Patrick C. Keaveny

The Wordy Coder

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The Meek

“Coffee.” One said.

“Coffee, cream and sugar, Sugar.” The other said.

“Two coffees, coming right up gentleman,” the waitress said.

“Cream and sugar?” Said the first.

“Gives it some taste. Otherwise it’s just coffee-flavored water.”

“Why drink it if you have to add things to make it taste better?”

“Why drink it only one way when there are so many more ways to enjoy it?”

The first smiled. “We’ll never agree, will we?”

The second sighed sadly. “Looks like we won’t.”

The two looked around at the diner they were, desperate to look anywhere but at each other. It was a run-of-the-mill diner, full of bustling people, the smell of coffee, and the aroma of syrup hitting hot butter and pancakes for the first time, making the person eating it feel as though everything in the world would be all right.

A few minutes later and the waitress brought a pot of coffee with two cups. She also set down a ceramic container full of sugar packets and a small, silver pitcher for the cream.

“You two just going to drink coffee or do you feel like getting some food as well?” She asked hopefully.

The first snuck a glance at the second.

The second looked into his coffee as if it was an abyss ready to swallow his life whole.

“Well, let me know if you change your mind,” she said. Then walked off to see to customers that were actually willing to get food.

“We’ve come a long way,” said the first.

“And yet nothing ever gets easier,” said the second.

“Is something easy worth having?”

“Sometimes I wish it were. Everything is so difficult.” The second took a packet from the ceramic, tore it open, and emptied it into the dark, swirling, black abyss. “The wife is pregnant again. The kid is falling behind in school. The job is giving me less and less hours, soon I’ll just be another poor sod looking for work.”

“Doesn’t your wife work?”

“She did. Took time off to care for the baby. Then she went back to work and got pregnant again. Then she quit when they wouldn’t give her maternity leave twice in the same year.”

“Sounds like you both need to buy this little box of things we call condoms.”

The second laughed.

“Or your wife needs to learn to be grateful for her job.”

The second grimaced.

The first laughed. He took a sip of his coffee. He was an old man, as silver as a fox in the winter and as aged as a man with a lifetime of memories behind him. “My wife didn’t work. Never wanted to. Too content with the stay-at-home world. Didn’t bother me much until she started complaining of money. I always smacked her when she did. But I always brought home the cash. I was always grateful for the job. Even if it tore my hands into stripped screws. Then I lost the job.”

He picked up his cup, blew a bit on the swirling black muck, and sipped it contently. “We all lost our jobs. Didn’t whine nor complain nor bitch about maternity leave, and we all lost them anyway. Your wife should have stayed at home if she wanted time off or she should have shut the fuck up.”

The second regarded the first. “You’re a sick son of a bitch.” He was a much younger man, not built the same way as the silver fox, and showing a noticeable belly from a life of stress, responsibility, and despair. He always wore a distressed look about him, even when he was asleep.

The first laughed again. “I know I am. But the wife’s long dead. As dead as Christ. As dead as you are.” He took another sip of his coffee and took a sentry of all the people in the diner. “They’re all going to die too, you know.”

The second took his head into his hands, his fingers gripping his hair so tightly he might as well have pulled it all out. “They’re already dead.” He shakily took a sip of his cream-white coffee. “With everything that’s happening out there, involving people thousands of miles away and those with much more power than us…”

“There’s always going to be someone with more power than you. Because you let others take it away. My sort will take it back.”

Then the cups started to rattle. The ground started to shake. It was slow at first, and most everyone ignored it. But then the rattling grew louder. The shaking became violent.

The second looked around, seemingly aware of his and everyone else’s fate.

The first was still. Almost as if he hadn’t even noticed the violent tearing of the ground or the shouting of frantic people who suddenly all realized that all of their plans for the future were about to be extinguished.

The second put down his cup and lifted his head up, then turned it to the left to look out the window. There was a blinding, radial light. An angelic light of warmth and death. As great and significant as it was angry and explosive. Soon it engulfed all of them.

When the first put down his cup, finally empty after a long sojourn into the black caffeine, he sighed, satisfied. He looked around at the diner, where vines and vegetation had started to grow back into the cushions of the booths and the grounds where the world had been torn asunder, re-claiming the earth.

Only place for a hundred miles to get some decent god damned coffee, he thought.

He looked out the window into the long-dead city a mile high. The meek hadn’t inherited the earth after all.