Jerry on the Wall

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Patrick O'Brien, West Chazy, NY
The Writing Contest for Young and Adult Writers
Winner in Category: Humor, age 21+

Frother madness ruined me.

In Florida, in January, in the morning, you can go for a walk in shorts and a tee.

In the morning.

Get it.

It's warm.

We visited Angie down in Florida last winter. You know how it is when you move to the North Country - for a year or two it's fun, it's different - snow, ice, boots all the time, cold, cold, colds - enough is enough. Nobody's going to miss me for a few months, it's winter, nobody goes out, I don't see anybody and when I finally do see somebody I don't want to talk.

So I went to Florida.

Yeah, yeah, you want to know about the frother madness and how it ruined me. That's what I'm telling you, how it started. We went to Florida, visited Angie.

No boots, no layers, no gloves. You can walk to get your newspaper and a cup of coffee. Wonderful. The trouble is this coffee shop was special, way too intense. The coffee has names and style and directions, it's not like here. Now this is where the trouble starts - directions, double shots - you know how much caffeine, sugar, fats, chocolate and calories there are in a big, really big, cup of coffee? And something to nosh on, right? Got the picture? What you got there can bend your mind.

I'm in that coffee shop three, four times a day; hours, I'm spending hours in the place.

I was seduced. They had me pumped up on extra caffeine, they're playing mellow music - la de da, la de da - people are coming in and saying the names of their coffee, real quick and snappy, and how they want it. Had a rhythm to it, I'd sit there with my coffee and the mellow music, the snappy voices saying the words - a double latte with a double, blah, blah - the really friendly people behind the counter; so nice and so helpful. It was seductive.

And the sound behind it all was the whirr of the frother whipping everything to perfection, that's what held it all together. I started to understand. I knew what the regulars were saying to the friendly people behind the counter. I understood the words, I belonged. I was happy in the coffee shop. I never wanted to leave.

I was spending thirty, maybe forty dollars a day on coffee and I wasn't sleeping. I'm walking around in shorts, a sweaty tee and flip flops, I'm too tired to shave or go anywhere. I was a mess.

Angie saved the day; she said, "You don't want to spend that much on their coffee, we'll make coffee here at the house." I'm thinking, yeah sure but it won't be the same. Then Angie showed me what a smart kid she was. French press coffee, as strong as you want it, add the sugar and here's the beauty part - you ready? - She Had Her Own Frother. Put half and half in the micro for ten, fifteen seconds, froth the hell out of it and lay that creamy cloud of half and half froth down on top of the coffee, sprinkle the chocolate, the hazelnut, whatever, on the froth - perfect.

That did it for me, that and the intervention thing. After that I'd sit outside in the screen house and have my coffee, play my own music, I never liked that la de da music anyhow, I don't think I liked those snappy people either, and the friendly people behind the counter... ha!


I did miss the sound of the frother. In the screen house I had Angie's frother. Once in a while I'd pick it up and give it a whirl. I liked that sound.

It was perfect but all good things must blah, blah, blah. It's spring, I'm back home. I go to the local coffee shops. Old school coffee - pour it, add some sugar, dump in some half and half and - it's coffee. I sit at a table, take my time, do crosswords, see some people, have some laughs, maybe talk a little bit. But it's not the same; something's missing in my life.

It changed that summer when the west coast Hot-Shot Sugar-Jolt coffee shop opened down the road.

Hooray! I zipped down there on opening day. Cars were backed up trying to get into Hot-Shot. The parking lot was packed, no spots. I circled the block twice. The state police were down the road giving out speeding tickets. Everyone who left there was driving too fast. People up here aren't used to all that caffeine.

While I was circling the block I spotted a green Honda Element parked around the corner and down the block in a shady spot. I noticed the doors were open and there were people hanging around and all of them were holding coffee cups from Hot-Shot.

They were acting suspiciously. When I drove past the second time there was only one guy there. I parked the car and walked over to see what was going on. I walked up and said, "Hot-Shots?" He said, "Yeah, you here for the frothers?"

I said, "What've you got?"

The whole back of the Element was filled with boxes of frothers. And you had your choice of colors. I got the mother of all frothers. Full power - it can handle major caffeine. It's bigger than the one Angie had in Florida, way bigger, took special batteries, lots of batteries.

