Steve grabbed his skateboard and locked the door. He dodged the bird-of-paradise flowers planted to his right as he crossed the street. He looked both ways as he skidded his way to the coffeeshop near by. "I’ll get on it," he thought as he rounded the corner with the shop in view.
The street was rough, having not been maintained for a few years, and the sky by now had a grey tinge to it thanks to the ecologically unsanitary lifestyles that people loved to live decades ago. The greyness had stabilized, however, thanks to the boisterous environmental activism of years before Steve was born.
On the wall to his right, as Steve skateboarded by, he noticed a poster advertising a concert by the Shrine Kneelers. On its right was a poster saying "REËLECT LeGRAND IN 2028". Steve was planning to vote against President LeGrand this year. In 2024, Steve thought he liked LeGrand, back when Steve was only 12 years old and didn't know much about this new hopeful. But now . . .
ZETTOLO’S COFFEE, the sign on the coffeeshop read. He locked his skateboard on the skateboard rack outside the coffeeshop and finally walked in. A boy and a girl were making out filling the table in the back left corner. On his immediate right was a table where four obese men were becoming intoxicated on their maltuccinos. On the table on the far right there was a lesbian couple making out. Steve walked right up to the counter with the big menu board to get that mocha latte.
Behind the desk stood a tall skinny automated employee. "Hi, welcome to Zettolo’s Coffee", said the employee. "How may I help you?"
Steve replied, "All have a mocha latte, a strawberry-filled donut, and a custard-filled donut."
"Yes sir, please insert your AALL card here." A small arrow pointed to the right and Steve slid his AALL card through. The AALL card had been an invention of only a few years prior. It was a card that contained a credit card, your I.D. and car insurance, health insurance, and your passport, and required you to hold your fingers over certain points to verify it was you. Steve had particularly liked this invention and had invested a few thousands of dollars in the AALL stock.
A small message popped up on the screen: "Thank you Stephan G. Bruise for your $11.56 purchase. Please collect your purchase to the right." Steve took a few steps to the right and picked up his coffee. Before actually sitting down with it, he decided to take one sip of it just to see how it tasted. The cacaoey creaminess filled his mouth. Ground coffee wafted up through his nostrils. The temperature was perfect. He went to the booth between the lesbians and the obese men.
Steve sat down at the table and put the coffee cup in front of him. He closed his eyes just to breathe in the aroma of hard, bitter coffee bean, milk and chocolate. Then he took his first drink of the coffee in earnest.
After a few swallows of coffee, he took a bite out of the strawberry-filled doughnut. At the table to his right, the lesbian couple finished making out and Steve started to pick up their new conversation. The blonde lesbian revealed that her cousin was sentenced to have a life-o-suction operation after she had convicted an innocent man as a juror and the man spent 12 years in jail. I hope that nervy juror gets all her life sucked out of her, thought Steve. If I were on a jury like that, I’d never convict an innocent person. 12 years would be sucked off her cousin’s life in an operation and added to the life of the man she convicted. The brunette listened intently and chatted with her over the details of the crime. The blonde mentioned that a Filipino man in the nearby town of Nogueda had been found guilty of the murder of a Rosegrove woman with nails hammered into her wrists. The brunette asked her what race the man who was originally convicted of the crime was, and the blonde told her the man was Hispanic.
By now Steve was done with his strawberry-filled doughnut and was back to consuming his coffee. A ring around the bottom of his coffee cup was visible on the table now. He continued listening to the table on his right, and the topic of conversation shifted as the brunette started talking about her Akita.
To his left the obese men were talking about football. Steve didn’t care much about football, as he had never learned the rules and when a game came on TV, he had no idea what was going on. He turned his head.
He started in on his custard-filled donut before picking up an interesting conversation from the men behind. One of the men was saying, "So if we meet on the St. Charles Bridge at 3 tonight we can get the deal?"
Another man replied "Yea. The AALL cards will be in there."
A third man spoke up and looked at the man who had just finished speaking, "SO Switcher, how many cards did your team steal?"
Switcher, a man with muscular build, grunge-rocker-like brown hair and blue eyes who looked about 40, responded. "We got 37 cards, and their 37 matching thumb prints, Frank." He was wearing a sombrero, a corduroy jacket, a red polo shirt, torn blue jeans and boots.
Steve’s face was by now turning red. Those no-good rotten skunks, he thought to himself. They’re going to ruin this for 37 people! What if they use these identities to frame them? All their drivers’ licenses are going to be missing -- now what will happen if they get pulled over?
Frank, the man to whom Switcher had just spoken, was of medium build with black hair and a moustache, in his mid-forties. He had on a blue pocket tee, cargo shorts and sandals. He looked at the first man who had spoken and asked "John, do you have the cash?"
John looked about 50 and was bulky, balding with dark brown hair and a brown eye. His right eye was a prosthetic eye. It looked like an eye socket, and that was all Steve saw, but inside the functions of parts of a real eye were all linked to an optic nerve. Steve’s interest was piqued by the sight of this kind of prosthesis, as he hadn’t seen too many of them. John had on a denim jacket, a white polo shirt, khakis and brown dress shoes. John pointed at the fourth man and said, "No, Lee has it."
Lee, an overweight blonde and blue-eyed moustached man of 40 wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, verified this with a nod. "Got it all with me at home", he said. "I guess you’re going to fill that guitar case, aren’t you Switcher?"
Steve paid close attention to what Lee and Switcher were saying now. He took another bite out of that custard doughnut, and then sucked some of the filling out before taking his next bite.
"I sure as hell am", Switcher replied. "Those fools are so fun to rip off -- I can cheat them out of their cards like shooting ducks in a barrel!"
"Switcher," said John, "You are one evil man."
The whole group of four laughed. "You bet", Switcher replied, and he raised his glass of pomegranate juice with ice in it into the air. "Skoal", he said.
"Salud!", said Frank. The four of them toasted each other with their glasses and then drank from them.
Do they think there’s something funny about being evil?, Steve thought. By now his blood was set to boiling point.
"Well, when we get to St. Charles Bridge it’s going to pay off royally", said John. "Lee, think you can carry some more cards in your pick-up truck?"
"As sure as the hills are green with cow pies", Lee replied. "My team is circling the area at 6:00.
"I love how we always get away with this", Frank said. Then he laughed to himself.
Not if I can help it, thought Steve.
"Now, what would you like to do once we get the deal?", John asked.
I’m going to have to do something about this, thought Steve. He stopped listening and stared right at the lesbians; mentally, one of his friends, Peter, a private detective, came to the top of his to call list. He finished his meal, and stepped outside.
Steve recycled the paper from the two doughnuts and the coffee cup and unlocked his skateboard, then skateboarded back out by the Shrine Kneelers poster. He had to remember the bridge name -- St. Charles Bridge. What an awful world: stealing AALL cards -- this was the kind of world it was today. He had read in textbooks about all kinds of wars, battles and causes being fought, in the eighties, the nineties, the tenties, the eleventies . . . but not even the most determined movers with a cause had been able to wipe out identity theft. He noticed the LeGrand sign again as he was skateboarding. President LeGrand certainly wouldn’t start up an initiative against it.
It was at this point that Steve started skidding back home on his skateboard by the ginkgo trees planted on the sidewalk. He skateboarded a little farther, then before he knew it he was home. “Home!”, he shouted, and still no one was there.