by John Wyatt
copyright Oct, 2008
Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? <crackle – pop> Hello? Testing ... testing... Oh – that red light must mean it's on. Anyway, I have to setup the patio tables for breakfast, and since I'm dictating this into my MP3 player, I'll have to talk while I work.
Hello – I'm Jennifer. Well, Jennifer isn't my real name – not entirely. My full name is Jenn-á-ferr al-â-san abdu-salām, which basically means “Jenn of the Ferrs in the land of San, Servant of Peace.” I prefer Jennifer. My older brother (who is for sale, by the way, should any of you happen to want one), claims that the Universe didn't exist prior to my birth, which he says happened instantly twelve years ago, complete with pre-made people, planets and everything. He says that I'm the only reason that anything exists, and that people's memories were pre-installed to make them think they had lives prior to my birth. I have no way of testing his theory, but it doesn't explain why people keep getting born, so I'm inclined not to believe him. His name isn't nearly as interesting as mine: Jon-á-yaquin-Ālim (meaning One Who Thinks He Knows Everything). I just call him Jon-abd-Jenn (Jon, Servant of Jennifer), or J for short. I have parents somewhere – I hope I haven't misplaced them. Anyway, let me tell you about our cafe.
I grew up here in the Dream Cafe, working for Mom and Dad. I also go to school here – sometimes I have private tutors and sometimes Dad teaches. I also read a lot. When I'm not working, I'm mostly learning and playing with all the animals that live in the cafe's garden. We have the largest collection of animals outside the zoo! At least that's what J says. One Christmas, Dad bought me a real live Koala Bear! He lives in the trees that Dad had brought from Australia. Dad wanted to name him “ Winnie ” after Winnie-the-Pooh, since it was my favorite book (though Tigger is really my favorite character, because he's so bouncy). But I always call him “ Christmas Koala. ”
Dad was right, though – Winnie-the-Pooh was always my favorite book. I even memorized the first paragraph of Winnie-the-Pooh: “Here comes Edward Bear now, down the stairs behind Christopher Robin. Bump! Bump! Bump! on the back of his head. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs. He is sure that there must be a better way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment to think of it.“ Life seems like that – there must be a better way, if only we could stop bumping for a moment to think of it. That's why I like working at the Dream Cafe – helping people to find better ways to live, instead of always bumping their heads on the same obstacles. We don't just feed tummies – we feed spirits.
J says I cook up trouble, but he's just a boy and what does he know. He also claims that chairs are lazy. “People have two legs and walk anywhere they want. Chairs have four legs and won't walk anywhere! They make us carry them!” I think he's just trying to tease me.
That wasn't me.
That wasn't me either.
The Dream Cafe is at the far end of the world's tiniest shopping center, right next to the city's main park. City College is a couple blocks away. We don't usually get a big breakfast crowd – just a few night workers on their way home, a few students, and the occasional homeless people who sleep in the park. Right now I'm cleaning up the tables before moving them out onto the patio. J is cleaning up near the garbage bins – homeless people sometimes root through them for food, even though we always feed them if they just come in. Mom hung a sign by the garbage bin – a saying from somebody named Thich Nhat Hanh:
“If you see elements of garbage in you, such as fear, despair, and hatred, don't panic. As a good organic gardener, a good practitioner, you can face this: 'I recognize that there is garbage in me. I am going to transform this garbage into nourishing compost that can make love reappear'.”
It sounds kinda gross to me. Mom says it's “spiritual” and brings hope to the homeless. I think they'd rather have a sandwich.
My Dad has a sign over his office desk that says...
Ok – that wasn't me either. “J, are you dropping things over there?”
“..what ? ...” J's voice came from the back room. I guess he finished cleaning up the night's garbage.
“Nothing!” I called back.
Anyway, my Dad has a sign saying:
”If you give a man a fish, he has food for a day.”
“If you promise a man that someday a fish will appear, you're a prophet.”
Ok, that was me. These tables are heavy. And dirty. Dad should have bought cleaner tables. (I wonder if anyone makes self-cleaning tables?) I once asked Dad why he didn't buy a dishwasher. He pointed to Mom and said “I married one!” Now Dad has to wash the dishes. I'm going to remember that for when I get married!
Ok, now I KNOW that wasn't me!
“J! Is that you making all that noise?”
“Jon-abd-Jenn : I command you to appear!”
More silence. I never knew that Silence could be so loud.
It's nearly an hour before we open, so...
Did someone move those tables?
Hey! What are you DOING! NO!!! AAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Is this thing working? Mom got Jennifer and I these new MP3 players with built-in microphones, so I thought I'd try dictating my diary today. This is Jon-adab- Ālim, meaning “One Who Has Good Manners,” or something like that. Jennifer just calls me J.
