|The Risk of Firebombs|
|Location||Oddball Coffee - Mutant Town, NYC|
|Summary||Names, cartoons and the likelihood of fiery death are all discussed over cups of coffee.|
| Oddball Coffee sits on the edge of Mutant Town, near the northern 14th Street border, which may be why it's managed to keep its windows intact and its varied clientele happy. An eclectic, open-minded place, Oddball regularly showcases mutant artists and performers on its walls and on the tiny stage near the back. Framed photographs covering every spare inch of one brick wall show off wild feats that are only possible with mutation, and a few of their baristas make a show of using mutant powers in the making of their drinks.
It's made Oddball one of the few businesses which manages to appeal to both tourists and locals. The shop is nearly always busy, and it's not unusual for a stranger to request the empty chair at a full table.|
Coffee shops tend to be busy in the evening, and Oddball Coffee is kinda busy all the time, particularly in the evening, so it's nearly a full house with the warm summer night urging folks out of their homes and out on the town. But, one of the small two-seater corner tables still boasts a vacant chair. The other spot is occupied by a scruffy young man who has his hands curled around a coffee cup with half-drunk (gone cold) coffee. He's in a gray t-shirt and faded jeans, and he's watching the various mutant tricks one of the baristas is pulling with the sort of detached interest one has when watching a television show simply because they don't want to exert the energy to change the channel.
Entering the coffee shop in the midst of a conversation with his eyes half-focused on reality and half-focused on the world via the Eyes he's wearing, Jeremy is a friendly and fluffy-haired abstraction ricocheting off the backs of people's chairs as follows: "Oh, sorry -- look, you don't have to make a decision now, excuse me, was that your purse? I didn't mean to-- no, man, look, I never said that, you're not the bottom of the barrel, I'm calling so many people-- God, you know what? Never mind. I've got to go. Yeah, I'm in a place. Hear the noise?" He flips up his hand as if to turn a wrist-born receiver out to the general buzz of the coffee shop, and then flips it down again. "Please just-- think about it. Text me later. You won't have to hear me whining if you just text me. OK?"
Having finally navigated the crowd, Jeremy Wallace drops his hands heavily on the back of the vacant seat at Nicodemus's table. His clothes have seen better days. He smiles sunnily. "Hey there. Is somebody sitting here? Will somebody be sitting here if I go buy something and come back? If I don't get some caffeine and sugar I'm gonna expire."
And then somebody else comes into the room and changes the channel. Or, rather, a man talking on his eyes (and ears?) appears in front of Nicodemus's face, obscuring the view of the counter. He blinks slowly and swallows once. "Uh," is his first and ever so helpful reply. "Nobody's sitting here. So. You can sit here."
"Thanks." Jeremy tips two fingers up by his eyebrow in a vague approximate wave-salute and then wheels off to the counter to place an order. He's back again in a moment, turning about the chair so that it faces backwards rather than frontwards and then straddling it. He wilts forward on the chair as though he has been standing up for days. Weeks. Months! and this is the first chair that he has found in the seat desert of the crowded city. "Oof."
Nicodemus observes Jeremy as he scoots off and returns. His head cants faintly as the chair gets turns around, and then it cants the matching angle in the other direction when the man in the suit sits all straddly-like on the backwards chair. He lifts his mug to his mouth, taking a swallow and fighting down a small grimace at the taste.
"This place is wild," Jeremy says easily. He scratches at his cheek, blunt nails rasping lightly along the prickle of his jaw. "I mean, I love that it exists. Don't get me wrong. It's great. You do kind of worry that somebody's going to firebomb it, though."
"Do you?" Nicodemus asks. He glances again over towards the performing baristas. "Oh." He has another miserable little sip of coffee. Guh. "Seems more likely one of the employees accidentally sets it on fire."
The barista who calls out Jeremy's order does so not by his name. She says, "Boomer."
