“Seriously, Gigi, that’s terrifying,” Mona stammered. “What ever happened to the homeless guy?”
“After Gregoire and I got the photo shoot set-up, we went to breakfast and had the best chocolate croissants I’ve ever eaten. The homeless man ate five and as he ate he told Gregoire how he came to be running near the Barriere d’Enfer city gate. Like I said, my French is horrible, but the man’s body language told me that whatever it was that was chasing him was relentless and fast.”
“What did Gregoire translate the man’s story as?”
“That was the semi-weird part of an entirely weird morning,” Gigi said. “Gregoire would only say that the man, whose name was Adolphe, found his attacker near Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu.”
“Adolphe,” Gigi said, continuing, “actually wasn’t homeless. Gregoire said he was an infectious diseases doctor at the hospital.”
“So,” Gigi said, pausing, “how’s that chai latte?”
“Delicious,” Mona managed. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
“Me too,” Gigi said, staring outside the big picture window. The people walking into the coffee shop looked like Mona now – milky and pliant, translucent and not quite human. Gigi wondered if she should see a doctor. She twisted the red silk scarf around her neck and felt the painful sting of the scratch Dr. Adolphe had left her with three days ago when he had shoved her down the stairs of the Catacombs.
Underneath Gigi’s scarf was a mass of color – deep violet, chartreuse, and deoxygenated blue. The scratch was festering, but Gigi was sure the infection would pass. Maybe she would see a doctor; maybe not.
Gigi returned her gaze to Mona.
“One more thing,” Gigi said. “Dr. Adolphe decided to join me on my flight back from Paris. Gregoire too. They said they were going to Atlanta to visit the Centers for Disease Control. They said they were doing something about a special project the good doctor was working on.”
Mona looked at her friend and nodded. She had a hard time understanding the story Gigi was telling her. She wished she wasn’t so stubborn and would see a doctor about the scratch. Mona was stupid. She could tell that scarf was covering up what Gigi didn’t want to deal with.
Mona took Gigi’s hand into hers.
“Promise me you’ll see somebody about that scratch. I think it’s important.”
“I’ll think about it,” Gigi said. “I’m just so tired.”
Zelda had waited in the botanical garden for what seemed to be hours. She was hungry, scared, ready to go home, but her instincts told her that whatever it was that had eaten Chainsaw wasn’t concerned with her needs. She climbed higher into the branches of an old honey mesquite and surveyed the scene. The sun was streaming through the tree branches and Zelda could see that whatever had chased her was not in sight, hopefully gone. She scurried down the tree and ran home as fast as she could, careful not to return to the back porch just yet.
As Zelda turned the corner, she saw Mona’s beat-up turquoise-and-white two-tone 1972 Chevy Cheyenne pick-up truck pull into the front drive. Zelda waited for Mona’s feet to touch the ground and then immediately the tortie cat started to purr and walk herself around Mona’s feet and legs.
“Hey sweetie pie!” Mona said. “Where’s your buddy, huh? Whatcha doin’? You want some food?”
Zelda head-butted Mona even more.
“Come on, silly,” Mona said. “Let’s get you fed.”
This is how Mona’s days at the Buttery Biscuit, her bakery situated off South First Street, usually started Tuesday-Saturday:
1. Alarm clock goes off at 3 am.
2. Tea kettle goes on the gas stove on low to prepare the French press coffee maker for necessary use.
3. Quick shower – 10 to 15 minutes – and then throw on blue jeans, a comfy cotton tee, and tennis shoes. Blow dry long brown hair if cold outside, which in Austin meant 40 or 50 degrees, otherwise wrap wet hair into a snug bun, and finish hairstyle with a bandanna do-rag style.
4. Make coffee. Steep for 5 minutes (or more) depending on the coffee bean and the level of tiredness.
5. Let the kitties out, give them fresh food and water, turn on NPR, and make an egg-white breakfast wrap with chorizo, caramelized onions, tomato, and a little bit of cheddar.
6. Savor breakfast and coffee and read The New York Times online.
7. Get in truck by 3:45 a.m.
8. Review bakery orders and specials by 4 a.m. Get to work and start baking.
9. Open the Buttery Biscuit by 7a.m. with the help of three other bakers and a few front-of-shop clerks.
10. At 9 a.m. grab a second cup of coffee. Decide which recipes worked and which ones will be tweaked for the next day. Grab a homemade cherry-dark-chocolate pop tart. Breathe and work until 4 p.m.
But the morning after meeting Gigi, Mona could not find Chainsaw, whose life revolved around his intake of cat treats, soft food, and, well, food in general. At Step 5, she began to get worried and, in fact, wondered where her fat little fur ball had waddled off to. She called Chainsaw, opened cans of tuna, and watched Zelda, who was normally fearless not go outside like she normally, gratefully did when the chance arrived. Zelda wouldn’t leave Mona’s back porch and seemed a little freaked out to even be that far outside the house.
“Where did your buddy go?” Mona asked Zelda. Zelda blinked a few times, yawned, and then stretched her back into a flexible umbrella of fur and spine.
“Well, hopefully he’ll come back once he’s eaten everything in the neighbors’ trash cans,” Mona mumbled.
At 3:45 a.m., Mona put the key into the ignition and drove to her shop. This was her favorite part of the day – when the world appeared brand new, safe and secure in the dark womb of early-morning hours. She loved driving at this time – the lights timed just so, rarely anyone on the streets. She turned the radio on and caught “She’s Not There” on the radio. Mona sang along with the chorus, hitting the steering wheel with the cup of her right hand:
Well, let me tell you about the way she looked
The way she acted, the color of her hair
Her voice is soft and cool
Her eyes are clear and bright
But she’s not there...
For fun! (related to the story above, too!)
5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen, http://www.cracked.com/article_15643_5-scientific-reasons-zombie-apocalypse-could-actually-happen.html
Smitten Kitchen’s kickass pop tart recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/homemade-pop-tarts/
The Zombies, “She’s Not There”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5IRI4oHKNU
4 years ago