The Tasty Pour-Over

anecdote / fiction

The café sells coffee and ambience and gourmet breakfast sandwiches.

The walls are exposed brick and they sell nitrogen-infused iced coffee. The tip jars read, “Mayweather,” “McGregor,” and “Decency,” respectively. (“Decency” has the most cash.)

Customers discuss boredom, Twin Peaks (the show), and the beef between Ryan Adams and Father John Misty (aka Sir Elton Asshole).

“I like his lyrics,” somebody says.

In the corner a customer who ordered a pour-over has been waiting minutes for his drink attempts to nonchalantly check his watch. Repeatedly. (He grows more nervous as he runs out of body language to communicate genial, Midwestern patience).

He has a friend outside (also waiting), who ordered a simple coffee and breakfast burrito. (In the future, when the pour-over finishes they will visit the bridge near city hall and discuss Hegel, boat ownership, and relationships. But this hasn’t happened yet.

Because the customer is still waiting for the tasty pour-over).

They continue to wait.

A Day Like Any Other


They are repainting the crosswalk lines on the day of the eclipse.

Kids gather in the park to stare at the covered sun. But it is cloudy. So they stare at their phones.

I notice a monarch butterfly arc a wide parabola below the El track at Wacker and Wells. I read somewhere that their population is down twenty-seven percent from last year, which is scary if you think about it.

My father emails me an article about how not go blind while taking pictures of the sun (but I can’t read it because I had deleted the news app on my phone).

My father sends another article. The preview has a photograph. A weatherman sheds tears over the eclipse.

Weeping weatherman. Ridiculous, I think. But actually I’m a little jealous.

How wonderful to greet the world and find the divine in a cloudy day.

24-Hour Diner

anecdote / fiction

There’s a diner I visit sometimes when sleep doesn’t come easy.

Tonight I order corn beef hash and eggs sunny side up and wheat toast and OJ.

Coffee, she asks. And I turn over the cup. The sound of the coffee pouring comforts me like the presence of a few strangers at this hour and the mechanical din of the soda refrigerator at the entrance and the fact that I’m sitting at a booth by myself instead of at the bar and the familiar scenes from the ’90s heist movie playing on the TV.

One Drop Does It proclaims the gringo hot sauce I drench a portion of my hash with. More like twelve.

I don’t want to go home yet so I order a slice of warm apple pie à la mode. Behind me two men discuss their buddy who thinks he’s getting into business school but clearly isn’t getting into business school. Afterward one smugly dissects the platform of the contemporary Republican Party.

I sigh as my pie arrives.

Stranded on the Tarmac

anecdote / poem

When we landed, the sun was an orange lip on the horizon. Now it is gone. We rode twenty minutes over runways, past blinking lights and descending planes.

The pilot comes on the loudspeaker. His tone is that of a remorseful philanderer. He informs us that we have another twenty minutes before we can deplane.

The man seated next to me is traveling to his father's funeral. He lives in Ohio. His wife and children sit in the next row.

The funeral home director refers to his father's ashes as "crème," not ashes, he says.

I find that kind of funny, he says.

Fly Fishing Lessons

fiction / poem

“What gives,” I say as we pull into the parking lot of an upscale mall.
“Where’s the water?”

Ten minutes later I cast my line, aiming for lengths of plywood in the grass beside the freeway. After a couple misses, my old man yells over traffic, “Give it more wrist!”

Cars slow. Drivers begin to ogle.

I assume they are confused by the sight of grown men with fishing poles on the side of the road. I expect they would be more confused were I to explain to them that my father, myself, and five other gentlemen are paying to fish in grass.

Over the sounds of amused honking and cars trundling along, I hear a plink followed by giddy laughter. I turn.
My father has hit the plywood with his lure.

The instructor claps his hands and I see
my father: grinning, happy, proud.

Fast Food

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2:17 am. I switch on my brights and drive slow

Along a road I killed a deer on once.

I hang a right past the Best Buy and Dollar Store and Taco Bell.

After I fumble my order, the man asks me can I pull up to the window.

He has tattoos on his neck and fingers and is super friendly.

I apologize and he informs me that there is an upcharge for the shake and that fries come with my meal.

I finish the burger in my car while listening to voicemails.

The View From the Deck


Sunday night I sit on my parents’ deck and smoke a cigar.

There is a pond behind the house and I admire the water, the moon, the elms, and the clouds.

You can hear crickets, frogs, and the occasional turtle popping into the water.

I know it’s after midnight when my near-blind grandmother locks me out.


Lost in Translation


Following the meal, my mother, a Brazilian, asked her in-laws, two Cuban émigrés who had made a home in the United States, “How was the food?”

Exquisito,” my Cuban grandfather replied, while making the A-okay sign, index finger touching thumb.

My mother blushed and asked her father-in-law to lower his hand.

You see, my grandfather thought he said, “The food was exquisite.”

But in Brazil, the A-okay sign is a very rude gesture, more appropriate for road rage or signaling to a rival at a soccer stadium than dinner conversation with the in-laws.

And while “exquisito” does translate to “exquisite” in English, in Portuguese it means “strange.”

So in reality, my Cuban grandfather had flipped off my mother and her parents while also showing shade on their national cuisine.


My Brazilian grandfather, or Vovô Paulo, as I referred to him, was a former rancher and bon vivant.

He was very proper, owned a gun, and had survived a kidnapping. I loved the man but things were sometimes awkward between us.

I once spilled rice all over myself at his country club and he dismissed me like you would a dog that shat the carpet.


Once, at the mall in Curitiba, I asked my father if I could go have a look in a toy store around the corner. Instead, I snuck upstairs to the food court and got in line for McDonald’s.

The line for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large fry was hella-long.

I was still five people away from the counter when I heard somebody screaming.

It sounded like a madman.

It turned out to be my father.

He had checked the toy store and assumed someone had abducted me.

In reality, I was just making poor dietary choices.


“Did I run over your mother’s foot?” my father asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How does this keep happening?” my father asked.

“Because you don’t pay attention,” I said.

So my father bravely exited the car and attempted to comfort his shrieking wife of 31 years, who at this point was threatening to return to Brazil for an undetermined period of time.

By itself this event would seem improbable.

A few weeks previous he had run over the foot of his own mother, who is 89 years old and walks with a cane.

Only recently has she stopped wearing the hideously unfashionable closed-toe medical walking show they sold her at the hospital.

It just wasn’t her style.