(And Another) Morning at the Cafe

“You an artist?”

A short man with a twisted, grey beard, Eugene Levy-eyebrows, missing two lower front teeth stood by the table with my “Buy Bob’s Books!” sign.

“Writer.” I pointed at the stack. From the teeth, I was figuring, No sale.

He said he was in from Vermont where he moved with his wife, a YA author, after she had banked a huge advance. He told me how important an agent, which I did not have, was. His name was G.

“I write about cartoonists,” I said. “Not your Young Adult type.”

“Do you know Ace Backwards?”

Now there was a question I had never been asked.

“I knew B.N. Duncan better.”

“Duncan still owed me money.”

“I don’t think you’ll get it.”

“I don’t think so.”

He set down his coffee and muffin. We remarked about how good Duncan had been about paying money he borrowed. I had forgotten that quality. I saw Duncan’s wild orange beard, his taped together glasses, the box of books he carried to his corner by Cody’s. Cody’s which was also gone. I saw him handing me a crumpled, folded five.

“You know who had marketing down?” G named a local poet. “Everything she did was deliberate.”

“I haven’t seen her for a while. But, yeah, I bought her books.” Now her long, thick, black coat came to mind. Her black and yellow cap. For a time, she blew soap bubbles to announce her presence. I didn’t think soap bubbles would work for me. Maybe if I sat outside. Anyway, they were her thing.

“She must’ve sold 80,000 books. She did a new one every six months.”

“I suppose you know Hate Man died,” I said.


“Just the other day.”

“What happened?’

“His heart. They were talking about surgery. Then he was out of Alta Bates and into rehab. The next morning he was gone. I guess they decided he was too frail for the operation.”

G. was shaken. “I was going to go by the park today and say ‘Hello.’ I did that every time I was in town.”

The obit was in the Chron. I handed it to him. He read it intently. “He was a lovely man,” he said. “Very smart. Very profound” He read some more. “That’s right, a ‘peacemaker.'” “That’s right too. Not ‘insane,’ ‘eccentric.'”

“You can keep it,” I said.

“The last time I saw Hate, he’d just been told he had prostate cancer. That was all he could talk about.” G shook his head. “I guess he didn’t need to worry about that after all.”

At the next table, a man turned a page in Herodotus.