Anyway, this morning, before I started cleaning up, I decided to go online and do some shopping. Jennifer's birthday is coming up in a couple months and I want to get her something I know she wants. We were in a sporting goods store last week and she saw this display of shoes called “Crocs.” They looked kinda weird, but she fell in love with them. They're kinda pricey, so I decided I'd see if I could find a better price online. I tried e-Bay first, but that place is just too hard to figure out. I think that half the stuff on there has got to be some kinda scam. One kid was even selling his brain there! I can't imagine how he would manage that!
So let's try Google instead. Let's see...try searching for “ crocs ” and “ cheap ” I think they may be imported. Hmmmmm ... lots of hits. Here's an article talking about all the fake “ crocs. ” Oh – this one says “ Genuine Crocs – straight from Australia. ” That must be where they're made. I think she wears a size small. This must be where I enter my PayPal info. Oh, wait ....I'm not sure that I want these....
“J!! Did you empty out the trash?” Dad yelled from across the garden.
“Yes!! I mean – I will now!”
“And don't forget to remind Jennifer to clean the tables when she puts them out!”
“I will! I mean – I won't ... forget, that is! I won't forget!”
“Good! I'm going to work on the Koi pond for while. Let Mom know if you see her!”
“And stay off the computer! Mom saw last month's phone bill and went through the roof!”
Now, where was I? Oh,. Yeah – I guess I click “Send Order” here and...”
“Are you at that darned computer?” Dad's voice carried across the pond.
“No! I mean – not anymore.”
Ok – hitting “send” ...
Turning off the computer...
Closing the window...
I can see Jennifer moving the tables out. She's ok, as sisters go. Besides, I probably wouldn't exist if she wasn't here. You see, I have no memories before her birth. None. Just a blank. Everyone else my age has memories of being younger – but not me. It's like I didn't exist until she did, and I was just written in so she could have a sibling. Mom and Dad say it's silly and have pictures of me as a baby, but I honestly don't remember any of it. I think the World is really just a big terrarium to see what she does, and the rest of us are just characters inserted for her amusement.
Dad says that my ideas are silly – that the World was really made so that he could marry my Mom. At least that's what he says when Mom is around. The rest of the time he says it exists so he can build his new Koi pond in the back garden.
The garden is fantastic! Of course, half the animals in the park come and mooch off the food that Jennifer leaves for them in the garden. She thinks the animals all belong to her! Anyway, there's one nice thing about living and working at the Dream Cafe...
“You talkin' to me, Luv?” Bella is wiggling up close to where I'm picking up yesterday's left overs. Bella loves to root through the garbage looking for juicy tidbits, and this piece of mystery meat must look tasty to her. Bella is a skunk. You see, inside the grounds of the Dream Cafe, the animals and trees can all talk. Dad says it's magic. Mom says it's something “meta-physical” and then she goes off about “quantum” stuff that I don't really understand. Jennifer just thinks it's normal and that everything can naturally talk.
“Hmmmm... you goin' to eat that, Luv?”
“Uh.. no ... I was just going to throw it away.”
“Well,” Bella's rubbing against my ankle now, “it looks like the purr-fect breakfast for a young man and his lady. You mind sharin' it?”
“ No .. I mean, here. Knock yourself out. ”
“Thanks, Luv. And don't be a stranger! Come by and visit me more often!” Bella's picking up the piece of antique meat and wiggling off. She's nice enough, for a skunk; but still – she's a skunk and I don't want to get her mad. Hey – how did she get out here by the garbage bin? I'll bet Dad left the garden gate open. I'd better go check it out.
As I was starting to say earlier, our garden is probably the best garden anywhere in the world! We have two whole blocks behind the Cafe dedicated to what Dad calls the “ Garden of Dreams.” I ... <CRASH!>
Ok – what did I just trip over? I ... hey! What's that brick doing here? Normally those things just sleep all day and all night. I told Jennifer that bricks are even lazier than tables and chairs. Brick don't even have feet! About the only thing they're good for is stacking them up and gluing them together to make houses. Being such lazy creatures, they just keep sleeping – sometimes for centuries! About the only thing the can wake a brick is if the ground shakes. Then they wake up, panic, and run. That's why houses fall down in an earthquake. Still, they don't run far before falling asleep again. So what's this brick doing all the way back here on the garden path. It couldn't be....
I picked the brick up and sure enough – there were seven new pennies underneath.
“They were just sitting there, on the table. I thought they looked lonely!”
“Look, brick, you can't just go around stealing pennies from the tables.”
“Maybe I didn't steal them? Maybe somebody gave them to me!” I could swear that this brick was smirking at me!
“Like, uh, what's that other mentsh that hangs around you so much? The one with the long kroyz?”
“You mean the one with the long hair? That's my sister, Jennifer; and she didn't give you any pennies.”
