"Which coffee do you want me to use this morning?” I held up two different blends the War Department had in the kitchen cabinet.
She was standing at her unofficial desk at the end of our large kitchen island. Several stacks of paper formed a small barricade between her and my coffee makings. She barely looked up from a piece of mail in her hand.
“I don’t care.”
Alarm bells went off in my head. There it was, the Female Trap. I was lost, and no matter what response I chose, I’d be wrong. Flipping through stacks of mental files and possible avenues of escape I finally selected the most damaging answer.
“Uh, you like this Big Bend Roast.”
“I do.” Her answer was noncommittal, and I could tell she was barely listening.
“I can use the Angry Morning blend.”
“Either is fine.”
A glimmer of hope arose. Maybe I could get out of the trap.
“Isn’t the Big Bend Roast the one you bought when we were in Alpine?”
Almost in the clear, I opened the bag and breathed in the aroma of dark roasted coffee. I spooned in the appropriate amount and brewed the coffee. When it was done, she was still wading through paperwork. I handed her a cup and she took a sip.
“Which one is this?”
I mentally computed the distance to an escape venue through the hallway and garage.
“The Big Bend Roast.”
“It’s pretty strong.”
“I used the usual amount.”
She sipped again.
“Let’s try the other one tomorrow.”
“Do we have any Folgers?”
“No. I thought we’d try something else.”
My phone rang at that moment.
Wrong Willie’s voice offered a chance to escape the potentially dangerous conversation.
“We’re meeting at Doreen’s in a few minutes to talk about next week’s fishing trip in Oklahoma.”
“I’ll be there.” I punched off. “The boys are heading to Doreen’s to talk about the Oklahoma fishing trip.”
She opened her calendar.
“That the one where you’re going to the Mountain Fork?”
“I’ve scheduled the girls to come over that weekend for a couple of nights. You guys can’t change your mind like you did the last time.”
“It rained us out of the lease.”
“Yeah.” She raised an eyebrow.
I got the message.
“I’ll be gone.”
The boys were already in the large round corner booth at Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Cafe when I arrived, studying a map spread across the surface. Doc pointed to a squiggly blue line.
“That’s where we put in. Everyone good with that?”
Wrong Willie nodded. Delbert P. Axelrod, the poster child for a disquieting person, sipped at a cup of steaming coffee.
“Works for me.”
“Is that where we put the canoes in last time?”
We all turned toward Delbert and pondered his question.
“It is.” Doc waited for the inevitable.
“Well, I thought we’d try someplace different.”
Delbert stabbed the map with a fingernail that needed clipping.
“How about here?”
“Well, I said.” Because that’s a county line. You can tell, because they’re straight.”
“Oh. I just think we should change things up a little every now and then, you know a nice straight river.”
The War Department’s voice floated to the surface of my memory from one day in an Alpine grocery store.
“Let’s get this coffee.”
“I really like Folgers.”
“We should broaden our horizons. We should try something different.”
“Neither of us like heavy roasted coffee.”
“Let’s just put it in the cabinet until we decide to try it.”
“Fine, but I think it’s not going to taste as good as it sounds.”
“It’ll be fine.”
There in the cafe, Delbert assumed a different mantle.
“Well, we can see some fresh territory if we launch in a different place.”
“We know where the fish are, if we do it the same way.”
“But it’ll be an adventure if we try something new.”
Doreen came around with a fresh pot and a filled mug she sat in front of me.
“More coffee, boys?”
Already skittish, I took the mug.
“Is it your usual brand?”
“Of course.” She shot me a disgusted look. “I stick with what everyone likes.”
A possum ran over my grave and I shivered in relief.
“And with that confirmation, we’re gonna launch right where we always do, so Delbert, shut up and drink your…familiar coffee.”
I took a sip and sighed in pleasure.
“You know boys, I like what I like.”
They looked confused, but in a second, each man nodded and went back to pondering the map.