The Music

Chapter 19: On Black Coffee and Winter

Story by Ray

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Ruben sat in the café, with his cup of black coffee sitting at the corner of the table. He hadn’t touched it. He was busy ending his career: Issue 13 of Chemosynthetic would be the last thing that No Filler, No Filter Studios ever put out. There was no point in continuing. There was no point in pretending that Kurt and Dylan weren’t dead.

Ruben’s chest heaved. If he breathed in too much, his wounds would split open, and he would die. If he kept taking shallow breaths, his head would fill with lightning bugs, and he would die. He tried not to think about it too much. If he thought about it too much, his headache would worsen, and that would kill him too.

Before he had ever met Malcolm Sanchez, Ruben had released the first few issues of Chemosynthetic in black and white. To end the series in black and white was only fitting. When Ruben was finished with the last line of the last panel, he would hand the issue to the publisher personally.

Ruben didn’t like black coffee. In all the time he’d been coming to the café, Ruben had never had a sip. He liked the way black coffee smelled. He liked the ruggedness of it. In comic books and old TV shows, Ruben liked any character who took their coffee black as tar. From a distance, black coffee was hands-down Ruben’s favorite. But Fuck. He could never drink it. It made him choke.

In Central Park, Susan sat on a bench. There, the world rushed around her. Women chatted as they passed by, and their children flocked around them. The trees were dead. Winter had come.

Which was great for business: winter clothes would be in high demand. Susan had already laid out the patterns. Her clients loved them. The debut would be a smashing hit.

Susan listened to the two men on the bench beside her.

“She’s makin’ me go vegetarian. Can you believe that? The one thing she said she could never make me do, and now she’s doin’ it.”

“So what, you just gonna never eat meat again?”

“Of course I’m gonna eat meat again, retard. But when she’s around, what else can I do? She’s my wife. I gotta listen to what she says.”

Susan snapped away from the conversation when she heard Ruben scream. She stood up to help him, but by the time she was off of the bench, the child’s mother had already knelt at the boy’s side to look at his scraped knee. Susan stood, watching, as the mother helped the child up. The mother asked if the boy was okay, and the boy said he was, and she hugged him before they continued walking. Dry leaves rattled at Susan’s feet. They were cold and dead and ugly, and that was the last straw: Susan was never seen in New York again.

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