I’m mainly posting this to have a first post I can look at.
Nate’s alarm went off at 4:45 in the morning. It wasn’t an obtrusive alarm, just a quiet sound of tinkling bells. Nate opened his eyes, turned off the alarm on his phone, and sat up. Yawning, he got to his feet and did a few quick stretches to get his blood flowing. He maneuvered his way to his tiny bathroom and took a quick shower to wake up. By five he was in the kitchen, filling and turning on the coffee machines, then making himself a breakfast of a two egg cheddar cheese omelet and two slices of bacon. By the time he finished eating it was five-twenty and he started setting up the front shop, filling three air pot dispensers with regular, french, and decaf. He filled a fourth with hot water for his tea drinkers. He set out his limited selection of snacks, prepackaged bear claws, croissants, cookies, and some protein bars. At five-thirty exactly he heard a knock on one of the wooden windows, and lifted it up.
“Morning Arthur,” Nate said as Arthur handed him three dollars and filled up a twenty-ounce mug he had brought with him. “Thick fog today,” Nate added, “It should make for some good fishing,”
“Well,” Arthur said, “The view won’t be much, but the halibut should be plentiful. I can smell them you know.”
Nate nodded. “You’ve got the fisherman’s nose,” he said, but then Nate made his own loud sniff and said, “I’d bet on bonito today if I were a betting man.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes a bit, seemed to stare out into the fog, then nodded. “You may be right, I’ll let you know.”
No one else was approaching, so Nate used the side door and set out four bar stools on the outside for the few who liked to linger. Arthur wasn’t one of them. He was already on his way to the end of the pier, carrying three poles, his tackle box, and his coffee. It was quiet for another ten minutes, but soon the other residents of the pier, along with more fisherfolk, formed a somewhat steady stream of customers. From six until just before nine, business was brisk. Nate was kept busy making more coffee, refilling supplies, and taking people’s money. Toward eight, as it usually did, the traffic slowed. Once Nate had everything fully stocked, he sat back in his tall adirondack chair and relaxed. Another run was always possible, but at this point it was usually a slow dribble and most were regulars who knew what they were doing.
Arthur came back by and raised a bucket, “One halibut, two bonito and three surfperch,” he said. Nate laughed,.
The sun rose, but failed to break up the fog, so everything had a dim, eerie quality that Nate was very fond of. He listed to the surf bash into the pier, feeling the tiny movements of the wood beneath him. It was a good feeling, one he often missed when he was on firm ground. A homeless man approached and asked if he could spare a cup of coffee. Nate nodded and pointed toward the disposable cups. The man chose the french roast, loaded it up with sugar and cream, then nodded and mumbled “thank you”.
“Here,” Nate said, “he reached into his pocket and pulled out several wooden nickels. He got up and handed them to the man. “Each is good for a free cup. Just put them in the box. It helps me track” Nate dropped a wooden nickel in the box.” The man thanked him again and walked off down the pier. He had a low quality pole, and Nate wished him luck with his fishing.
The air was cool and moist. Nate checked his phone and found that it was fifty-eight degrees. He figured the fog would burn off in another hour or so. Losing the fog was both a blessing and a curse commercially. More people came out when the sun was shining, but coffee was most appealing when the weather was like this. He was just relaxing back into his chair when the phone rang. Nate picked up his phone and looked at the name, Father. He sighed, then answered.
“This is Nate,” he said.
“Nathen,” his father said, “I’m having a family dinner tonight. I have something I want to discuss with you kids.”
“Ok,” Nate said.
“You’ll be there?”
“I will be there.”
“Good,” There was a short pause. “Be at the house at six. Try not to be late this time.”
“Six,” Nate repeated. “Do you want me to bring Knox?”
“No. See you at six.” His father hung up.
Nate shook his head. A trio of customers approached and Nate took care of them, setting them up with coffee cups and croissants. One of them asked, “is it always like this in the morning?”
“This is pretty common for late fall through winter. It’s always cool but it never hits freezing. i don’t think it’s gotten below freezing in years, at least not here by the water.”
The three of them sat down on the stools and chatted. They were here to do some Christmas shopping. One of them pointed to the end of the display counter, where a two-foot tall wooden box contained several pictures of a middle-aged woman with dark hair, blue eyes, and a pleasant but somewhat melancholy expression. There were also some unlit candles, some shells, and a figurine of a little girl fishing. “Is that one of the famous shrines?” one of them, a twenty-something girl wearing a gray cable sweater and jeans.
