant, beyond the macramé owls on the walls, out to the flat line of horizon. Eventually, Jake turns to him, “And when’re you going to start that business you went off to school to learn about? What’ve you done? Nothing. Just sitting around.”
“I didn’t go to school for that,” Elijah says.
Jake says, “You’ve never worked a day in your life.” Virgil unfolds, pats Jake on the back, once, twice.
Elijah is dark and quiet with long fingers that never come clean. His old coat, down packed tight, has a bulging front left pocket.
The waitress, Suzy, is all blond confidence and good, loud voice, “Elijah, Julie says we need some ones.” She refills Jake’s coffee, leaves Elijah’s untouched. “Hey, what’re you guys doing with this magazine?” Gravity brings her pretty finger down. “I need a ‘kini.” She picks it up. “Now there’s some nice ones.”
“You can have it. We were just looking at the girls,” Jake says.
Elijah reaches into his coat pocket, hesitates, and says softly, “How many does Julie need?” Suzy bustles away with the magazine and a smeared plate.
Elijah hesitates—looks toward the noisy kitchen where pots bang and steam rises, then settles back into his seat, arms by his sides.
Earlier that morning the brothers had huddled together in their dark kitchen, the sun reluctant, waiting. The creaky, cold house had once been their mom’s—prim and pristine with lace doilies and knick-knacks. Now it’s filled with the boy-man smells of dirt, oil, sperm, meat. The wooden table is sticky with crumbs. Their rough hands push gently at them to make room for the magazine delivered to ‘resident’ the day before.
They lean together—shoulders touching—turn on the reading light so it’s a spotlight to the shiny pages. Sand and water and bright blue air with tiny, skinny women smiling up. Pink, blue, and white polka-dots; tiny strings, like presents. Cautiously, they turn the pages.
Elijah says, “That one sort of looks like ma, when she was young—in those old pictures we have.
“Yeah. Kind of,” Jake says.
They carry the magazine with them to breakfast, like a comfort, it occupies the third seat.