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       Mind Cafe, p.1

           Lizzy Ford
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Mind Cafe
Mind Café

  A Short Story (revised 06/2011)

  By Lizzy Ford

  Edited by Christine LePorte

  Cover art and design by Dafeenah

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  Copyright 2011 by Lizzy Ford

  Cover art and design copyright 2011 by Dafeenah

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  See other titles by Lizzy Ford at

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  #guerrillawriter, #fiction

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  My left eye didn’t open this morning, a sure sign of my body’s accelerating demise. Sometimes, if my nurse Maria positioned me right, I could see the long silver braid of my hair resting over my shoulder. Maria dealt with me like she did any other piece of furniture in the room, but she at least always braided my hair, the most beautiful part of me. It was all I could take pride in since my body was taken in a car accident that left me a thinking vegetable … with beautiful hair.

  According to some strange MTV Halloween special, scaring myself to death was possible, if the doctors would allow mirrors in my room. I once convinced myself the true reason the doctors didn’t allow me to see myself was because they were slowly removing pieces of my body, one by one, year after year, and I was nothing but a floating head with a beautiful silver braid. This, too, happened once in a cartoon on MTV, except that the head was encased in its own little helmet and buzzed around the room.

  As much as I hated MTV-- the only channel Maria watched-- I was lonely when the TV was off.

  I retreated to my only refuge, the Mind Café, shortly after realizing my left eye wasn’t working and sat in one of the four fluffy, red leather sofas before plain tables. The Café was brightly lit and consisted of two windows through which I could watch Maria or the TV, a door in the corner for visitors, and an eerie white wall to my right, through which the already-dead came to visit. Sometimes the Café was freezing or too hot or the lights were off or it smelled funny. The Mind Café wasn’t truly mine but was some sort of purgatorial halfway house run by a moody guardian angel that took too many smoke breaks.

  There was nothing on the table again today, not the notebooks the moody angel had made disappear weeks ago or my favorite chocolate cake or the café mocha I craved. He’d been negligent for over a month. I tapped my fingers and waited for any visitors. In the Café, I had the body I lost when I was twenty-four, down to my favorite shoes and shirt. Nothing aged except my hair, which had turned from brown to silver.. I willed my fingernail polish to change from blue to pink and watched the transformation.

  The door in the corner jingled as it opened. One of my best friends, Joey-- a barrel-chested man with scrawny legs, hawkish features, and bright blue eyes-- entered with a smile. He visited regularly to tell me about his wife and grandkids, his projects around the house, his job.

  “Hey, Rosie!” he said, seating himself on the couch. “I finished my dresser this weekend.”

  “The new one?”

  “Pink?” he replied, eyes on my nails. “I told you your skin is too fair for that shade of pink.”

  “It’s cheerful!”

  “Yes, the dresser is a cherry color. It took three-quarters of a gallon of paint. Can you imagine? Sheila said it would take more, but it’s just a standard dresser with drawers measuring twenty by thirty by eight inches. There’s no need for more than a gallon.”

  “I guess it depends on how many coats it takes.”

  “Yeah, probably. I think I’ll sand it and just put two coats. It’s a cheapy anyway. I paid forty for the unfinished dresser and four thirty-five for the paint. It’s in a dark corner where no one can see it.”

  I smiled and leaned my head against the back of the couch. Joey was an engineer obsessed with numbers in any form. He knew the price of a can of chicken soup in every major grocery store within fifteen miles of his home and told time down to the second.

  “You writing another book?” he asked.

  “I was, but my notebooks haven’t appeared in a few days,” I said, and glanced back toward the glowing wall.

  I suspected everything I wanted in life was behind that wall, including my notebooks. It bothered me when my things appeared one day and disappeared the next. Sometimes I had coffee and notebooks, and sometimes I went days with nothing, even visitors.

  “They haven’t had carrot cake in thirteen days,” Joey complained. “Bastards.”

  “Take it up with …” I waved toward the back wall. “If I had any control here, I’d have my notebooks, and you’d have carrot cake. I almost finished my second novel, too.”

  “Which one?”

  “The second of the trilogy I stared BDA.”

  BDA stood for Before the Damn Accident. There was another, ADA, After the Damn Accident. I used to call these times BFA and AFA before deciding I would win no favor with the Greater Being by using too much profanity.

  “Didn’t Lily finish it for you?”

  “I like my version better. Lily inherited the technology genes, and I got the creative genes. I love my sis, but she couldn’t write to save her life.”

  “But she did get your first book published and then published her version of the second book, right?”

  God, how I loved my sister, Lily! She truly believed seeing my book in print would heal me. I still remembered the anguished look in her eyes when she realized it wouldn’t.

  “She had it published by a vanity publisher,” I replied, mood souring.


  “It’s not a real publisher. She paid someone to print it.”

  “But it’s still a book in print. I bought twenty of them.”

  “Whatever,” I muttered. Those not in the publishing industry never understood a writer’s yearning to have publishing conglomerates drooling over the rights to the writer’s book. I saw vanity publishing as the act of a desperate writer, and yet I loved my sister even more for what she did: shelled out her own money to make my dream come true.

  “I wrote a book about our discussions over dinner in college,” Joey continued.

  “They were never boring conversations!”

  “Nope,” he agreed. “You remember the one where we plotted to take over Egypt?”

  “Yeah! That lasted almost two weeks, and we had a great plan!”

  “I put that in there. I took Egypt out and made up a country, though. I didn’t want the feds to think I’m up to something.”

  “You’re too old by now to take that kind of action anyway.”

  “Hell yeah. I’ll be sixty in three months, two days, and five hours, give or take a few. I’m officially a dirty old man. You know how cool that is?”

  I shook my head.

  “It’s one of the stages of life. Dirty old manhood is what every man secretly waits for,” he said with a lopsided smile.

  The windows were blocked for a moment, throwing the Café into darkness. We both looked to see Maria pass with a vacuum.

  “Did I tell you she’s from Guatemala?” I asked.

  “No way!”

  “She is!”

  “Half the doctors at Sheila’s school were from some five-week medical program in Guatemala. The only English words they knew were ‘Motrin’ and ‘time’s up.’”

  “I remember that!”

  He cocked his head to the side, listening to the silent call that took my visitors away. I never understood what drew my visitors away, or even what possessed them to visit.

  “Time’s up,” he said with a grin. “I’ll come by in a few days.”

  I frowned and watched him go. He cros
sed to the door with a wave. I waved back and saw that my nails were blue again. The door jingled, and he was gone.

  I sighed and rested my hands in my lap. I was dressed in my favorite blue jeans and red V-neck T-shirt. My clunky clogs were off and my legs folded beneath me in the sofa. I played with my long, silver braid for a moment before glancing out the window and seeing an MTV beach party on the television. It was not something I cared to watch, so I stretched out on the comfortable red couch and gazed at the mirrored ceiling.

  From a distance, and frozen at the age of twenty-four, I was pretty. My hair was silver and my eyes big and blue. People always looked different at a distance, though. One of my psychologists was handsome from a distance but up close, his features were heavy and lopsided. I assumed that the reason he didn’t want me looking in a mirror was because he himself wasn’t comfortable with one. He came once every other week for the past ten years. He brought interns and even his secretary once, claiming I was the best-adjusted vegetable he had ever met.

  “Rose?” Lily’s soft voice startled me out of my doze.

  “I’m sorry, sis. I didn’t hear the bell,” I told her, sitting up. My nails turned sunny yellow.

  “I came in the back way,” Lily said with a smile.

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