No Room for Cream 

by Michael Chaney

I had a girlfriend once call it my blue-collar disorder. It came over me while standing in line at the coffee stand. The lady gave me a funny look and just like that, I wasn’t a lawyer anymore. I was that guy from down the way where folks get told exactly where they can take their eye problems and, in fact, why don’t I show your ass right now. 

Can I help you, she asked, because I must have been standing there too long and so I say I’m just standing, you know, because there’s no law against it.  

She said to me, You would know, I guess, then rolled her eyes. 

That’s when I knew I wasn’t hallucinating this shit from her with her grinning sidekick in his dirty brown apron and his chest out like he’s got a pair. I must have looked aggro at that moment because they faded back to collude, pretending to wipe down nozzles and espresso filters, eyeballing me all posted up by the muffins—the only person anywhere near their counter. It was like nobody in the courthouse was thirsty for coffee anymore. I was counting down the heartbeats until I was going to ask these motherfuckers just what the hell was so funny and then the woman leaned over to say, Really, can I get you something, counselor? 

I wanted to shove her misplaced resentment back in her freckled face. Why do you think I’m a counselor, I said, shifting my stance in a way that said maybe I’m here on trial and you all just fucked up. Maybe I’m no stranger to walking up on counters like this and perforating idiots like you in the fat of your arm with a Philips screwdriver just to get that seven dollars in change you got in this mutilated mayonnaise jar with TIPS scrawled on it like this is fucking nursery school, and the rest of us should drop all our change in here because you finally got the loop on your p to go the right way when you wrote it, and not because you do a fine job of getting me coffee without rolling your eyes at me as you do it. 

I swear she could smell what I was thinking. 

She gave me the once over, snorted, and turned back to her partner to continue talking about how a neighborhood dog, some fucking pit bull or something, showed up in her yard the other day to scare her cat and her grandkids. I pegged her for forty, tops. Then the other dude gets all froggy looking at me dead in the face and says to her about the dog, I woulda shot that sombitch, still looking right at me. 

Philips screwdrivers rain on these jokers in my mind and I’m two steps away from throwing my whole career out the window over this shit when my client and his family walk up.  It happens right as I’m asking the guy behind the counter if he’d care to elaborate on the gunplay comment. 

The case was a standard possession with intent. No contest. All I did was get the guy to plead for rehab and here’s his mother and grandmother and half his Sunday school class or whatever rushing up on me, hugging me and shit and telling me how I’m an angel and that I saved his life and now he’s going to cure cancer and solve pi to infinity and it’s all because of me. 

As they dragged me off all hugs and smiles for a series of group shots with Mr. New Leaf Turned Over I shot the coffee wench a look, something that said without any mitigating circumstance whatsoever, You’re lucky lady, real lucky. 


Michael Chaney tries hard to be less of a simile and more of metaphor, and so he is not like an academic, nor as a writer, and never so much a Clevelander living in Vermont.
%d bloggers like this: