Sheila Horne graduated from George Brown’s Creative Writing Program and is the author of three novels: Sunshine Girls, Paper Sun, and Place in the Sun. She is also the co-author of Temple of Light, a book of poems inspired by the Sharon Temple. Her poems and short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. To read more, visit Facebook.com/sheilahorne, author or www.sheilahorne.com.

All posts by Sheila Horne

COFFEE SHOP TALK—When Did I Become Golden?

The Physical Therapist, a nice young man in his thirties likes to tell me stories about his three-year-old son while he works on my injured knee. Today, I ask about knee replacements. “No need for that conversation,” he says. “But, you are in the golden age.” And I think: Golden Age? What the F&^K. Two weeks ago a cashier asked if I was a Lady of a Certain Age. Now I’m a Golden Girl. How did that happen? I loved the television show, The Golden Girls—still do. When it first came out in the ‘80s, I was a young mother. At the time I wondered why in their sixties they were still looking for romance. I mean they were old, almost elderly. Now I’m being told I’m one of them. 

“If you needed a knee replacement which you don’t, you would get one,” the Physical Therapist continues. “If you were thirty years older, they wouldn’t give you one or if you were thirty years younger, you wouldn’t get one because they don’t last and you’d have to get another. But you are prime.” I leave the office, feeling a little antiquated. But at home, as I run up the stairs for the first time in three weeks, I think: I’m not rusty. Not rusty at all. I am golden—shining in my heyday. 

If This is Monday…

It’s the usual in Coffee Shop. Muffin Man eating the top off his muffin while Hat Guy tries to engage him in a conversation. The Good Old Boys yakking about farms and fixing machinery. Job Searcher scrolling through his phone. Frank and Wife reading their newspaper, and Laptop Goddess, frowns at her computer screen. Boring stuff but nothing happens on a Monday morning. Today is no different. Until the words: “Don’t worry, you’ll never have to bring me flowers or chocolates. I’m not that kind of woman,” breaks the silence. 

I look up from my book at the man and woman sitting by the window. I don’t hear his response but she roars with laughter. They’re not young, not old either—forties, maybe. He’s a burly guy, curly brown hair to his shoulders with Harley-Davidson written on his gray shirt. She’s in jeans, slashed at the knees, skimpy top, and she has a black-booted foot on the seat of the chair beside her. If she has to tell him he doesn’t have to bring her flowers or chocolates makes me believe they’re on a first date or it’s the morning after coffee. There’s no lack of conversation between them. Lots of merriment and they’re both perky—a good sign for a first date or the morning after. 

She tells him about her job. It’s stressful—oodles of lifting. “When I first started working there, I wore a size sixteen pants.” She stands up and pulls up her top and twirls around showing off her body. “Now I wear a size two.”

All at once Coffee Shop comes alive. Hat Guy jumps out of his seat mesmerized. For the first-time Job Searcher is interested in what’s happening. Frank and Wife lower their newspapers. Farm Machinery forgotten, the Good Old Boys turn around and stare at her. And I think: If this is Monday what will Friday bring? 

COFFEE SHOP TALK—Am I a Lady of a Certain…What?

“I love your shirt,” the young man behind the counter says when I walk through the door. 

I look down to see what I’m wearing. It’s my Beatle shirt. “It’s Webber Wear. A friend of mine, Kenny Webber painted it,” I say.

“You’re lucky,” the young man says. “Does he do canvases?” 

“Yes.” 

He waves his hand in the air. “I would love a wall done just like that with the same colours.” 

And I think: Wow, he’s talking to me as if I’m a young hip-chick. “That would be sooo cool,” I say, trying to sound groovy. 

As I turn to leave he raises a fist in the air and says, “Wear that shirt proud.” 

I head down the sidewalk, with a bounce in my step, coffee cup in hand, feeling young and, as we would say, nifty. In the store two doors down I pick up two cushions and take them to the counter. The sales woman whispers, “are you a lady of a certain…” 

And I think: Is she asking me if I’m a lady of ill repute? Who asks that kind of question? And do they still have ladies of ill repute? “Sorry, I don’t think I heard your question correctly,” I say. 

 “Are you a lady of a certain age?” She almost mouths the words making it difficult to hear. “We have to be careful how we ask the ladies if they’re a senior. For the senior discount, you know.” 

And I think: A few minutes ago I was young and cool having a conversation with a millennium about art. Now I’m a lady of a certain age? How did that happen? “What’s the discount?” I ask.

She raises her eyebrows and smiles. “Seniors get a twenty-percent discount.”  

And I think: Do I tell the truth and take the discount? I mean twenty-percent is a lot. Or do I stick with the young hip-chick thing? The discount won. 

