< Light Millennium: Eat Something, p2; by Robert J. BAUMANN
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Eat A Little Something
Part 2

by Robert J. BAUMANN

Bupkiss was right at the lintel of the door when I opened it. There are a thousand ways to step on a cat and you would think the species would live in fear of that which is larger and heavier, wouldn't you? Bupkiss just defied all logic this way, often placing herself in harms way just to be able to rub up against my leg. This was yet another part of the morning ritual between us. How Bupkiss would get fed if I fell over my own feet trying to avoid her is beyond me.

Today, Bupkiss simply looked up at me even as I looked down in surprise at her. I was thankful that the way the door opened made her presence clearer to see. I avoided trampling her. She had this very strange and somewhat angry look. Her cry was not the usual one. It was not a petition. It was a demand, and Bupkiss was never the kind of cat to behave this way.

One can of cat food did not seem to diminish her anger. Instead, she seemed to gobble it down and then become far more agitated and, for want of a better word... hungrier. I do not normally cater to Bupkiss, but she is such a gentle thing that I decided to humor her this once just to see if she would become satiated and calm down. Another can of cat food was as quickly consumed. The scary thing was that, when she licked the bowl clean this time, she actually looked up and almost pleaded for more.

"Hey, I am not sure what's going on here, but no way am I going to feed you another can."

It was not a good morning at all. Bupkiss did not take this refusal lightly. In fact, she did something quite out of character. She hissed. Her point had been made clear enough. Being a compassionate kind of fellow, as I was on the way out the door, I filled her dry food feeder and commented "Knock yourself out, kiddo". The door closed on the sound of Bupkiss going for the bowl.

Life is a grind for most Manhattanites. If it wasn't for calendars you'd hardly know what day it was. They tend to be all the same to me. It is the routine of life I suppose. Each morning I walk down my block to the nearest little neighborhood coffee shop for my breakfast. A bit of fuel for the ride ahead. Once in the office a "wake me up" cup of coffee is the next jolt I need to start the day.

Today was a little different. I actually walked a bit faster, feeling I had been a bit delayed by Bupkiss' tantrums. When I got to the coffee shop I was a bit surprised to find it was quite crowded. It was a first. I looked in through the window and every chair, every table, every stool was taken. Customers were even on line for take out. I thought that the place must've advertised some kind of special price for the day, but I couldn't see any signs. My usual waitress, Celia, was running around busier than I had ever seen her. She looked a bit harried. She saw me at the window, smiled and shrugged.

Even though I don't like to eat downtown because of the crowding, it would be no worse today than here. I decided to get on the train and head to work. I stopped to pick up a copy of the NY POST along the way. Next to the paper stand was a small portable wagon, Lucite enclosed. A man stood inside with all his wares on display. Donuts on racks behind him, bread and rolls in front and a coffee urn at the side. Nothing new, except today the fellow had a line of customers around the block. It was strange. Bizarre. I'd walked past this fellow most mornings and ignored him, as did most other commuters. The wagon looked none too clean and the stuff was far from appealing. It was just a place that was fast and cheap. The sight of the rolls on display did make me feel a bit hungry, but I knew I could hold off a bit longer to be able to have a place to sit down.

As I passed the end of the line, I asked one of the people if there was something special going on today, given all the people getting food in my neighborhood. No, as it turned out the fellow lived nearby, just like me. He just felt a bit hungry for something and did not want to wait to get to his usual place. The man on line in front of him nodded his head and indicated that it was the same for him. My stomach turned up the volume a bit, so I headed into the subway to catch my train.

On the platform I saw old Tollefsen. "Tolly" was one of my neighbors, too. He worked down at City Hall in the Mayor's office. I bid him a good morning.

"Would have been. I am up way too early today", he told me. "Just couldn't get to sleep. I woke up about 3 am feeling really hungry, so I made a snack but couldn't hit the sack afterwards. I've been up reading and watching TV since then. Must've gone through a whole bag of potato chips and some soda. Still feel hungry enough for a bagel or something. Funny."

"You and the world, it seems. I just passed by my coffee shop and the place always looks like that Hopper painting. You know that one called "Night Owls"? It's never full. Today there was a line out the door. Same thing at the wagon near the newsstand. I figured there must be a movie shoot on location. Those crew people eat."

"I know what you mean," said Tolly, "but usually they have their own food service nearby. I didn't see any rigs or trucks parked around. No movies today."

"Well, there has to be something going on. You don't get so many, many people all getting hungry at the same time. Right?"

"I think...." and the sound of his evaluation was drowned out by the volume of the train approaching the station. One we were inside, Tolly turned to me and invited me to join him for breakfast when we got downtown. I work a few blocks from City Hall. I took him up on the offer. I was thinking how nice some home fries might taste with a rasher of bacon well done. Everything seems a lot better when you are hungry. I never do grocery shopping this way. I buy way too much.

"Sure, Tolly. Where do you want to go?"

"How about Doran's? I don't do Starbucks. I like real coffee, not that over-roasted shit they serve. Besides, they have no hot food."

"Same feeling. I don't like the corporate feeling to it. I grew up with Mom and Pop stores and those places just don't have that small business owner ambiance. Doran's it is."

We reached City Hall station and the train emptied out with us. At Doran's it looked like the train passengers had beaten us to the door. There was a line outside the door and down the block.

"What in hell....", said Tolly. "Here, too?"

"Yeah. Here, too. Did I miss something? I mean it is 8:15 am, right?" Tolly nodded his head. "It's never like this. You want to try around the corner?"

We walked to the small hole in the wall coffee shop across the street. It was the same story.

"Tolly, let's get off the street. Come on over to my company cafeteria. I will personally guarantee you a seat."

We walked a block or two more. It made me feel a bit hungrier and for once, I'd be glad to sit down near my fellow employees just to finally have something to eat. I could hear Tolly's stomach growl. We looked at each other and laughed. It would really be a crazy day.

How little did we suspect at that moment. It would be all too true.

_ . _

E-mail to Robert J. BAUMANN: rbaumann@nyc.rr.com

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