Jeremy swings back to his feet with a "Yo!" that dates him by several decades as he goes to pick it up. Zipping back to the chair again, he returns with an iced coffee drink that looks like it's mostly whipped cream and chocolate drizzle versus actual coffee. He wasn't kidding about the sugar, apparently. "You think so? There's plenty of fire safety, you know. It's up to code. They've got a little fire safety inspector's certificate and everything. Spontaneous combustion isn't actually as common as you'd think, even in Mutant Town."
"Says the man named 'Boomer'," Nicodemus points out. As Jeremy's confection arrives, he curls his hand around his own coffee mug, drawing it a little closer to his chest as if he suspects the whipped cream of jumping ship and climbing into his cup, if he's not watchful.
"Jeremy," says Jeremy promptly. "Jeremy Wallace." He sucks a long swallow of whatever it is he ordered through the bright red straw and then leans forward against the back of the chair, holding out his hand in the offer of a handshake. "Boomer is a cruel joke. I think it might actually be about my age."
"Nicodemus," he so named returns. He looks at the offered hand for perhaps a beat too long before realizing he's meant to touch it with his own. His hand curls around Jeremy's and shakes it twice before retreating again. "Do ages explode, too?"
Jeremy laughs. "Not in my experience," he says. He plants his feet to either side of the chair and sways backward in a lean against nothing whatever, elbow hooked over the back of the chair as he hoists his whipped cream monstrosity again. "You know, my dad used to say that I was named after a crow with attention deficit disorder in this old cartoon," he says. "Old movie. There was a rat in it named Nicodemus. Wise old bastard."
"The Secret of NIMH," Nicodemus replies. "I watched it when I was little. There was this owl in it that gave me nightmares." He considers. "And a crow, yeah. And a really old rat covered in warts. He was second creepiest, after the owl. That was Nicodemus."
"Mostly I remember the crow." Jeremy scruffs a hand through the fluffy rumple of his overlong hair, and then lifts his cup to eat some of his chocolate-drizzled whipped cream off the top. He gets some on his nose. It's very dignified. Scrounging for a napkin next, he smiles again, eyebrows up. "And I used to watch my hamster very intently for signs of developing super intelligence, but as it turned out it was just a hamster."
"You would have had to experiment on him first," Nicodemus points out softly, his gaze dropping to study the way the ceiling is reflected in the surface of his tepid coffee. "There was a scene about that, too. It's why they were all so nice to Mrs. Brisby, even though she was just a dumb field mouse."
Rolling his shoulders as he works at the back of his neck, Jeremy says, "I was never much of a scientist," and then sets his coffee down to block a yawn with his fist. "Aw, hell," he says next. "It's too early to be running out of gas. I used to pull all nighters, no problem til the next ... afternoon or so."
"Lucky for your hamster," Nicodemus replies. "It wasn't much fun. In the movie." He glances up as Jeremy yawns. "Maybe age explodes after all. Or... implodes. Something."
"Probably. Several decades of cumulative sleep debt I expect." Gulping down most of the remainder of his drink quickly enough to risk brain freeze, he napkins at his mouth and then crumples it up to toss into the cup. "Nice to meet you, kid," Jeremy says, and then corrects himself: "Nicodemus. I'd better scram while I'm still upright."
"The caffeine will kick in as soon as you lie down," Nicodemus points out. "That was sleep sabotage. But, uh. Nice to meet you too. Jeremy Wallace."
"Oh, there's miles to go," Jeremy says with an airy wave. He grins a slightly crooked grin, eyebrows sweeping high, and then springs up out of his chair with every appearance of a fresh spring of energy. "Bye," he says, and weaves a notably less clumsy exit route out of the coffee shop than the way he entered."Bye," Nicodemus returns. He watches Jeremy head out, waiting until he's out the door before drawing the man's empty cup closer so that he can take a small, thoughtful sniff. He jerks back, nose wrinkling, with a small shudder. Then he runs his tongue over his teeth and returns to watching the baristas and not drinking his coffee.