“I’m sure that one isn’t famous,” Nate said, “but yes it is a shrine. It’s kind of a custom in Santa Creda so I guess it is what we are known for. We honor those who have passed.”
The girl got up and looked more closely at it. She traced a hand over the edge of the box, but said no more. Nate watched her for a moment, wondering if he would need to explain further, but when it was clear that it wasn’t necessary, Nate sat back down. The group stayed another few minutes, and while they were there a few more people got coffee, but by ten business had died out. Nate stayed open another half-hour, then started putting things away. he made one more coffee sale before he closed the wooden windows.
Nate put on his wetsuit, and his swim shoes, then left the shack to go swim in the surf. The west side of the beach by pier was for surfers. Nate went to the right and walked into the surf. For the next forty-five minutes he played dodge with the waves and swam around in the surf. One wave got him particularly hard and he tumbled several times beneath the surf, but as always he found his footing and reemerged. Afterwards, he walked out of the suft, walked a few minutes along the beach then back to the pier. He took a quick shower, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, then headed back out for lunch.
There were several options close to the pier. There was a beer and burger called Pete’s Cow and Crisps place that featured grass-fed beef, triple fried fries, and fourteen dipping sauces, along with twenty-five craft beers on tap. There was a pizza place, Flash Pie, that made the pizza in front of you. They were OK, although Nate preferred Straight from Queens, the New York style place about a half-mile away. Today though, Nate went to Romeo’s Taqueria, the small Mexican eatery where he got two smoked fish and one skirt steak taco. Romeo greeted him by name, “How’s the coffee empire today?” he asked.
“Not bad for a Tuesday, ” Nate said, “I can keep the lights on for another day or two.” Nate smiled. “App says it’s going to rain tomorrow though. That’s going to put a damper on things.”
Romeo nodded. “Supposed to come in about midnight and go all day. You gonna open anyway.”
“No plans not to,” Nate said, “I suppose I could do some Christmas shopping. The boy’s Mom is all over the electronics, so I’ll need to figure something out.”
“Good luck with that.” Romeo said and then he made a face. “let me know what you figure out. I may need some help myself.”
Nate shrugged. “I’ll figure something out.” Nate hung around the taquaria for a while, enjoying his tacos. As it got closer to noon the place began to get crowded though, and Nate headed out. He went back to his cottage and did a thorough clean of all the coffee equipment. He went through his inventory and emailed his coffee order to a local roaster. It was a little after one o’clock so he decided to take a nap, not knowing how long dinner at his father’s would last. He woke up when he heard his son come in the door. “Hey buddy”, he called, “How was school.”
Knox gave his standard answer, “not bad.”
“I did it during lunch, except I have to read the first three chapters of Lizard Music,” Knox said.
“Lizard Music, wow I loved that book when I was a kid. My fifth-grade teacher Mr. Stewart took me aside and told me I should read it.”
“So it’s not bad?” Knox was ten years old and had straight sandy brown hair like his mother, otherwise he looked like a miniature version of Nate. Compact but muscular and broad shouldered, with a round face, a slightly too-long nose, and tiny gaps between his teeth. His skin, like his father’s, was deeply tan from days spent outdoors and in the surf. Nate’s hair was darker, and wavy. Nate had topped out at five-foot nine, and expected pretty much the same out of Knox.
“Let’s go sit out on the porch,” Nate said. You can read your book and I can practice mind control on the gulls.”
“Can I get a popsicle?” He asked.
“Sure,” Nate said. “Bring me one too.”
Nate headed out to the porch, which was essentially the edge of the pier, but blocked off like those of the other cottages. He sat down on the vinyl couch he had out there. Knox came out a few minutes later and handed his father a grape popsicle, keeping the cherry for himself. Knox positioned himself so that he was laying against nate, and began to read. Nate stared out at the ocean. It was a running joke that nate was trying to control the birds. In his younger days, before Knox had gotten old enough to find such things silly, he would sit out there with Nate and try to control the birds with him. now it was just their excuse to sit out there together. At four-thirty they got up and Knox repacked his backpack.
