Marjorie Dashwood had realized very quickly in the early months of ownership, nearly half of everyone who came into No.10, came in leashed. Leashed to a phone, leashed to a computer. Some came in with a book, some came in with a friend and simply talked, but most came in to drink coffee while attached to a screen. Some wore headphones, effectively sealing themselves in a bubble of anonymity with an umbilical cord to their caffeine. Her analytical nature kicked into gear. Was this healthy for a society . . .
A coffee bar, No.10—a world within a world. A micro world. Like an office, a dormitory, a sports team, a weekly knitting circle, a classroom, a small congregation, a family. All the ranging emotions, the connecting, the breaking connections, the simple and the complex, the vicissitudes of life. Playing out each day, every day in some chair or booth, for a few minutes or an hour, little dramas, comedy and tragedy, behind the counter or in front. Marjorie found herself watching people a lot, glancing, swiftly, without being obvious. Or so she thought . . .
Of the First Magnitude (Incongruous Pt. III) Marjorie was having doubts. Not about going to dinner with Henri Dylan. But of telling Trixi about it before she went. The phone call had caught her by surprise, while her mind had been absorbed in the startling fact that she was hurrying home, to change clothes and … Continue reading Coffee at No. 10: Installment 29: Of the First Magnitude (Incongruous Pt. III)
The belt of Orion was vivid, the three bright stars hanging just over the fir trees at the edge of his lawn. The ancient Greek hunter warrior faithfully in position, guardian like, over the mountain town, over the country, over the world, a major player on the canopy stage. Henri Dylan stood on the back porch of his home, looking up into the clarity of the winter sky with no less awe and wonder than he had felt decades earlier, as a boy of five . . .
Marjorie never tired of seeing those humorous little vignettes of human irony that so often pass through our daily life. Or, that we ourselves participate in. The harmless, but incongruous, the silly, the absurd, ordinary things of life that perhaps might give pause, ever so slightly, to the possibility of evolution. On her way to work, she had passed one. In the cycle only lane, a committed biker in the grip of an arctic February morning, in full biking gear—helmet, pads, spandex, neon vest—an impressive, lean machine, pumping with focus and intensity . . .
Marjorie switched off the television with a decided air of irritation. Clearly, someone in the stratosphere of the local weather channel, writing copy for the anchors, had grown bored with the plain talk of precipitation, cloud cover, and barometric pressure. They had consulted an online thesaurus with undisguised zeal. Suddenly the forecasts were heavy with adjectives, nouns, and verbs, perhaps more suited to an aspiring novelist, or screen writer. An Arctic monster was looming, crouching, stalking; temps were plunging, diving, subterranean; frigid winds would be hysterical, lashing, walloping, abusive, laden with ice picks, mummifying, searing. Marjorie had never seen . . .
Stella Bishop loved working at No.10. She had not expressed that feeling to any living person, preferring to hug and hold it tightly within herself. Speaking of it might put her happiness at risk, or at the very least, diminish it. Might cause derision or laughter. Of course, she did not want that to happen. This was the first time . . .
Rachel had hurried to Longborne Bakery to pick up the late lunch she and Marjorie were sharing. This left Marjorie, owner and less-than-confident barista, to man the coffee bar by herself for a few minutes. She did not feel especially apprehensive, hoping that if a customer came in they would order something relatively "simple," within her skill level. If not, she was prepared to bribe--wait a few minutes for Rachel and the drink would be on the house. She was sweeping behind the bar this late afternoon, the sun bright, slanting across Downing Street, deceptive of the temperatures that had held steady at 19 degrees all day. It had been nearly two weeks since Rufus had died. Yet, it seemed he was always close to the surface and radar of her thoughts. She could see him so clearly in her mind, kind brown eyes, mouth in canine grin, thick tail beating a slow staccato of affection and loyalty. He had been one of the really good ones, a poster dog for the breed and species. Now, everyday, she stepped through her backdoor, she looked toward the empty space where his basket had been . . .
His first circuit of the morning was the perimeter of the backyard. It was the same each morning for the last ten years of his life. From the backdoor, the Lab would trot jauntily around the edge of the big yard, checking familiar smells, pausing at strange ones, making sure the fence was still in place after ten hours of darkness. Even if concerns were detected, he came back to the porch and stood, sentinel like, for half a minute. Make new calculations of the big picture, once the initial exploration had been done. Now, the second trip, a little slower, more paced and careful. Less jaunt. Examine details more closely.
Marjorie Dashwood had been reading this book since she was a girl of eight, so many years ago. She discovered it from her Weekly Reader at school. Ordered it with her saved up allowance, carried it proudly home in her red plaid satchel as though she held a bag of jewels. Books! Dogs and the English countryside and Christmas. It was all perfect. Probably the beginning of her love of British literature.