COFFEE SHOP TALK—Write This Down

“Write this down. Put it in your book,” the woman next to me says, “call me Mary or Vivienne or Roxanne. Call me what you want.” Her life story flows. Eighty years old, looks seventy, born Irish, adopted as a baby, and she loves sexy books, wants to write one. “A secret boyfriend, I have.” She flashes a smile. “He’s married but I like him…a big secret.” I take down her words; listen to a burst of notes flow from the upright bass and guitar. Across the room an artist brings an empty canvas to life. Sunrays, I think, the ocean, sea life, the colours of Barbados. 

COFFEE SHOP TALK—Blame it on the Biorhythms.

My morning coffee meeting, and my lunch plan with a friend change and I end up at two thirty in the afternoon in Coffee Shop. Not that I mind. I spend a lot of time alone but when two people cancel with me within hours of each other I can’t help but think: Is it me? Or is it my biorhythms? And what are biorhythms? What ever they are maybe mine are off today. Since I know nothing about them, I take out my phone and do research. This is what one website says—when the cycle switches from plus to minus or minus to plus it’s a critical day because you are neither up nor down, but in a state of limbo. So here I am in limbo listening to a young man educate a couple in their seventies about life. They grin at him pretending they believe what he’s saying. Finally, he taps the table and says, “Okay let’s go.” 

Except for the music, it’s quiet at the back until the two women behind me begin a conversation. “He liked me, was always nice then he stopped being nice,” one says. 

“That’s what he does,” her friend answers.  

My mind wanders back to my biorhythms and I try to find out how to fix them. Every once in a while I am interrupted by the women’s loud voices.
“I told her to elope, it’s her second wedding for heaven sakes, but no she wants a big wedding, now we have to plan a wedding.”

“That’s how they are,” says the other. Her voice rises and bounces off the glass windows when she says, “At least you see her. I rarely see my children. I know they’re busy but they could come once a week or even once a month.” Now she’s getting louder. “Is that too much to ask? Am I asking too much?” 

Shut up, I say, too quiet for them to hear over the music and their yelling about who’s paying for coffee next time. They put on their coats and walk to the front. Just as I think it can’t get any worse a man and woman come to the back and sit down. It’s just the three of us now and it’s obvious the woman has set up the date to tell the man he’s a cheapskate. He has lots of money but too cheap to spend it. Apparently, the other night when they were out with a group of friends he kept phoning for cabs. He should have hired a car and driver for the day. He can afford it. I feel sorry him. He can’t get a word in edge wise. Then she starts about his apartment, his furniture, his clothes—a man with his income should have better clothes and furniture. 

And I think: What is with today? Is this March coming in like a lion? 

 “But I have a ten thousand dollar stereo system,” he says.

“No one gives a shit about a stereo system,” she says. 

“I do,” he says. “It’s important to me.”

And I think: I’d like to hear my tunes on that stereo. 

The conversation continues with her telling him she’s done, finished, can’t do it anymore and he’ll never meet a nice woman. He shrugs. And I think: His biorhythms must be off and I’m not in limbo, I’m in hell. Time to go home, sit on the couch and listen to the sounds of silence. 

COFFEE SHOP TALK

Cheating on my mind

I cheated. I’m blaming my hubby. He encouraged me. Told me if I wasn’t satisfied, I should go elsewhere. Glad to know he thinks that way. So, with cheating on my mind I parked my car way, way over on the other side of the parking lot. You know, just in case someone recognized me. I thought the experience would be exciting like Christmas, Santa Claus, and peppermint candy canes. Images of sugarplums would dance in my head. It wasn’t. It left me cold, uninspired and bored—a big let down. It’s for the ambitious who, are into solving math problems. And as I made the trek through the pouring icy rain back to my car, I couldn’t help but think: Was the guilt of having an eggnog latte in Other Place worth it? I love Coffee Shop, been in a relationship with it for over seven years. Then there’re the women behind the counter who know my name. Who welcome me every morning, worry about me when I miss a day or two. How can I face them, look them in the eyes? Would they smell eggnog and nutmeg on me? Notice the drop of foam on my sleeve? I don’t want to cheat on Coffee Shop but this is the time of year when my thoughts turn to eggnog lattes. So, here’s my big question:  am I cheating if I get it to go?

COFFEE SHOP TALK-Resolution Time

The holidays are over and I’m back in Coffee Shop. I’ve missed it. The coffee. The newspaper. The morning quiet. Being with people but, at the same time not being with people. The woman at the counter is happy to see me but not enough to give me a free coffee. I take my regular seat and open the newspaper. At first I don’t recognize the man who stops at my table. Not until he removes his toque. it’s Hat Guy. “No one puts Baby in the corner,” he says. And I think: Am I Baby? And am I sitting in a corner? I give him an itsy bitsy teeny-weeny smile. He picks up on my confusion and says, “you know Baby, Dirty Dancing.” I get it. He doesn’t want to sit at the table behind the wall. And I think: You’re not sitting here. You talk took much before nine. He walks around the room looking for someone to chat with. He’s in luck. Muffin Man sits down with his muffin and coffee. Hat Guy heads over to his table. They begin a: resolutions conversation. All about getting out more, doing more, slowing down. And I think: Are they talking about resolutions or goals? Two words that can be easily mixed up. The difference being: A goal has an end point. One either meets it or doesn’t. A Resolution is a long-term promise and usually broken. And how does one do more and slow down at the same time? I don’t know. But I have a whole year to find out.