There was a knock at the door and Nate opened it. “Hi Karen,” Nate said, “He’s almost ready. His homework is done.” Karen was almost as tall as Nate. She had shoulder-length blond hair, just a touch lighter than Knox. At thirty-five, she was ten years younger than Nate. Karen was a Weatherly, a descendant of the town’s founders. There had been a lot of expectation that the two would get married, and neither family had been pleased when they decided against it. For Nate and Karen though, it had been the obvious choice, allowing them to stay friendly and work together to raise Knox rather than constantly fight.
“Great,” Karen said, “Do you mind if I take Knox this weekend. Grandma Clare is having her 90th birthday party, and for some reason they’ve decided to do it on The Merriweather. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time Grandma’s been on the boat in fifteen years, but I’m not going to fight them on it.”
“Yikes,” Nate said, “How many Weatherly’s are going? Are you going to have a designated survivor?”
“Karen laughed. “Maybe I should leave Knox here, so he can inherit it all when the birthday party turns into Battle Royale.“
“It’s no trouble,” Nate said, “I just hope you bring a electronics, because he’s not going to want to sit around listening to them prattle on. You know how he gets with crowds.”
“Thanks. Are you going to start decorating soon? I’m not seeing much Christmas spirit around here.”
“I’ll break out tinsel next week,” Nate said, “and some candy canes to put in the hot chocolate. That’s about it for me.”
Knox emerged with his backpack and gave Nate a long hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Knox said.
“I love you little buddy,” Nate said back. Knox and Karen headed out the door, and a reminder came up on Nate’s phone, “Family Dinner, don;t be late.”
Nate swiped to clear it and headed to the bathroom. He shaved, brushed his teeth, and rolled some deodorant under his armpits. In his bedroom, he went through is closet, picking out his lone oxford-cloth shirt and some khaki pants. He checked himself in the mirror to make sure he was presentable, then headed out the door.
Nate’s car was an aging Nissan Sentra. He had gotten it a few year back, just to have something. Nate mainly used it to to make runs to the restaurant supply store and the grocery store, usually on the same trip. He occasionally would go for a ride up the coast if he was feeling restless, but even that was rare. Most of the things Nate cared about were close by. Nathan got in and drove West on Seaside Avenue until it started to climb up into the cliffs. He turned onto Camino Cortex, his father’s street. it was a winding little road, but Nate was used to it. When he was a kid, he had grown up in the middle of town, in a house not quite this nice but still pretty obnoxious. He’d been seventeen when his father bought this house, and Nate had lived in if or the year before he could escape to college.
Nate parked in the long semi-circle driveway, being sure his was in a position so that he could pull straight out. Nate got out of the car, adjusted his clothes, and went to to the door. He thought for a moment about knocking, but before he could the door opened. It was Sarah, Nate’s younger sister. Sara was thirty, a full fifteen years younger than Nate. She was petite, just five-foot one and thin as a rail. The two of them exchanged hugs. “I saw you park,” she said.
Nate smiled at her. “It’s good to see you. it’s been too long.”
“Sorry about that,” she said, “I know I’ve canceled lunch on you a couple times.”
“No worries,” Nate said, “I know he keeps you busy.”
Nate walked into the house with Sarah. He hadn’t been inside the house for a couple years. He had always been invited to Christmas, but the last time he had attended with Knox, he’d watched while the other kids were lavished with presents and Knox got a couple of afterthought gifts. If he recalled, they bought him t-shirts that were a size or two too small. People often thought Knox was smaller than he really was because they didn’t see the muscles underneath. Such was life. Nate’s brother Cam had two kids. His daughter Kara was eleven and his son Max was nine. They perfectly split the difference with ten-year-old Knox, but they rarely spent time together. Both of them attended the private school, Santa Creda Academy of Science. Knox went to the Santa Crede Free School, just a half-a-block from the pier. It was more or less a project-based school in which instruction was linked to school-wide projects that usually changed out every two weeks. So you were still learning about math, reading, science and the like, but from the perspective of different short-term projects. They may study ancient China one project and the marketing the next. The whole school focused on the same projects, but the expectations understandably grew as students advanced. The current project was Speculative Fiction, for which Knox was reading Lizard Music and was expected to either put together a presentation or attempt his own story.
The living room has ceiling to floor windows that looked out at the ocean. It was Nate’s favorite room because looking at the ocean had always been appealing to him. Even now, he scanned the water for the cruise ship that passed, but did not stop at, Santa Creda every Tuesday evening. Sure enough, he could make it out in the distance, “Any idea why we’re having this dinner?” he asked Sarah.
“Daddy has been pretty tight-lipped about it. You know how he can get.”