A Descriptive Morning
“You see this?” Ray says to Hank, holding up a book-sized brochure with a pumpkin orange cover. “That guy Obler is doing a class on Description this spring.”
Hank dropped into the creaky wooden chair with his favorite sky blue mug, brimming with Kona, at his lips. Hank wore his Carhart hat, and a crow’s foot sprouted on his left temple. “Description, eh?” Hank muttered.
“Don’t get too excited.” Ray tore off a length of his cinnamon roll. Ray lived “uptown,” always got to the café earlier than Hank but always waited before starting to eat. Now that both their wives were passed, they two men were basically family.
Hank, after several heartening mouthfuls of coffee, waved a hand in the air and looked out on Fair Street just in time to nod at Joan Blevins hustling by in her long wool coat.
“You don’t believe me?” Ray said. “All right. Describe this café then. Should be easy. You been coming here every morning for 25 years.”
Hank sniffed and sat up, looking like a lazy dog who’d been told there was a bone buried in a yard somewhere on the block. “Sure,” he said. “Piece of cake.” He turned his chair out with a creak, crossed one leg over the other, and ran his hand up under his cap, working a nail into his scalp. “Welp …”
Hank scratched and scratched with that finger, which came down some to work the eyebrows too, like it’d been paid for premium service.
“Looking for the On switch?” Ray teased.
“The café … was run by Gabe and Tara. There were several tables of large proportion, one of which was made of slats from the Miller’s old barn, what had come down last year.” Hank started off unsurely, but straightened his back once he got going. “In fact, you could still see the red paint, which had been imperfectly sanded off by man who called himself an electrician!”
Both men knew perfectly well that Tara had paid Ray for that bit of woodwork. Ray smirked. His best friend was a wily old son-of-a-turd.
Hank beamed now and gave it his all about the wait staff, whose sons and daughters they were; he had a word about the specials on the blackboard with extra attention for his favorite, Tara’s blackberry scones; and he capped it with a fact about the stove Gabe had installed being capable of 550 British Thermal Units, which was a bit technical but was nonetheless delivered with an authoritative air that put the author on equal footing with a pharaoh.
Finished, Hank turned his chair back towards Ray and said, “I could go on all day. Description? Nothing to it.”
“Not bad,” Ray obliged. “I guess you don’t need to take any class.”
“I guess not, friend,” Hank said.
Benjamin Obler is teaching "Get Descriptive" this spring at the Loft. He is the author of Javascotia from Penguin Books UK (2009). In 2014, his story “The White Man’s Incredulity Furrows His Brow” won the fiction contest with the journal Puerto del Sol.