There is no air conditioning in my house. We have those old fashioned window units in the bedrooms, but for the basic living spaces we are SOL. In these heat waves like we’ve been having in New England of late this translates to me relocating to coffee shops to work. My local coffee shop crowds pretty quickly on weekends, so I usually end up at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks just over the NH border. When I discovered Gumbyman’s existence last weekend, I really didn’t think I’d ever see him again. You can imagine my surprise on Sunday when he pulled up a chair at the table next to me and began a variation of what I have concluded is routine. Of course, we’re practically B&N café family now so I had no problem staring and taking notes.
I don’t know why he only needed one table and one chair this week. Perhaps it was because he was not wearing his Gumby shirt. Without Gumby along for the ride, naturally he wouldn’t need as many chairs. His shirt was clean and pressed, a grey t-shirt with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders. No deviation from the forest green shorts. There was little rustling as he settled into his chair. No nerves. Just easy squatting and a plopping down of four books and a brown paper bag of a shape that would indicate it contained a sub like sandwich. The literary choices were A Ship Without A Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart in hardcover, The Three Stooges Scrapbook, The Color Companion to Walt Disneyworld, and a paperback of title that remained covered at all times. The only words I could see were “full of coupons.”
Gumbyman got up not long after he sat down and walked to the condiment/straw station on the other side of the café. He grabbed a hefty portion of coffee stirrers (again), two packages of salt (again), a two-inch stack of cocktail napkins, and seven small plastic dixie cups clearly meant for other customers to use for water. He split the seven cups into three stacks. Snap and fizz, a can of Pepsi was poured into one of the cup stacks. Hgggckkkk spit, into a second stack of cups, followed by a crumpled napkin. (Gross, by the way).
The next activity disturbed me a bit. Gumbyman seemed to pull out of air two $5 scratch tickets. Of course, they were Three Stooges scratch tickets. The Three Stooges scratch tickets in Massachusetts are only $2. Why do I know this? Because I am a compulsive gambler. This is why I am disturbed. Gumbyman and I now have two things in common. That is two too many.
Rub rub, scratch scratch, foil filings are droppings on top of the coffee stirrers, which would soon touch food, and the pile of napkins. Every so often Gumbyman’s top lip would pull back and curl up away from his teeth as if he were a billy goat chewing sod. He shook his head after he stopped scratching and stuck the ticket inside the dust jacket of A Ship Without A Sail. I gather he did not win. He then reached inside the paper bag and pulled out his snacks. Cheese Doodles, M&M’s, potato chips, and Fritos. Brand names must have been on sale at the gas station where he picked up his scratch tickets.
Cheese doodles and book pages aren’t friends. My heart started to race a bit. Do not fear - Gumbyman had a plan. His right hand reached and grabbed three of the coffee stirrers as if someone else were racing to them, and he snapped them like a chicken’s neck. The splintered edges of the stirrers were violently used to rip a hole in the cheese doodle bag so that the bag could be opened into a flat plate. The stirrers were then used to stab the doodles as if they were cocktail wieners. He shoveled them in as quickly as he turned chunks of pages of Ship Without A Sail from right to left, unaware that it was in English not Arabic.
New snack, new book. The M&M’s didn’t last very long. Gumbyman tore off the corner of the bag and poured them all into his mouth as I dreamed of pouring adult beverages down my throat to cope with what I was witnessing. The Three Stooges Scrapbook would have to make it through M&Ms and potato chips. I wondered if he would use the coffee stirrers to try and stiletto the potato chips. He didn’t. He did stiletto the bag though. I also hoped to see him pour the salt all over the table, but was disappointed that he didn’t use it at all. Perhaps brand name potato chips use more salt than the store brand he had the week before.
For the final act he shoveled the Frito’s into the trap while paging through the book about Disneyland. He never made it to the fourth book with the coupons in it. Perhaps its purpose was just to act as a shelf for the other books. As soon as he finished the Fritos he finished his Pepsi, which he had been drinking from the plastic cup, not the can. He tried to empty more from the can, but it was dry. He forcefully smacked it down on the table in such a way that it leveraged his body up from the chair. Purposefully and with great speed, Gumbyman turned and, belonging-free, walked straight towards the public washroom, never to return to clean up his mess.