Today’s topic is thanks to Twitter Aficionado, pragmatist and recent Author, Krystyna Gadd – 5th piece of fiction in the series and one of the longer posts. Again, I’ve take a small liberty with the title. But I hope it works.
Seamus unlocks the bottom lock, then the top and the middle one. Same routine every day. He pushes the door open and bends to pick up the mail. Shuffling through the bills as he heads to the kitchen, there is one big blue envelope, hand written address. He smiles. His sister. He opens it with a knife and there inside is a “Happy Anniversary” card, blue with sliver letters and hearts on it.
“Karate, you big bear. 3 years today – we are so proud! It’s a magic number and you bring magic. So this next year will be extra special, promise. Keep chopping. Love Batfink & the Babies” There’s a photo of Siobhan, his niece and nephews grinning at him. He puts the card on the counter and pins the photo on the kitchen pinboard, muttering “daft cow” affectionately.
He switches on lights, puts the coffee machine on and puts bags in the bins. He washes his hands, puts on the radio and begins the morning routine. Checks the deliveries due in today, takes cakes from the fridge and sets them out on the counter, pulls out onions, carrots, coriander for the soup. Goes about his chores.
Impossible Dreams is three years old. A medium sized, bright, café in a “nice” part of town, rescued from a failing boutique clothes shop, run by the snotty and bored ex-wife of a local businessman. The shop had been part of her divorce settlement. Her resentment ran through the very fabric of the dresses and fancy tops she sold. Very soon no-one wanted to shop there. When Seamus saw the premises, he wanted to bring hope to it.
His redundancy money came in handy. Working with recommended trades folk and his own good eye for design, the café is now a bright, simple haven for anyone who dares to dream.
Open from early in the morning with the head-to-workers, then the mummies and the oldies and the freelancers, to late at night, when there are knitting circles and writing clubs, chess clubs and various meet-ups. Seamus finds he spends a LOT of time there. The idea came to him as he drifted off to sleep one night – so good it woke him up. Drawing on the last 5 years of pain, Seamus wanted a place where people could bring their dreams. One wall of the café is a great big painted oak, with hundreds of leaves hanging off it – each leaf has someone’s dream or hope written on it. When their dream comes true, they are asked to return to the café and take the dream off the wall for someone else’s to go up. They get a free coffee and are asked to tell their story on the website, or a video to Facebook or Insta.
People like Seamus’s idea.
In the first weeks, the tree looked really sad. It took ages to convince folk to put up their dreams, but now three years on, the tree and the café both flourish.
He knows Noosh and Geordie will be turning up soon, so he does what he tries to do every day and goes over to the tree to look at what it holds in peace. Seamus is a big man – 6 foot 4 and broad. These days he has a big red beard – something that in his Corporate life would have been unimaginable – he unconsciously smooths his beard as he reads the leaves.
Some dream of being lighter, fitter, physically transformed. Some dream of love. Some wish for health, for wealth, for happiness. One man dreams of a very specific stamp for his collection. Another dreams of Olympic qualifying. There was a dream of an Ironing board for a few days. Someone dreams of being the opposite sex. A child wishes to go to Harry Potter World and be in Gryffindor. There are dreams of travel – one lady longs to return home to see her city, currently war-torn an unsafe; a man wishes to find his lost-love in New Zealand; someone is seeking to walk the West Highland Way. Another to drive Route 66. There are dreams of being famous, of being footballers or singers, dancers or actors, of winning prizes and accolades. Old Mrs McLean wished only for a cup of tea with her now-dead husband. Impossible dreams come in many guises, Seamus has learned. (He gives Mrs McLean free coffee often, figuring that particular dream really won’t be redeemable). Some wishes have been up there for the full three years – the leaves discolouring now and slightly curling. He wonders if he should re-write the dream on a new leaf, but somehow that seems wrong. He worries about what will happen if the café fails – where will these dream go?
Thankfully, a lot of dreams-come-true have happened and the Oak daily gives up a leaf or two a day as people come in to tell their stories. Somehow just putting the thing down on a leaf and pinning it to a public place seems to get customers motivated to go do what needs done. It’s quite a wonder to know.
There is one dream not on the tree. Seamus tries to convince himself that he has no dream now, that everything is fulfilled with the café – but his lonely heart has whispered each time he looks at the tree, recently: put a leaf up. It’s over five years since his husband, John, died, a crazy tumour that took him mercifully fast. Seamus died too that day and has slowly been reborn. He had never really talked about his private life at work, so his marriage and sexuality took some by surprise…It wasn’t that he was ashamed or anything, he was just private and focussed on his job and team. So when it happened, his bosses were so busy processing that this man-mountain was not the Very Alpha Hetro they thought he was, they couldn’t see the extent of the pain he was in. This big capable, funny, quiet, assertive human. They had him pegged. He’d helped with the pegging. When the pegs came loose, it all went to hell.
