Snakes and Pills

099 - bolt form

The two little bells chimed as Justin entered the coffee shop. He felt happy when he saw that his preferred booth was open. At three in the afternoon on a Thursday, it tended to not be occupied, the same as the rest of the restaurant. But it was not an assured thing, so its vacancy was always a welcome sight.

Justin slid into the seat. The familiar sound of his body sliding over the upholstery and the embrace of the cushioned seat were just what he needed on a day like today. A woman in a stale yellow dress and white apron soon approached his table. "You know what you want, Justin?" she asked.

He glanced up. Her face was weathered with wrinkles and the scars of serving up billions of cups of coffee.

"Trisha off today?" he answered with another question that had no relevance to her original question.

"She had to take her kids to the dentist's today, so it's just me holding down the fort until five," the waitress replied.

Justin nodded his head in understanding. "I'll just have my regular," he finally answered. "Grilled cheese with a side of fries and a cup of coffee?" she confirmed. "Yup, that'll do it, thanks Rose," he said. She gave him a smirk of recognition, and she walked off to the kitchen.

With that sorted, Justin was free to start his ritual. From his pocket, he produced a small clear plastic bag. Contained within the plastic bag were three thin red rubber bands. With only the tips of his fingers, he pried the zipper seal at the top of the bag open and carefully extracted each one.

The rubber bands themselves were immaculate. They showed no signs of being distressed or used, as if they were fresh off the production line. They stood in quiet contrast to the man whose hands were manipulating them, who was nothing if not a mess.

Carefully, he laid each rubber band down on the table, one at a time, doing his best to form a perfect flat circle with each one. The circles did not touch, but were placed very close end to end, horizontally.

Rose knew this would present a small break in his activities, and so this was her opportunity. She approached his table with a cup of coffee on a little saucer, and without a word, she placed it on his table, far away from the row of rubber bands. "Thank you," Justin said quietly, as if his brain were functioning on reflex, the bulk of its processing power engaged in some other task.

With a billion and one cups now served, she receded from the table and Justin continued his work. He pulled a pen and a small memo pad from his other pocket. Clicking the pen open, he flipped the cover of his memo pad back, thumbed past endless pages of indecipherable notes, and found a blank page.

He promptly dated the page, and then began sketching the scene he was currently observing. Three circles, as if he were tasked with doodling a sideways traffic light. After letting his pen rest for a moment, he let out an audible "hmm."

Suddenly, his fingers snapped to life, as if they were onto something. Quickly, but carefully, he began to shape the rubber bands, altering their configurations and placement on the table.

Each time, he would carefully jot down more observations into his memo pad. By now, he had moved past one page, and indeed had consumed at least two or three.

And then, without warning, he stopped. Carefully, he reversed the steps he had done at the beginning, until the rubber bands were back inside their bag, and the bag itself safely within his pocket.

Rose took this as her cue and brought his grilled cheese and fries to his table. Setting the food down, she asked, "So, any progress?"

"I'm close," Justin answered. "So very close."


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