IN THE BEGINNING was a small table at an outdoor patio of a coffee shop, populated by four middle-aged, graying ladies, possible grandmothers, enjoying a friendly gathering, some with cups of urn coffee, others with the more open cups used for latte or cappuccino. Their hands moving about as a flock of humming birds, testing the neighboring plants, their voices the sing-song of well-established friendships
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Each had some pastry. The only other relevant feature was a small dog, no more than thirty pounds, tied to one of the legs of the table, resting in a comfortable drowse while the ladies chatted.
Perhaps because of your experience with reading fiction or, even more to the point, because of your growing understanding of the governing forces of drama, when you noticed this near idyllic scene, you knew it was too peaceful, too well composed, too comfortable to last. This left you with a sudden feeling of being thrust into the role of an eavesdropper, an observer where, only moments before, you'd been an innocent bystander.
Watching the ladies at conversation, even hearing the comfortable tone of their voices, you were put in mind of the years when you lived in a fire-vulnerable area, where, in dire situations, sheriff's cars patrolled the streets, ordering the residents via amplifiers mounted on their cars to evacuate immediately.
You did not have long to wait. The aforementioned thirty-pound dog was awakened either by a sight or smell. Said thirty-pound dog reacted to said sight or smell with a yelp which, by its tone, struck you as a warning yelp.
Under most circumstances, you would not have given the matter much more thought. How far can a thirty-pound dog drag or otherwise disrupt the inertia of a stationary table?
The answer soon became apparent as the dog, alert and on its feet, had it mind to charge in a southerly direction, toward the driveway parallelling the patio, successfully altering the center of gravity of the table, causing three cups of various forms of coffee and four plates, each containing the remains of some form of pastry to follow in their wake.
What happened next is, you reckon, a gender-based thing in that men under such circumstances would be programed to say "Hey!" at loud voice, while women would characteristically say the equivalent of "Oh!" and one of them might, and in fact did, call the dog by name, which you understood to be either "Rocky" or "Rocco."
Two other tables were impacted bu Rocky or Rocco in motion, causing a glorious display of democracy in action, which is to say several persons attempting to halt Rocky or Rocco's progress, restore some order to the chaos, and help with the spilled wreckage. This goal of return to the relative Eden that once was, before Rocky or Rocco's alarmed awakening, needed time, strategy, and someone with an ability to undo the tangle of leash Rocky or Rocco had accomplished in his brief Hegira.
Much as it pains you to say so in the passive voice, order was restored. New coffee was ordered. The coffee shop even threw in a plate of pastry. You were witness to the process of story in action, prefaced with a calm so suspicious it could only herald a chaos or destabilizing event to come. As a splendid complication, Rocky or Rocco's ability to topple, then drag the table, fit the requirement for surprise, the jumble of men and women trying to restore order, then, in the process, getting in each other's way, provided an intensification of the complication.
Story is all around us, waiting, even sleeping at our feet.
Posted by Shelly Lowenkopf at 10:39 PM