A collection of fictional short stories based in the small town of Cardinal City.
©2011 Aaron M. Fugate

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



                "Good morning, Terry," Jim Carson announced as he walked up to the counter in Jane's Coffeehouse in Cardinal City.
                "And a good morning to you, Jim," Terry Cole, the owner of Jane's Coffeehouse, replied. "Don't tell me - a caramel mocha and a blueberry bagel."
                "No, Terry, I believe I'll just have straight coffee and a cherry bagel this morning."
                Terry's mouth dropped open. He was speechless for a moment. Then he stammered, "J-Jim - for - what - fifteen years? - , you’ve come in here every Tuesday and asked for a caramel mocha and a blueberry bagel. Now, plain coffee and a cherry bagel? What's gotten into you?"
                Jim grinned, "It's just a fifteen-year tradition I'd like to discontinue today."
                Terry rang up the order and asked, "Would you like cream cheese with that?"
                "Certainly," Jim replied as Terry went to pour his coffee.
                In the middle of pouring, Terry stopped and looked pointedly at Jim. "Is this the only fifteen-year tradition you're planning on stopping?" Terry was referring to the fact that Jim had run for city council every year for the past fifteen years and lost every time.
                "Yes, Terry, that's the only one."
                "I should have known." Terry finished pouring and brought the mug over to the counter. "Three fifty-one, please."
                "No problem." Jim handed the money over and received his change.
                "Here's your bagel. Hey, enjoy your, er, non-traditional breakfast." Terry turned around as if to continue working.
                "Uh, Terry, there's actually something I'd like to talk to you about. Could you take a break for a while so that we can sit down and discuss it?
                When they were seated, Jim began, "Terry, I'd like you to consider making this coffeehouse my campaign headquarters this year."
                "Jim, you know I've never done that before, and you know why also. This is not a place of politics; it's a coffeehouse."
                "Terry, would you just consider it, please?"
                Terry studied the man across the table from him. Of medium height, with brown hair, middle-aged, and slightly overweight, Jim had made a model politician for the past decade and a half.
                Likewise, Jim studied Terry. A respected entrepreneur in Cardinal City who had taken over a failing business from his late mother, Terry could not risk his popularity in the town on a perennially failing city council candidate.
                "All right," Terry sighed.
                "Then you'll consider it?"
                "Yes, but I'm not making any -er- campaign promises," Terry grinned.
                Jim was far too excited to notice Terry's needling. "Can I invite you over for dinner tonight at six-thirty?"
                "I'll be there."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
                Dinner consisted mainly of Jim talking about his campaign. His wife, Marie, and two children, Richard and Esther didn't say much throughout the meal, nor did Jim address them very often. Terry sensed a feeling of discord in the family. He shrugged it off, thinking that perhaps the family was not used to guests. However, something nagged at his mind when he went back to work the next day.
                An early customer on Wednesday at the coffeehouse was Marie Carson. After receiving her order she didn't turn around to take a seat; rather, she addressed Terry Cole. "Terry, can I talk to you about using your coffeehouse as a campaign headquarters for Jim?" Somehow, she felt the kindly proprietor, with graying brown hair and mustache, glasses, and worn "Jane's Coffeehouse" uniform could be of help to her.
                "Oh, no; not you, too?" Terry said, smiling.
                "I'm afraid so, Terry." Marie gave a shy smile and continued. "I wonder; did you notice Jim paying a lot of attention to his family last evening?"
                "No, Mrs. Carson, I-"
                "Terry, it's become a real problem. He works late every day, even Saturday, never goes to church, and prefers to spend time with the political talk shows on TV rather than his family when he is home." She sighed and finished, "I thought maybe if you agreed to use your shop as his headquarters you would have a chance to talk to him. He won't listen to me, or our children. I almost wish he'd never become a banker, regardless of the pay."
                "I'll do what I can, Mrs. Carson."
                "Thank you."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

                "Terry, I'm so glad you decided to let me use your coffee shop," Jim smiled as he hung a campaign poster in place of a picture that had adorned the walls of Jane's Coffeehouse for twenty-five years. "With this kind of support from you, I might actually win this time."                    
                "Oh, it's no problem, Jim. I just wish I hadn't waited until there was only a month left of campaigning," Terry replied. "This'll be the sixteenth time you've run, won't it?"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  

                The month passed quickly. On Election Day, the voters of Cardinal City renewed their own tradition the sixteenth time - voting against Jim Carson on the city council section of the ballot.
                The posters were taken down, buttons reading "JIM CARSON FOR CITY COUNCIL" were put away, and the "VOTE CARSON for CITY COUNCIL" T-shirts were stored in order to be used again.
                "Jim, there's something I'd like to talk to you about," Terry announced as he hung a picture back in its rightful place on the wall of his coffeehouse.
                Jim Carson could not help but chuckle, "Are you going to ask if I'm going to run again next year?"
                "No, Jim, I'm not," Terry said somberly.
                Jim stopped chuckling and looked Terry squarely in the eye. "What's the matter?"
                Jim bristled as Terry got right to the point. "Jim, your wife asked me to designate my coffeehouse as your campaign station this year."
                "M-my wife asked you?"
                "I believe she wanted us to talk about something; namely, your relationship to your family."
                "Oh, Terry, uh..."
                "Now don't try to push me off, don't make excuses, and don't tell me it's none of my business. Your wife came to me because she's concerned: concerned about you, concerned about your children, concerned about herself. Jim, you've missed the childhoods of both of your children because you've been balancing accounts, and - and looking at numbers on a computer screen, whatever you do at that bank every night. Jim, this is your only chance. I don't want to see you throw your life away because you're too busy to come home until eight every night, and because you 'just can't miss' that state assembly special on Channel 14."
                Jim was silent for a long moment. Then he replied, "Terry, I... I don't know what to say. I hadn't realized this was such a problem until you brought it up."
                "Oh, it's a problem all right, and I expect you to do something about it."
                Jim silently finished the work and went to get some things done at the bank.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

                At five o'clock that afternoon Jim turned to Rex Evansberg, another employee at the First Redbird Bank. "Rex, can you finish this letter to the clearinghouse?"
                "No problem, Jim," Rex answered. Seeing Jim get up and put on his coat, Rex asked, "Say Jim, where are ya going?"
                "I'm going home, Rex. Home," he repeated.
                "This early?"
                "This early. Now, Rex, ahem, the letter to the clearinghouse?"
                "Oh, uh, yeah. See ya later."
                Jim drove home rather slowly that evening. When he reached his house on Pleasant Drive, he could just imagine the looks on the faces of his wife and children when they saw him come home so early. Terry's words, This is your only chance, kept ringing through his mind. Tonight he would start a new tradition: spending time with his family. Then he remembered his son's request of the previous evening for them to play catch together in the backyard; he remembered that Esther wanted him to listen to her spelling words for a test next Monday; he remembered Marie's desire to spend a weekend vacation up at her sister's summer home. He decided it was time to make some changes in the Carson household, and that there was no better time to stop an old tradition, a certain sixteen-year-old tradition, than the night when he started the most important tradition of his life.

1 comment:

  1. I liked how you brought the concluding statement back to the beginning of the story with your traditions making/breaking. I can also tell you've worked in a restaurant with the regulars.