There were at least four wine bars as I drove through the town. Only a mile off the highway it was a quick stop, a quick coffee for the home stretch drive back to the city. In the distance I saw the orange and purple, as I got closer the words were scratched off. Maybe this was a Dunkin Donuts, maybe not. The neon sign on the window was lit and read COFFEE. Either way, this works for me.
Outside it is quiet, but when you walk in all you hear is laughter. Not Seinfeld live audience laughter, no, muffled, crazy amusement park type laughter (definitely more Coney Island laughter, not Disney World laughter). I take two steps toward the counter and hear a latch that sounds like the door locking. I look back and there is a man now standing in front of the door. He is laughing. I look around and everyone looks the same: permanent grin and no teeth. I feel like I’m in a wax museum, a melting wax museum. Everyone stares ahead and laughs, the man in front of the door laughs and then points at me and says, “I suggest you start drinking coffee”. I take a deep breath and realize there is a burnt chemical smell in the air.
I walk to the counter; the man behind the counter appears to be staring through me, grinning, and no teeth. I order a coffee and look around. There is a door to the bathroom and also a door that appears to lead to the back. I look back at the man guarding the main door. He is still pointing, still laughing. The head of a toothless elderly woman in the corner flops to her left. She is grinning and may be looking at my teeth.
A coffee is placed on the counter in front of me. I grab the cup and move it to my lips; before I take a drink I casually remove the lid and then throw it into the face of the person serving me. I dash for the door next to the bathroom; it is open, but dark. I run straight and crash into a table containing several glass jars and beakers. The glass shatters on the table, some shards landing on the floor. The person from behind the counter follows me and turns on the light in the room. I stare at him and then look around. The side of his face is severely burnt from the coffee and appears to be bubbling. Around me I realize I am inside a methamphetamine lab. I look up and see a small window. The man lunges at me, but cuts his arm on a piece of broken glass and falls to the floor. I jump onto a table, tear away the tar paper covering the window and push. All of the patrons have now moved into the back room and are approaching like zombies. I push and push, finally moving the window out, just enough room to squeeze out into the parking lot. Once out I run for a mile, maybe two. I pass the wine bars and am almost back to the highway when I realize I have the problem of my car parked in the parking lot of the coffee meth lab. Luckily I see a police officer driving by and wave him down.
I explain what happened and the officer has little reaction. He tells me to get in and we drive back to the coffee shop. At this point I half expect the coffee shop to be burning, but when we arrive I’m surprised to find my car is in the parking lot and the building looks the same. No one is guarding the door. The officer and I walk right in.
I look around and it’s the same people, same dazed grins. In the back I hear a commotion, but focus on staying close to the officer as he approaches the counter. The cop takes a quick look around and places his hand on his gun. He orders a coffee and as we wait the laughter begins. I nudge the officer as if to say, “SEE!” The officer pulls out his gun, turns around and points his gun. He points the gun at me and smiles. He is toothless except for one gold tooth in the middle. Behind me I hear the familiar sound of the latch on the door locking and then lots of laughter.
David S. Grant is the author of several books. His latest, BLOOD: The New Red will be available 11-11-11. For more information go to http://www.davidsgrant.com. Follow David on Twitter .david_s_grant