Sheila Horne at:  https://www.facebook.com/sheilahorneauthor/

COFFEE SHOP TALK-This Diamond Ring

 

Frank and his wife, the non-speaking couple, are in the coffee shop. Not much else is going on. Everyone is quiet and whispering. Maybe they realize I write about them. I open my book and stop. “This Diamond Ring,” by Gary Lewis and The Playboys comes over the sound system. And I think: Grade nine, Lamar Junior High School.

I sat next to Rhonda in art class. She was engaged to a boy who played football for Baylor University. Whenever the Texas A&M Aggies played Baylor, we all cheered for the Aggies, like everyone else in Bryan. Except for Rhonda, who sang Baylor’s pep rally song: Baylor University is going to beat the Aggies…hey, hey let’s go Baylor, over and over. She stuck her arm out in front of her and sang: This Diamond Ring. Then removed her engagement ring and ask if anyone wanted to buy it. Apparently, it no longer shone for her. I was in awe of her. She was the only fifteen-year-old girl I knew who was engaged, and not to a high school boy. I wished I had a ring to sing to, but all I had was one the nuns gave me in the convent school. It had the Virgin Mary on it. Somehow I lost that ring in the lake at Wasaga Beach in the ‘70s. But that’s another story.

I’m not sure what happened to Rhonda, if she ever married her Baylor University football player or if he broke her heart. But today, as I watch Frank trudge past my table to re-fill his coffee mug, there’s no skip in his step, not like the other day. Instead, his boots scrape on the carpet. As if he doesn’t have the energy to lift his legs. Or joy has been ripped from soul. And I think: This Diamond Ring is the perfect song for him.

COFFEE SHOP TALK-Something Different

The couple eat and drink their coffee without speaking to each other. They’re regulars. Not talking is normal for them. But today something different happens. Something unusual. Something interesting. The woman finishes her bagel and leaves. A few minutes later another woman walks to the table and says, “Frank?” He nods, and she sits down opposite him. He perks up. It’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh, or talk, or see him enjoy himself. They gab on and on. When he walks to the front to re-fill their coffee mugs, he has a skip in his step—an actual skip. And I think: energetic dynamo, who knew?

Two women, who I call, worker bees, are having an intense conversation. They whisper…whisper…whisper. One wearing black high heel pumps says, “she spills coffee and tea on the carpet near my desk every day.” She leans in close to the other woman and shouts, “Pisses me off.” Whisper…whisper…whisper. Their raised eyebrows and facial expressions fill in the missing details. “Exactly,” says her friend. “Know who I don’t like?” she asks. Now, they are almost nose-to-nose. Whisper…whisper…whisper. High heel pumps, says, “She’s a bitch.” And I think: bitches get things done.

The good old boys are back. No tractor talks today. It’s all about Buicks, Fords and Cadillacs, until one of them gets a call. He puts the phone to his ear. “Speak,” he says. And I think: must be his dog phoning.

Chatty woman from two weeks ago says she looks for me every day. Now she knows I hide at the back. I ask about her dating life. “Oh, you’ll never guess,” she says. She recently went on a date with a man who had a tiny head. She can’t believe Match.Com matched her with someone who looks like a squirrel. “Do I look like a squirrel?” she asks. And I think…

 

Coffee Shop Talk

It’s as if everyone who spent yesterday outside in the sunshine is inside today. While raindrops spatter on the glass then slide to the sidewalk, the man by the window tries to sell insurance to a couple. They stare at him perplexed when he says I don’t want to hear…I don’t want to have that conversation. And I think: let’s have that conversation. He suddenly packs up his briefcase and says I have to go, leaving the couple stunned. Across the room, two men, one wearing a Fidel Castro kind of hat, are chatting and laughing, the way it should be in a coffee shop. For the man, four tables over it’s a gloomy day. He’s bored, has nothing to do but scroll up and down his phone, hoping something will change. Two young women at the table next to his are taking pictures of their food. And I think: make him happy email the photos to him. A woman smiles at me. She can’t decide where to sit. She walks there…here…there again…back to here. She asks if she can have the seat next to me. I say yes. She sits and dials a number on her phone and has a conversation on speaker. And I think: should have said no. A girl walks in and glances at me. And I think: noisy eater, no, hmmm…could be…might be…maybe. She chooses the leather sofa chair, takes a bite of her bagel and chews. I hear her—noisy eater from a week ago. Then there it is: In the middle of the chatter, chewing and racquet of the coffee grinder. In the middle of unknown songs and lyrics on the sound system, comes Spencer Davis Group’s, “I’m A Man.”