They were in the cafe and they were drinking coffee that swilled at the bottom with very few grounds. It had been made well. His friend, who was rather calm and liked to arch his eyebrows when a question had been asked, as if to say, “don’t you know?” was wearing an old faded Yankees cap, inscribed with the letters NY, although he didn’t wear it as if it were a Yankees cap at all, but some extension of himself, proclaiming his city of origin. He, on the other hand, wore a hunter’s hat, he did, and thought it was mighty fine. He thought he was mighty fine for wearing such a thing. It was a beautiful thing, he thought, really, quite nice. The way it had flaps that splayed up over the sides and fur trimming inside. He wanted to talk about it. To tell his friend how nice it was, how it looked, and how warm it made his head feel, but he didn’t. He didn’t know how.
“How goes it,” he said to his friend, who was reading. He didn’t really want to interrupt his friend while he was reading but he felt he must say something or go crazy..
“Fine,” his friend replied looking at him with arched eyebrows. “Just finishing book two of this book.”
The boy with the hunter’s hat looked at the title. Provinces of Night, it read.
“Huh”, said the boy. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s quite fine,” said his friend, looking back at his book and flicking the page over.
“What do you think of it?” he asked.
“Well,” said his friend, sighing. “I think it’s great. I think it’s really great. An artful rediscovery of the rural space.”
Well, that’s a pretentious thing to say, thought the boy with the hunter’s hat, but of course, he didn’t say so.
“What do you think of the characters?” he asked instead, pushing deep.
“I think the characters are fine,” said the boy with the NY cap. He set down his book on his leg, which was crossed over the other. “What’s this about?”
“Nothing,” said the first boy, looking back at his phone. “Just wondering.” And they lapsed back into silence.
After some time he spoke again. “So you think the characters are fine,” he said, raising up his shoulders and settling down onto his haunches. “But what’s so fine about them? Do they do fine things? Do they look fine?”
“Well, they certainly don’t look all that fine, at least, I don’t imagine them to,” said the other boy. “There’s very little description of what they look like. I imagine them as rather plain, to tell you the truth,” he said.
“Little description, huh.” And again, they lapsed into silence.
The boy with the hunter’s hat was bobbing his leg up and down, up and down. He thought he looked quite dapper for wearing this hat - rather like Holden Caufield, although, he would never say such a thing. He fancied himself a relic from a forgotten time - a splice of history that had supplanted itself into the present. He knew that writers often saw the world from their own little isolated individualities and thought that perhaps he would become a writer. He was very taken with this idea. People will read my books for years to come, he thought. I will be spoken of by the great intellectuals of our time. Such an honest and true individual has not stepped foot into this coffee shop. He grinned to himself.
“What do you think?”
The boy with the hunter’s hat blinked. “What?” he said, looking at his friend, who was looking at him expectantly.
“What do you think about the reversal of power in the book?” he said, his eyebrows knitting together.
The first boy realized his friend must have asked him something and fumbled about for something to say. “Oh - well…” He wanted to reply with something quite profound. “I think it demonstrates the volatile nature of our current political climate.”
“Hmm,” said his friend, nodding and looking back at his book.
The boy with the hunter’s hat congratulated himself heartily for saying something so intelligent while in such a tight fix.
His friend spoke up. “I think it has more to do with the power of the land itself and how that offers a kind of power that can only be accessed by those in close connection with it.”
Damn, that sounded smart, thought the first boy.
At that moment, the bell above the door tinkled and a girl walked in. She had long blonde hair and wore a backpack slung over her shoulders with the initials RJ inscribed on it. Immediately, the boys shifted in their seats, both adjusting their hats.
The girl looked around for a place to sit and noticed that the boys had space on their half-circle couch. She made her way over to them. “Is this seat taken?” she asked them.
“Not at all,” said the boy with the NY cap.
“By you,” said the boy in the hunter’s hat.
She gave him a strange look, as if not sure whether to frown or laugh, but sat down regardless. “It’s a ragged day out there,” she said.
“It sure is,” said the boy in the hunter’s hat, trying to make up for his earlier comment.
“Real blustery,” agreed his friend.
“Oh, Provinces of Night,” said the girl, smiling and pointing. “What a book, one of my favorites.”
The boy in the hunter’s hat felt suddenly invisible and cursed himself for not bringing a book as well. He imagined himself from her perspective, sitting on the couch, holding his phone out in front of him and looking ridiculous. He also thought that his hat might be a little boisterous, with it’s shocking orange color, and shifted it self-consciously on his head.
“What part are you at?” the girl asked.
“Neal is just being introduced,” said his friend, grinning.
“The characters are real fine in that book,” blurted the boy in the hunter’s hat, immediately regretting having spoken. Both the girl and his friend looked at him, his eyebrows raised.
“Yes, they are,” said the girl finally.
“I mean, they’re real great,” he said, trying to backtrack. “We were just talking about the reversal of power in the book, the land, and the power it lends to the common man.”
His friend shifted in his seat, pulling his face down towards the book and staring at it intently.
“Well,” said the girl, frowning. “I don’t know anything about that, but I do love it.” She glanced around the shop for a moment and then pushed herself off the couch. “I’m going to get some coffee,” she said, and with that, walked off towards the counter.
The boy in the hunter’s hat sat silently for a moment and then rounded on his friend. “What,” he said to him. His friend didn’t answer. “What,” he said again, prodding him this time.
“Nothing,” said his friend, his brow furrowing.
The boy in the hunter’s hat turned back to look at the counter. He felt himself sinking into the couch, as if the cushions were swallowing him up, and found the air a little thin. He felt like the world was closing in around him, the fringes folding over to press at the edge of him. He felt remarkably alone at that moment.
The girl came back from the counter. “The coffee here is great,” she said.
“Yes,” said the boy. “It certainly is.”
Kyle Laurita-Bonometti, Guest Contributor
Kyle graduated from Colby this January. He grew up around several towns on the coast of Maine, currently hailing from Hope. He enjoys writing short stories and pieces on hip hop, travel, food, television, and about anything else he can get his hands on. Born in Japan and quickly brought over to the United States he enjoys imagining that he will one day return to tumultuous applause. He hopes to pursue a career in writing and will spend the next few months in South America, "Probably finding himself."