I rushed home with the frother; the only problem was that I forget to pick up the groceries so when I got home I didn't have any coffee. I was hungry so I had a bowl of cereal. I figure, what the heck, and I frothed the damn cereal. I didn't realize how powerful the thing was, what a mess. Boy, was the little woman mad.

We cleaned the kitchen walls and the furniture. She made me put the super frother in the garage. We decided to never bring it into the house again. The next morning when we came out to the kitchen the stains were still on the wall. It might have been the chocolate syrup or the orange juice I had put on the cereal. Anyhow, the stains were still on the wall - I don't think they'll ever come out - I promised again how the super frother would stay in the garage.

Later we're having coffee with Lester; he's a French Canadian guy who used to be a priest, that's what he told us. He lives in one of the camps up the road. He's at the table and sees the wall, he spits out his coffee and says some French Canadian stuff, sack a blue or something, and he's pointing at the wall.

He swears he sees the Madonna right over the kitchen table. He ran back to the camp and got his wife who brought along a bunch of people. They came in and everybody's talking in French, English and tongues. Some of them are dropping to their knees, we don't know what the hell is going on because by now we can see that's it's not the Madonna, it's the image of Jerry Garcia. Jerry Garcia on our kitchen wall, how about that, huh?

We put them, the nut jobs, out of the house and we're trying to figure out how to cash in and sell the house on EBay.

Time is going by and we're having coffee every morning with Jerry on the wall. Lester, the guy who started all this, turns out he became a priest online. He took a course from a commune in Texas, so what's he know? He's going nuts. We won't let him into the house any more.

His people won't stop putting candles on the lawn. The best we can do is get a restraining order on Lester. We can't stop him from wearing the robes, which look like drapes we've seen in Sears, but now he has to stay on the other side of the street near the lake. We can't do anything about the hymn singers on the lawn or the ones knocking on the door, there are too many of them.

Then somehow, maybe it was EBay, word got out to the Dead Heads and a few of them came by. They were such nice people, very calm and peaceful, we showed them Jerry on the wall. Damn, wouldn't you know it, crowds of them started showing up on the lawn everyday wanting to see Jerry On The Wall. They didn't get along with Lester's bunch, what with all the smoking and stuff. That's when the police started showing up regular.

Meanwhile I'm having my own problems; she still doesn't want the frother in the house. I'm sneaking the frother out with me, into Dunkin Donuts and places like that. I had to be very careful to cover the noise. The other week I had the frother in the car and a guy cut me off so I frothered him. I pointed it at him and zapped him just like in Star Trek. I started doing it all the time, frothing everybody. That's not the worst of it, yesterday a guy in a Hummer frothered back. I'm scared.

We had to stay in the house with the blinds and the drapes closed all the time. The two mobs were out there with all the candles, incense and other stuff yelling back and forth - Madonna - Jerry - Madonna - Jerry - finally the police showed up and made them stay on opposite sides of the lawn.

Lester had to stay across the road near the lake because of the restraining order. He starts a new thing, he starts baptizing everybody. The Dead Heads are skinny dipping on their side.

Weeks go by and we're hunkered down in the house. We're buttoned up tight and the air conditioner is on so we didn't hear much. Then we heard yelling, people were always yelling so we ignored it. Then we smelled smoke. We jumped up and ran outside and saw the brush fire, the damn candles had finally done it.

The fire had started at the road and was roaring right at the house. I hadn't cut the grass for a long time because of the people always being on the lawn. I ran to the hose forgetting I had turned the water off because people were always messing with the water.

Then I saw Lester, in his 'going to the water robes', and his people running around stomping on the flames and the naked, sandal wearing, skinny dipping, Dead Heads beating the flames with their clothes. There they were, a vision of hell, Lester and his people in their robes and Sunday best, and the naked Dead Heads running in and out of the fire and smoke - everybody's screaming, 'The wall, the wall, Save the wall'.

The flames were at the stairs and I ran into the house. From inside I watched the flames ignite the lawn furniture and the foundation shrubs. We ran out the back door.

The house burned to the foundation. I lost it all, the damn Jerry On The Wall and the super frother.

I'm trying to get my life back on track. I still drive around the block down near the Hot-Shot Sugar Jolt. I think the guy with the Element got busted so I can't get another one. Maybe he'll show up someday.