What passes for coffee in this joint is a live mouse. You'd think I'd have learned that by now. Serves me right for hanging out at the Time Traveling Surrealist. But it's the only place guaranteed to be open at 4 AM on a Sunday, and God do I ever not want to be alone with my thoughts right now.
As it is, even The Surrealist is pretty damn empty. There's the monk in corner laboriously hand-copying some ancient text. He takes about five minutes per letter, like the pages came from Jesus's own little black book.
There's the clerk standing behind the counter, powered down. How anyone can sleep while seemingly randomly generated electronic beats burrow into their brain is beyond me. The music is the one thing I can't stand about the Surrealist. Well, that and the god damned mouse. Sleeping standing up is a pretty good trick, too, but the clerk is doing it. During the daytime they got girls working here that would make you weep just looking at them. But when it's sleepy time you get the clerk. His suit looks like it was purchased in 1853. Hell, it probably was. He shoulda been dead a half hundred years ago, but somehow the clerk just keeps going. Some people say he owns the place.
There's the python, curled up lazily around a plastic tree, pretending to be asleep. He ain't fooling no one, though. Every few minutes his left eye comes open for half a second and then snaps shut again. And on the offbeat his tongue flickers out to taste the air. Sweat, fear and chemicals are all he's getting from me, I'll wager. The monk provides a headier aroma, all musk, catacombs and old paper. The clerk smells of old money, like the bank he must surely have worked at for most of his life. But all that's beans compared to my newly acquired mouse. She just smells of mouse, plain and simple, but it might as well be manna from Heaven to the python.
So there's the monk, the clerk, the python, and the mouse that passes for coffee.
Coffee. A simple request, but apparently too much to ask. You order just a regular cup of coffee in The Surrealist, you get a live mouse. Them's the rules. I realized my mistake when the flutter of a grin passed over the clerk's usually still face. It didn't make him any prettier. There's this black steel cage creaking above the counter for just such an occasion. With practiced movements, the clerk plucked the mouse out without taking his grey eyes off of me. The mouse's dozen or so sisters bid her a noisy farewell. I tried to hand her back, but the clerk just pointed to the sign that read "NO REFUNDS", again without bothering to look. And then he went to sleep.
And now the python is wide awake, no longer feigning sleep. He only has eyes for my little mouse. She seems to know what is coming and quivers with fear. She fits easily in the palm of my hand, she is so small.
The python is uncoiling off the tree, and man is he ever long. 15 feet by the look of him. Hard to believe something could get so big just eating unwanted coffee. He's off the tree now, and moving in my direction. The clerk is still asleep, and the monk is still scribbling. I can hear the scritch of his pen every three seconds or so. It seems our little drama will have no impartial observers.
My coffee is even more afraid now. She curls up in a tiny little ball, but finds no solace in that. So she runs around the palm of my hand like it's a racing track for a bit, and then tries to crawl up the sleeve of my shirt. I let her.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for dames in distress.
The python inches closer.