“She might have!” This brick was definitely smirking!
“She DIDN'T! Wait...did you just hear something?”
“Like the sound of pennies?”
Honestly, I don't know why bricks are always so fascinated with pennies! Wait, there it goes again.
“I'm taking these” <grabbing the pennies> “and I'll be back later. Don't be here when I return!”
Yep, it definitely sounds like Jennifer calling from up front. Wait....
“Hey, Sleeping Brick?”
“How did you manage to get all the way out here without any feet?”
“Who says bricks don't have feet?”
“Well, I've never seen a brick with feet!”
“ You mean ... we DON'T have FEET? ”
“No! You don't!”
“Then how am I going to get back inside!!!??? OY VAY!!!” the brick started wailing! Honestly – I never know when to believe these things. Anyway, I'd better see what Jennifer wants.
Mom says that the bricks in the Cafe came from Israel, where they had once been part of some ancient Hebrew city. Maybe that's why they sound like they're speaking Yiddish? Is that thing humming “Pennies from Heaven?”
Ok – I know I heard Jennifer. Where is she? Oh, there she is. What's that behind her?
“ SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!!!!!!!!! ”
Hey...is that table ... hiding? It's ... following her! No, it's...it's STALKING HER! Jennifer! LOOK OUT!
The table sprang from behind the trellis. Jennifer screamed!
“ Ok you Dogs! Sound off like you got some! ”
“Some what?”, “Do you know what he's talking about?”, “I don't have any – do you have any?” “Where can we get some?”, “I thought we were 'tables'?”
“QUIET IN THE RANKS!”
“'Cause if you have any extra, I could use some...”
“That's better. Now, line up in ranks.”
<Crunch, squeak, crinkle, scrEEEEEECH!!!>
“OW! Don't drag your legs that way.”
“I can't help it, Sergeant Major. I still can't get used to these metal legs.”
“Well you'll just have to get used to them! Now – sound off by name!”
“Ok – who went 'crack?'”
“Uh – that was me, Sergeant Major. I think there's a crack in my head – I mean, in my top.”
“Let me see. Tilt your head over this way.”
“Ok – that would have worked better if we could actually tilt our heads. If you could tilt, what would I have seen?”
“Uh – probably a crack in my head, Sergeant Major. I think it happened last night when that little two-legs kept banging its toys on me.”
“What do you expect? You dumped hot soup in its lap!”
“It kept kicking my leg!”
“You've got three more – and two-legs are people too – just like us.”
“Ok – maybe not just like us. But they're people and we're here to help. So let's hear it you Dogs – who are we?”
<In unison> “Sergeant Major! We are IDIOTS!”
<In unison> “We are proud members of the Inter- Dimensional Instantly Operational Troop System! IDIOTS! We are all IDIOTS!”
“Yes, uh, what's your name again, Trooper?”
“Squeak, Sergeant Major! How can we function as Inter-Dimensional Troopers when we look like this? I mean, we can hardly even get around unless one of those two-legs carries us! I thought that 'Instantly Operational' meant that we were supposed to be ' mobile' troops?”
“Yeah!” Squeal piped up. “Whose idea was it to disguise ourselves like this, anyway?”
“Quiet men!” the Sergeant Major shouted. “One of the Two-Legs is coming.”
“I thought you said they can't hear us?” Creak croaked.
“I said they can't understand us. To them we just sound like creaks and squeaks. And it was the Commander's idea to disguise ourselves as dogs. With four legs, we can get around faster, and everybody has dogs so we would blend right in.”
“So, why are we 'tables', Sergeant Major?”
“Ok men – it wasn't my fault. We had a photograph that was supposed to be a dog. Apparently, the thing that was sitting on top of the table was actually the dog. The Commander thought that the table was the 'dog', and that the 'dog' was just wearing a big, furry hat.”
“A big furry hat with ears.” Creak complained.
“And legs.” Squeak added.
“And a ribbon saying 'First Place DOG Contest Winner!” Squeal whined.
“Water under the bridge, men. Water under the bridge. We need to make the best of things now that we're here. We need to protect the Number One Two Legs – the one that calls itself Jennifer. We can do that just as well as tables. Everyone has tables, so we still blend in. And we don't leak all over, like real dogs do.”
There was grumbled assent to this final argument.
“So when do we blow up the planet?” Squeal asked.
“Hopefully we don't have to. The Commander thinks there's still hope for these Two Legs.”
“'Humans', Sergeant Major. I heard someone say they call themselves 'Humans'.”
“Whatever. As long as the Commander thinks there's hope, then we keep doing our job.”
“Can't we blow up anything?” Crack whined.
“Not until I say so.”
“How about that garbage bin. They keep feeding it, but it never grows any bigger. I think it's dead. Can we blow that up?”
