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© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2012

We were crawling out from under 460_City_Snow_Xi_copy_460a blizzard-winds 35-55 mph and anywhere from 8-14 inches of snow depending exactly where you were. A difference of two miles could give you a difference of two inches of snow. It had started one evening after Christmas with wind, lots of it, and falling temperatures. The snow stealthily came into town during the night. By mid morning we were its prisoners, captive to its whims until evening when it left town, moving on to torment its next victims. It wasn’t the worst blizzard some of us had seen-one that had winds of 70 mph and left banks of snow up 2 feet, 4-5 after the wind whipped it around a bit, and 7-10 feet after the snow plows piled it on the sides of road and parking lots. But that was okay. We really didn’t want to see one as bad as that again.

The SSB and I had been snowbound. I knew she was anxious to get out, but I had some errands to do and I couldn’t take her with me. I told her she had to stay home, I had to go but I would be back. She gave me that look of mortal pain and betrayal. I tried to bribe her with one of her favorite peanut butter treats. She would have nothing to do with it, letting it fall to the floor. She continued “that look” that screamed what an awful, neglectful, abusive owner I was to her. I left the house loaded down with my bag, the items for some of my errands, and more guilt than a Jewish mother could dish out in a lifetime of matzo balls and chicken soup.

Most of the small, independent businesses had been closed during the blizzard unlike the corporate owned malls and retail chains. Even though they were closed and had no profit for the day, a number of them offered their employees an hour of pay for the day. The owners realize that these people are not just their employees, but their friends and neighbors and therefore the heart of their business. I do as much of my business with the local independent businesses and avoid corporate retail as much as possible. So today was my day for errands. The third one on the list was at Vagabond’s End. I wanted to make arrangements for the delivery of  the kitchen cabinetry that Jacqueline had worked on for me and of course to see her. We set a delivery time. She had other clients in the shop. She told me she would be free in about 1 1/2 hours. We decided to meet then for coffee at The Teal Mango.

Jacqueline who beat me to the coffee shop, had already ordered and was sitting at a table for two near one of the south facing windows in the main area. I don’t usually sit in the main area because I have The SSB Drever with me so we sit in the piano room. It was a nice change. Maddie was offering specials on Mexican hot chocolate, a Tanzanian-Indonesian peaberry mix with natural occurring spicy earthy undertones combined with cinnamon and cardamon, or a chai tea with piquant notes of ginger and black pepper. She also had a selection of sweet or spicy options of little appetizers and munchies from Snickety Snax. I ordered the peaberry with a little chocolate and a mixed platter of munchies and sat down with Jacqueline.

A few other people were there including: Paul, the owner of “The Charleston Silver Screen”, a shop with about anything to do with movies, especially the old and the classics (Paul is quite the movie buff), Dr. Dohna Park, officially retired acupuncturist (but still carries her bag with her) and beekeeper, Jennifer Dyson, a teacher in one of the schools east of the city, some other shop owners, some other customers that pop in on an irregular regular basis,  and some new folks taking in the sights around the city while off from work for the holidays.

There were different topics of conversation in full swing by the time I sat down.

“Hey, Paul, I heard it was you that sold the blinking lights to the protestors!” Mike from the Fix It Shop called across the room to Paul. People were still talking about the brouhaha with George, Stephan, and Natalya. “Where’dya find those things?”

Paul chuckled. “Why, hello to you, Mike. Well, you see, I had been searching for some old posters, the originals ones, of course, and some other original paraphernalia from some of the classic Christmas movies, well like, It’s a Wonderful Life, for example. Now, you take It’s a Wonderful Life. It was based off a book called The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren. You  know he published the book privately by himself in 1945. It was nominated for five Oscars, the movie of course, not the book, even though it pretty much failed at the box office. Well, any way…”

“Paul, just tell me how you found those crazy lights”, Mike interjected.

“The lights, right. Well actually I don’t know. I was looking at this and looking at that online and there I was and there they were. I just thought they were pretty cool so I ordered a lot of them.”

Beside movie trivia, Paul sells other odd things in his shop.

“I was watching the protestors when they first started. They just didn’t seem to be making much impact. I went out to talk with them, showed them the lights. The tough part was getting them to agree on which side got which color. Ya know, I’m probably about the only business near the Bernardi building that made any money that day.”