It took six months for it all to fully hit him. When it arrived – the grief, the unstoppable sadness and the sheer terror that you could just lose anything overnight, no matter how beloved – the wheels fully came off. He thought he was coping – but grief took Seamus to darker places than he knew existed. He doesn’t remember much of that time. The sleeplessness, the anger, the fraughtness, the striving to be “fine”. He swears they made him redundant out of kindness. His sister swears they were “Feckers who don’t know how to give a shit”. Seamus prefers his story… he suspects hers is also true. His friends in the Company were sure he had a case against the business. He was too tired to fight and too glad to go. It took him months, and therapy with the tiny powerhouse Elsbeth, to get himself even daring to believe there might be a future.
He shudders. Not going back there today. And to prove he’s moving forward to picks up a leaf from the small pile in the wooden box and writes “love” on it. He hesitates. Doesn’t pin in. Notes they are running low on leaves.
As if on cue to distract, Noosh bangs on the door, grinning and waving at him. He unsnibs the lock and she breezes past, with a “morning Seamus!” pulling off her shoulder bag and coat all at the same time, so she looks like she might get tangled. She’s already launching into a tale of What Happened With My Bloody Flatmate Last night and asking him what needs done. His meditation is over. It’s time to work. Geordie arrives a couple of minutes later and he’s straight into the kitchen, changing the radio station and starting food prep, Noosh talking at him as she wipes down the specials board. Seamus smiles to himself as he goes to check the till and the paypoint. He starts to makes the Gruesome Twosome their morning coffees. There’s a knock on the door and it’s the milk delivery. He checks it and asks Noosh to put it in the fridge. The second knock is from someone new. The bakery delivery is normally from the very efficient, rather bland Alan. This is not Alan. Seamus moves from behind the counter to open the door to a tall, brown haired man with a tousled, trendy haircut.
“Is this Impossible Dreams?” He asks
Seamus says “yes”
“I’ve heard about you.” Brown-Hair says cheerfully
“The dream tree thing. I asked Alan if I could deliver today – I saw you on Facebook” He smiles excitedly, big green eyes, and open, honest face.
“Is it your anniversary?” Brown-Hair asks, nodding at Siobhan’s card on the counter.
“ The café. It’s three today”
“Ah. Magic number”
Seamus doesn’t know what to say.
“Well, I’ve got your delivery” and off he goes to the van.
As Seamus checks the order, Brown-Hair wanders over to the tree and starts to look at it.
“Wow. This thing is… incredible”
Seamus nods “Amazing, isn’t it? People put all sorts up there”
“Oh look. There’s a leaf here – on the table – someone’s not pinned it up”
Seamus colours and feels the ground sink.
Brown-Hair reads it “Love.” He says aloud. He looks at Seamus. “Can I pin it up?”
Seamus finds his mouth is dry. “Er. You should put up your own.” He says abruptly. “I don’t know whose that is”
He finds a leaf on the counter and heads toward Brown-Hair. As he hands it over, practically throwing it at Brown-hair, their fingers touch.. Seamus gets a bolt through him.
Brown-Hair looks shocked too for a split second, then composes himself “Do you have pen?”
“There.” Seamus says roughly, pointing, then turning, troubled.
Brown-Hair writes on the leaf and pins it. Seamus deliberately doesn’t look to see where he puts it on the tree, busying himself with coffee for Geordie and Noosh.
With her perfect timing, Noosh comes out with the Specials Menu. “Hello!” she says “You adding to our tree?”
Brown Hair nods and walks toward her, hand extended “Hello. I’m Dylan” he says “I’m the new baker’s boy”
Noosh giggles “Are you now? Well..” She shakes his hand, “..no offence to Alan, but you are already more fun.”
He laughs and Seamus feels his heart quicken.
“See you tomorrow then?” Seamus thinks Dylan’s saying this to him, but can’t be sure.
He nods again, finding himself unable to speak.
Dylan goes and Seamus heats up the milk, burning himself on the steam and swearing.
Noosh is standing at the tree, having a good look.
He goes to give her the coffee and she looks at her boss, slyly.
“So Dylan has a dream.” She sing-songs
Seamus ignores her, heading to the kitchen to give Geordie his coffee
She calls after him “He dreams of dating a café owner, Shay. It’s written right here”
Seamus stops in his tracks. Sighs. Keeps moving to give Geordie the coffee.
“Y’all right, boss-man?” Geordie asks
Seamus nods. “ I think I’ve got something to do, Geord.”
Seamus crosses the café to the tree. He picks up the leaf from the table and pins it randomly near some leaves. Noosh, close to him, watching, sipping her coffee, approving.
“Did you do that on purpose?” She asks
“What?” Seamus responds, suspiciously
“Pin your leaf to Dylan’s?”
“Oh shit” says Seamus.
My love of writing fiction continues – it feels gratifying and satisfying and I’m cautious about representing a gay man, as a heterosexual woman writing, and I trust it is ok enough.