“NO! Nothing gets blown up!”
“SHHHHHHHH! It's coming!”
<What's it doing?> Creak whispered.
<Quiet! It's just moving us outside.>
<Sorry. Two-Legs bumped me into you.>
“Ok Troopers, now that we're outside, I need to fill you in on the Plan. Apparently there was a mix-up when the Universe was created and it isn't very stable. It turns out that everything has a random chance of doing something that affects something else, causing creatures that can 'think' to be able to think the things that will happen next. It's something called the “Law of Attraction.” Normally, everything should average out so that no one life form can cause undue damage. Well, apparently there was some confusion about just what 'random' was supposed to mean, so there was also a random chance of someone being born such that everything they did affected the Space-Time Continuum. The chance was incredibly small, but there are so many living things that it was only a matter of time before it happened. So you see – Jennifer is what we call a 'Cosmic Nexus' – absolutely everything she says, does, and thinks has an effect on the Space-Time Continuum! I don't think Jennifer has figured it out yet, and so far the effects seem confined to this little cafe. So you see, we have to make sure that she stays happy and well adjusted until she learns to control her power – else she could accidentally think everything out of existence! No harm can be allowed to come to her. You all got that?”
“I said – DO YOU ALL GOT THAT??”
“Uh – Sergeant Major? Two-Legs put us way over here. You're talking to a bunch of ordinary tables.”
“What!!??? Great. Just great. Hey – what's that over there?”
“You mean the garbage bin?” Squeal squawked.
“No – crawling out of it. It's following Jennifer. Is that what I think it is?”
“Not if you think it's a paper airplane. I saw one once – this little two-legs was folding one on my head – I mean, my top. That doesn't look anything like a paper airplane.”
“I didn't say it was a paper airplane you moron! Creak, how did you get into this outfit anyway?”
“I'm Squeak, Sergeant Major. Creak is over by the Phase Snake.”
“WHOEVER YOU ARE! That's a PHASE SNAKE sneaking up on the Two-Legs! I mean, Jennifer! She can't see it – those things are invisible to normal eyesight. You've got to stop it! It if bites her, it could do untold damage to the Space-Time Continuum!”
“Right! I'm on it! I'll just creep quietly behind her – oops!”
<Sorry about that!>
<Shhhhhh! Two-Legs is looking this way.>
<It's clear now.>
<Ok! I'll just wiggle over by this wall thingy and hide behind the column as I stealthily trail her across the patio, taking full advantage of the natural terrain ...>
<Crack – you're a real klutz!>
<I'm Creak, Sergeant Major!>
<Whoever! Just get that phase snake. It's almost on her!>
<Right – I'll be as quiet as a...>
<Quiet as a jack hammer – right!>
<She's seen us! Run!>
“NO! Get the phase snake! It's going to strike!”
“IDIOTS to the rescue!” Creak cried as he leaped at the Phase Snake, missing it entirely and landing squarely on Jennifer's foot.
“Jennifer!” J shouted as he ran to her rescue.
“Hyaaaah! Take THAT! And THAT!”
CRUNCH! POUND! CRASH! BAMMM!
“You okay, sis?” Jennifer was panting as J ran up. Pieces of table surrounded her. The phase snake, startled by the noise, had slithered back into the garbage bin where it was safe.
“What happened, sis?”
“That table! It attacked me! It stalked me across the patio and attacked! It stomped right on my foot!”
J stood there, stunned.
“It – attacked you?”
“YES! It was hiding behind the trellis and ambushed me!”
“I already SAID it was the table! So I ripped its top off and threw it over there! And I ripped it legs off and threw them over there! That table isn't going to hurt anybody anymore!”
“I see....the table. It's, what ... dead now?”
“I ... I don't know. I mean, I've never been attacked by a table before.”
“No,” J quipped. “You just don't see that kind of behavior in most tables these days.”
Jennifer glared at her disbelieving brother. “I guess you don't believe me.”
“Oh – I didn't say that! No, I mean, if you say you were attacked by a table, then I guess you were <snicker> attacked by <giggle> a ... a mad, psycho table!”
“Fine! Be that way! At least help me clean up this mess.”
“Actually, the legs are designed to detach from the top, so it can probably be put back together. I'll get Dad's tool box.”
“Wow! Did you see that, Sergeant Major?”
“Boy – she really kicked the heck out of him!”
“Groan – I think she cracked my head open....”
“Yep – fine infantry maneuver, Crack.”
“Creak, Sergeant Major.”
“Right – fine move there, Creak. Yep! Just the thing for our training films. I'm not sure the phase snake even knew it was being attacked.”
“I think Jennifer should be protecting us – not the other way around.”
“How do I get a transfer out of this IDIOT outfit?
<Click here to see her next adventure : Jennifer Jones and the Apes of Wrath!>