“How did you do with all the snow?” someone started to ask. As if on cue, Josh Morgan came through the door. “I’m done, Miss Margo,” he said, placing his snow shovel outside the door as he stepped in after stomping the snow from his boots.

Would you like some coffee, Josh?” Maddie asked.

“Thank you, Miss Margo. But I am a little sore and achy after all of that shoveling. I’m probably going to need some rest. I’ll probably just go home and sleep,” Josh responded.

“How about some herbal tea? I have some Rishi’s Serene Dream. It’s pretty soothing.”

“That would be nice. Thank you.”, Josh replied. Maddie set him up with the tea and after that, Dr. Dohna Park set him up with an acupuncture treatment to help with all the aches, pains, and stressed muscles and tendons. Josh had done a lot of shoveling for a lot of people, including Dr. Park.

They set him up in the piano room. It was currently full of bouquets and bouquets of flowers. It was part of the apology from the VanNeely and the Bernardi LaRue’s to atone for their lurid behaviour in the Mango. Maddie lowered the top of grand piano. She brought in some blankets, sheets and pillows. She and the Doctor folded some blankets to cushion the piano surface for Josh. He was medium to small, but wiry and strong. Dr. Park set to work with the needles. Maddie lowered the lights and found a Deuter and Anugama mix of meditative music. When Dr. Park was finished, she place a light sheet over Josh and closed the French pocket doors on a room that now, with all the flowers and body covered with a sheet, vaguely resembled a funeral parlor .

Elliott Christensen muddled in. He is a security guard in a warehouse who had just come off a double shift because of the snow. He still had to make his drive home. When Maddie asked what he would like, he told her to make it a triple shot of espresso. Meanwhile the blizzard discussion had continued with everyone chiming in.

“I just don’t think it is right. If the National Weather service says people should stay off the roads, they should stay off the roads. If the schools are closed…”

“The schools were already closed. It’s Christmas break.”

“Weren’t the government offices closed? If they’re closed, shouldn’t nonessential businesses be closed? You know, like malls and things.”

“This is a right to work state. If people don’t show up, even in natural disaster situations, they could lose their jobs.”

“Right to work my foot. Right to lose your job is what it should be called”

“I think if someone was hurt or injured going to or from work in these conditions, if the business threatened them with losing their job, then that business should be held liable maybe even criminally so!”

“Maybe someone should start a petition on one of those petition sites or the White House petition site. Make it a federal law so the state governments have no right to deny anyone the right to their job. And make it a criminal offense if they do.”

“Did you hear about the guy on the snowmobile?” Jennifer asked. “He was going through the city and holding up stranded motorist at gun point. One woman was shot and killed” This coming less than three weeks after the Newtown massacre.

“If she had had a gun, that wouldn’t have happened,” added Elliott. “Everyone needs a gun or two to carry with them and a few assault weapons at home, and one with you to protect ourselves .” Anyone who knew Elliott, knew he had several guns of several types, including assault weapons. They also knew he was buying as many more as he could before there was any change in the gun laws.

“Why?” I asked. “From what?”

“Everyone knows the U.S. is becoming a police state. It allowed that shooting in Newtown to happen to give it an excuse to take all our guns aways. Then the army will come into every town and ship us off to detention centers. This all a conspiracy.” Elliott spoke again.

“Elliott, do you really think your Bushmaster is going to stop an army? ” Maddie asked. “If you really want to put a halt to the military threat, urge your elected officials to stop supporting military and especially military weapons build up. Create stronger gun controls and use our tax dollars resources to build strong communities instead”

“You are living in some idealistic La La Land. I tell you the only sane thing to do is get a gun; get several while you can!” Elliott continued. “The only way to stop gun violence is to counter it with your own gun.”

Jennifer laughed  aloud. “That is just pure craziness, Elliott. That is like saying to stop death from drunk driving is that everyone should drive drunk. Or, or,” she laughed again, ” to stop people from dying from the effects of obesity, is that everyone should shove the food in until everyone is obese. Then we’ll all be saved!”

“Elliott, you might need a little more rest and maybe little more people interaction,” I offered.

“Jo, do people keep asking you if you have a gun.” Jacqueline asked. “I mean, I don’t have a gun. I went one time to try shooting a gun. I didn’t like it. I feel as though I am being bullied to get one and I don’t want to get one. I don’t get how being a part of and contributing to violence will reduce violence.”

