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Quiet Desperation

Coffee is a great thing, so don’t make a stir about it


Coffee, black. Please.”

“Cream and sugar?”

There’s my six-word novel. I got the idea for a six-word novel from Hemingway, who got the idea from someone else. But someone else was someone no one has heard of, so Hemingway gets credit for it.

I will share Hemingway’s six-word novel later.

This isn’t a tribute to Hemingway or very, very short novels.

Technically, six words are too few to be either a novel or even a haiku.

Most novels are over 60,000 words.

Herman Melville, the creep, inflicted over 200,000 on me in just one book. About a whale.

This is a tribute to coffee, hot and neat, unpolluted with sugars and half this and that.

I have overheard people who make a coffee order sound like a recipe for pudding.

If someone wants to meet for coffee, I am willing — if it’s coffee.

Bogart never said, “Do you have any flavored coffees?”

None of this means I am a tough guy. It just means that I refuse to take something profound and meaningful, and put gimcracks in it.

You go ahead: toss your hair, and say, “Blonde Roast, room for sweet cream and Jujubes,” if you want to, but leave me out of it.

If someone at my table orders a “single-origin Rwandan espresso,” I am out. Gone.

Hand me a “craft” coffee, and I will hand it right back.

I don’t want a cup of coffee that has been French-pressed.

We like to turn good things, great things, into overthought things.

I still drive my own car. It doesn’t drive me, park me, or ask me what I want to listen to, or if my butt is warm enough.

I know that it’s cool to be cool, and black coffee isn’t cool.

You have to have some standards, and you have to have some rules.

I don’t allow anyone in my house who has a hyphenated name.

Or anyone who refers to carrots and celery as “veggies.”

Anyone who begins a sentence with “So” is on probation.

I will interrupt and say, “I’ll bet you like flavored coffees.”

“Why, yes. So, how did you know?”

Do I have an open mind? I did have one until I heard about Richard Nixon and Richard Carpenter and Richard Simmons.

And Richard Bach.

I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”

“Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”

Pass the smelling salts and the syrup of ipecac.

I don’t drink a cup of coffee. I drink six at a time. Go ahead and tell Dr. Watts. He already knows.

I used to start the day with vodka. See? It could be worse. Much worse. I’d wake on Thursday, and think it was Wednesday or Friday.

Hemingway’s six-word novel went like this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Good, but mine is just as good.

Mine is a reminder that we don’t listen. And we make assumptions.

“Your stomach growled. You’re hungry.”

“No. I just read `Jonathan Livingston Seagull.’”

Coffee is a hot, brown beverage. It’s not a candy-colored, tangerine-flaked bouillon.

Of course, it’s not up to me. Nothing is. Except what I nickname my houseplants.

Next week: It’s not “mac and cheese.” It’s “macaroni and cheese.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net


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