After a long absence I’m once more in my favourite coffee shop staring at my once-was-brimming bucket of coffee in which imperceptibly, ring by ring, the coffee is going down. This is normal behaviour for coffee—you take a suck and the level goes down leaving a tidal ring.
I should say ‘normalish’ because I haven’t been sucking at my brew, not a single slurp. It can mean only one thing, that my very ownpersonal Sage is paying me another visit. Oh goody.
There’s a happy hubbub of pre-winter souls in here. Animated conversations, and no-one watching a silly old goat at his favourite table with all the paraphernalia of a scruffy scribe scattered across the top. Even better, I can risk a whispered query transmitted into apparently empty space—
“Where the hell have you been?”
I sense the silent chuckle. Yep, it’s him—Coffee Breath. A hint of rum too, which means he called round at home first. Bugger. I have only one crock left—
“Had, Lad. Ye had. Mostly still there right where y’ left it, and nary a trace of salt—”
Test for salt. Ye gods, I haven’t heard that excuse in decades …
“So—where? I was getting just a bit worried.”
“A wee doxie on a Spanish merchantman—put up a fearsome scrap they did, we weren’t expecting it. Them Dons can fight when there’s gold involved—”
“Now a recent widow. She wasn’t before we boarded, very quick on the uptake, that lass. Blonde, would you believe? Y’ don’t see many blonde Spaniards—”
“To what do I owe the honour this time?”
There’s a moment’s silence while my coffee blatantly drops half an inch (I’m impressed, my own best efforts rarely exceed half that) followed by a discreet Sagely burp.
At the next table a young blonde damsel glances at me reproachfully, I mutter a brief apology. Well now—she heard The Sage—this has to be a first. Briefly I wonder if she’d be able to see him then I give the thought away. Only I can see him, just me, and sometimes the truly innocent can—the very young as in infant, but smaller. Oops, and on rare occasions when she’s not quite awake, The Spouse. But she dismisses him as a dream every time. Some dream—more your basic nightmare.
“Avast, Lad. Be nice~!” I sense a growl in the words but it’s all sham, he never takes offence—just my blasted coffee, or waht he can find of the rum. On the periphery my vision goes blurry. Oh no … yes, dammit! He’s actually manifesting, a physical presence, right here in Starbucks! No-one else will see him, but at least he won’t be able to sneak any more of my coff—
At the next table the damsel’s head whips around but by the time two incredible blue eyes come to bear on target he’s gone again. Instead of staring at him she’s staring at me. Great quiver.
Well now. Not only did she hear him, she obviously briefly saw him. Almost. Not good. Naaaah, it’s entirely impossible. Unless …
No. I’ve never (so far as I know) reproduced. Certainly not in my younger days, and she’d be more in the grand-daughter category which gets me off the hook entirely; in the decades I’ve been married to The Spouse I’ve never once gone adrift. So she’s not related. How nice.
I wave her what I hope is a cheery but dismissive grin, she opens her mouth to say—
“Why the hell aren’t you answering your cellphone?”
This, expecting, was I not.
My head whips around so fast I hear the whiplash and momentarily see stars. They clear to reveal an irate Spouse. Cellphone? Oh yes, that pocket communicator thingy I keep forgetting to turn on. Spouse? Oh goody. With all guns run out and battle-ensigns streaming; loaded for bear too, I wouldn’t be surprised. Thank heavens, just in time to get me off the hook … I sense The Sage sneaking away. Even though he’s dead sometimes I envy him.
“It is switched on, isn’t it?”
I’d answer but instead I’ve come down with an attack of the “Oh, no”s … the damsel at the next table is tracking an invisible object moving towards the door and I suspect I’m now in deep schtook in more ways than one. Spouse steps closer—she’s lovely when irate—and at the next table Young Damsel is rising to her feet, eyes locked into mine and seemingly keen on making conversation.
I’m an utter coward myself … I’ll admit it, I’ve never been too proud to take the easy way out no matter how hard it is and thankfully there’s just enough coffee left to get me off the hook—
—the huge mug explodes on contact with the tiled floor, a shattering BOOM out of all proportion. The CLONK a split second later as my table likewise impacts terracotta blends nicely with my pained bellow “Cramp!” and in a trice my entire situation is reversed—thank heavens everyone can relate to cramp, for which I’m glad (sudden onset senile dementia was Plan B but I suspect that not many would have bought it).
Even The Spouse is fooled—she should be, times without number I’ve been kicked right out of bed in the wee small hours—she’s prone to cramp so the precedent is well set.I allow her to hobble me outside whilst sympathetic staff turn their attentions to cleaning up.
I try to ignore the forty-five calibre eyes burning into the back of my skull from astern as we leave.
The Spouse drags me unresistingly through the door, I turn to catch a quick glimpse of incredible blue eyes still locked on with nary a blink nor even a flutter of those sweeping eyelashes that any jersey cow would die for; eyes unfalteringly holding and searching mine.
FOR SALE. Cheap. One slightly used Sage
— who’d better damn’ well have a good explanation next time he shows up. Some time not before 2050, I hope …