Meanwhile, while all of this was occurring, Margaret Teagartin had been walking her two dogs, two corgis-Teaberry and Newton, as in Fig Newton. Margaret is a little old fashioned and loves fig newtons with her tea. She loves tea also-so much that she opened a tea house on the lower tier of shops closer to the canal where she serves high tea and low tea, and probably every tea in between. This is the go to place for tea pots, tea towels, linens, and anything “tea”. She calls it Margaret’s Tea Garden.

Margaret had come down Opal Way to Golden Place North with “Tea” the brindled Cardigan and “Newt”, the caramel Pembroke. As she was passing the trees and shrubbery on her right, at the edge of Maddie’s property, she heard what sounded like gunshots to her but were in reality firecrackers illegally being set off. (It was getting close to New Years).  She made the turn to her right, continue along the walkway toward The Teal Mango to find shelter. The first thing she saw as she looked toward the building was a body covered with a sheet on top of the piano. Immediately, Margaret fumbled to get her phone out of her pocket to call 911 to report a shooting and a dead body at The Teal Mango. The dogs picked up on her excitement, ran circles around her and knocked her down. fortunately she had a soft landing in a snow drift that had made its frozen home outside the Mango.

Officer Alano Ruiz was due for a break and had been heading to Golden Heights for a bite to eat and a cup of coffee when the call came in. He had heard the “shots” on his way to The Heights, had already parked the squad car and was quickly but stealthily making his way to The Teal Mango. As he approached he saw Margaret on the ground in the snow drift.

Officer Ruiz had a keen appreciation for historical residential architecture. He was currently enrolled in an Historic Survey and Appreciation of Art and Architecture of the Edwardian Period class at the local community college. He didn’t want to ruin the beveled glass on the Mango’s entry door or damage any of the windows. Assuming the shooter was in the coffee shop based on the 911 call, he fired a warning shot into the air and ordered the shooter to come out.

Josh who had fallen asleep, between the tea, the music, and the reduction of pain from the needle placement, was roused from his sleep by the “gunshot”, the yelling and the general commotion. At this same time, Margaret had managed to crawl out of the snow drift to stand on her own two legs again. She was facing The Teal Mango and happened to look again in the window just as Josh was rising from the waist up off the piano. All she saw was a corpse rising from the dead. She swooned and was back down in the snow drift, once again oblivious to the drama around her. As soon as he had raised up his body enough, he turned to roll off the piano, hit the edge of the keys and then hit the floor.

Right before Margaret’s swoon and Josh’s fall to the floor, Elliott had positioned himself in a now slightly open entry door ready to return gun fire with the assumed attacker outside, poised ready to fire. The gunshot, and then the thud of Josh’s landing had startled Paul. His hand inadvertently knocked his teaspoon to the floor. Elliott caught the flash of light reflecting off the spoon as it fell at the same time he too heard Josh’s thud. He instinctively turned to the direction of the light as though it had been the glint of a gun and fired. Paul had just bent down to retrieve the spoon as the bullet whizzed by, just grazing his head.

Officer Ruiz could see Elliott in the door way. He knew Elliott, knew he had been working some long shifts, knew he was an avid espresso fan. He fired another shot to get Elliott’s attention and shouted to him.

Drop the gun, Elliott! Drop the Gun! Put your hands up and  drop to the ground!” 

Elliott looked around and realized the horror of what he had just done and what he could have done. He tossed the gun and dropped. Maddie was already calling 911 and Dr Park had rushed over to Paul to attend to his wound. Officer Ruiz was next to Elliott cuffing him and helping him to his feet. The ambulance had arrived. A paramedic was helping Margaret to her feet and checking her over.

Dr. Park was walking with Paul, a little light headed and woozy,  toward the ambulance. As they passed Elliott, Paul said,

“Hell, Elliot. What do you think you were doing.? I survived Nam just to get shot by my friend in a coffee shop on The Square. Damn. Thank God you didn’t have your assault weapon with you!”

It was a few days before I returned to The Teal Mango. I noticed some new signage as I came upon the entry door. It was a “no guns allowed” sign.

While Maddie was making my order, I said, “I noticed your new sign.”

She laughed. “The only shots I want around here are the ones coming from my espresso machines.”

I picked up my coffee and The SSB Drever and I headed to our usual spot in the piano room, where hopefully I would get some work done. I looked up. I could never look at that piano in the same old way again.

blue snow flakes


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