Originally published in the Berkeley Fiction Review, in Issue #29, and 3rd place runner-up in their Sudden Fiction Contest. Published as R.J. Carter.
Society itself needs to be more bizarre. I am not referring to the establishment of war, or the teenage rebellion of a Goth in the midst of suburbia, but instead to the little grey areas surrounding friendship.
In my mind, the definition of a bizarre friendship is one formed between two bizarre people who happen to be so bizarrely opposite from each other that they could never, in any realistic sense, maintain the bizarre relationship that the two find themselves absorbed in. Now, I do not mean to insult all those relationships sustained between two friends that are not entirely bizarre, only to indicate and give particular notice to those relationships that are, by any definition of the word, weird.
Rex Oliver always walked into the Mudhouse, the local town’s premier coffee parlor and bike shop, at exactly 7:05 am in the morning. That alone did not make him bizarre. He always ordered a lemon poppyseed cookie and a regular black coffee with no milk. That still did not make him bizarre. What honestly and completely made him odd were the occurrences of 7:07-7:09 on Monday, March 29th of the year 2001 at the counter of the Mudhouse involving a certain Robyn Brooks.
Poor Robyn was wandering past the Mudhouse when she saw a perfectly good lemon poppyseed cookie being handled to a man in a clean black suit and a striped tie. Her first thought was of the hideous first impression that the tie left. Her second was of the steam coming from the cookie. On any other day, she would have walked directly past without looking back. But she had not had dinner the previous night, and one of the waitresses of the Mudhouse had left the window open. Some unknown force pulled that smell outside, and as Robyn caught her first waft of the underappreciated lemon poppyseed cookie, she felt her first pangs of longing for it.
So, despite the lack of shoes, the tattered clothes, and the standard lice that you would find with any homeless person, she walked through the door, flinching at the sound of the entrance bell.
No one looked up, so she cautiously took her first ungraceful step forwards. No response. The seven steps that it took to make it to the counter did not last long for her. Her heart was beating quickly, forcing its way up into her throat and clutching meanly at her lungs. She held her breath and reached out. The unfortunate and fortunate Mr. Oliver was oblivious, and with a quick snatch she grabbed it, and she was gone.
She would not have made it out of the door without Mr. Oliver’s quick head shake to head off the rightfully concerned waiter. Mr. Oliver waved him over. “I’ll have another cookie,” he said in an unhurried, peaceful, and rather amused voice. “I’ll have an oatmeal raisin this time.”
The odd thing was not Mr. Oliver’s sudden deviation from his schedule (which he rarely did.) It was not Robyn’s longing for food or even Rex’s granting of Robyn’s wish. It was, instead, the idea that, for a brief moment this man became friends with that woman. The moment did not last very long; but in the willingness with which Mr. Oliver had helped Miss Brooks, they became friends for life, even if they will never recognize the other again.
That, alone, is bizarre.