Bruce Callahan

I was at Starbucks the other day and saw this guy who was around 50-60 years old with slicked back hair that was graying at the temples, a brown leather jacket, super tight black pants, and big aviator sunglasses that he left on the entire time he was inside.

I thought he was so awesome I made up a story about him.  Here it is:

Bruce swaggered into the coffee shop, bringing with him the smell of stale cigarettes and musky cologne.  Bruce swaggered everywhere he went, despite the arthritis in his hip that made him limp, more noticeably today because of the cold.  Bruce didn’t mind the limp, he thought  it gave him the appearance of someone who had a story to tell.  Often strangers would ask about what had happened and he would tell them he got his limp from a motorcycle accident or sometimes he said it was the residual effect of a knife fight during a short stay in county jail.  He never mentioned arthritis.

Bruce reached the counter and leaned over, smiling and peering over the top of his sunglasses at the coffee shop girl who was busy making ice tea.  Her eyes remained down on the pitcher of tea and Bruce became slightly annoyed.  He hated when people didn’t notice him.  He was a man who commanded the attention of others and when people failed to recognize that, he became irritated.  Bruce cleared his throat and rapped his hands on the counter in a fancy rhythm he had practiced.  He was sure the flourished beat his hands created let everyone in the café know that he was a man who knew his way around a drum kit. Eyes around the shop momentarily left their papers and flashed at Bruce.  He smirked and thought, that’s right, you are in the presence of a legend.  Pay your respects.

The Barista rushed to the counter and smiled politely at Bruce. “Sorry about the wait.  What can I do for you today?”

Was that a look of recognition in her eyes?  Or was she just being coy?  Bruce put his hands on the counter and gave her the look he reserved for the few woman he deemed worthy of it.  He slide his sunglasses down on his nose and gave her the full experience of his piercing brown eyes which, though now watery and permanently bloodshot, still had the intensity of the brooding artist behind them.  “You, my darling could do many things for me, but today I’ll just take a coffee,” Bruce said with a laugh and a wink.  The girl looked somewhat puzzled and Bruce laughed again, showing he meant no harm.  Poor girl, Bruce thought, she’s probably starstruck.

“Um, okay. Do you need room for cream?” she asked as she grabbed a cup off the stack.

“Listen darling, I take my coffee like I take my women- strong and hot,” Bruce said pushing his glasses back up.  He used that line a hundred times at a hundred different coffee shops and he never got tired of it.

“Does that mean yes or no?” she said, cocking her hip and raising an eyebrow in a way that Bruce found quite fetching.  Bruce chuckled again and smiled down at her, knowing the girl was falling for his practiced seduction.

“What do you think it means?” Bruce asked, widening his stance so her attention would be called downwards.

“I have no idea, that’s why I asked,” the girl said with a sigh.  She turned her back to Bruce and began pumping coffee from the giant urn that sat on the counter.  Bruce took a moment to enjoy the new view presented to him and then decided it was time to close his carefully laid trap.  He cleared his throat and began humming.

“Here, I left room.  If you want it filled up, just let me know,”  the girl said as she set the steaming coffee on the counter.  Bruce just smiled and kept humming. He watched her,  waiting for the recognition he first noticed in her face to return.  The girl fidgeted with the bracelet on her wrist and looked over her shoulder towards the dish-room.  Bruce hummed a little louder, and the girl sighed and looked back at him.  “Do you need anything else?”

“Do you know that song? The one I was just humming?” Bruce asked.  The girl shook her head no.  “Are you sure?  It was quite popular.  It’s called ‘A Hard Days Rain’.  You don’t know it?”  Bruce asked again, annoyance creeping in to the edges of his voice.  Her coy routine was getting old.

“No, I’ve never heard of it.  Your total is $1.75 if there isn’t anything else,” the girl said, her mouth pulled into a hard line.

“I find that surprising that you’ve never heard of it.  It reached number 67 on the charts in 1978.  They still play it on the radio.  I should know, every time they do I get a royalties check,” he said in a tone of nonchalance.  He raked his hands through his graying hair and waited for the admiration he so surely deserved to come.  When the girl still didn’t reply Bruce added, “I was the drummer in the band that played that song.  The Crinks we were called.  You must know The Crinks!” Bruce said a little too loudly.

“Sorry. I wasn’t even born in 1978.  Guess it was before my time,” the girl said, her eyes bored and tired.  “$1.75 please.”

“For a coffee? You’re a pricey one aren’t you,” Bruce said as he pulled out a worn leather coin purse.  His fingers shook as he searched for the correct change.  He tossed a scattering of coins on the counter and grabbed his coffee.  Bruce shuffled towards the exit, trying his best to hide his arthritic limp.

“Have a nice day sir,” the girl called, the laughter ringing in her voice.  Bruce hunched his shoulders and pushed open the door, never looking back.


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