The Last Time I Had Brunch

Baker’s Pick
Jeff Bakkensen


Photo Credit: Lindsay Ensing (CC-by-sa)

Photo Credit: Lindsay Ensing (CC-by-sa)

“The last time I had brunch,” says the one, and stops to think. “I literally can’t remember the last time I had brunch.”

“The last time I had brunch was with Robert at Yvan,” says her friend, sitting. “Remember? After Beck’s birthday party?”

“Wait.” A third. “Where was I?”

“Weren’t you there?”

“Were you there when we had brunch at Trio?”

The third one again: “I don’t remember that.”

The second: “I think you were there.”

“Was I?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

The man next to the one who’s sitting joins in. “I was having brunch when that man was killed at 59th Street a few weeks ago.”

They all pause.

Two beats.

“Oh,” says one standing. Their eyes all meet in the middle and they smirk.

“You didn’t hear about this?” asks the guy. He’s got shoulder-length dreads and a sort of urban militant flair. “It was raining and someone uptown stuck their umbrella in the door to try—”

“Beck’s was December 17th,” says the one sitting. “Maybe you were at home?”

“Yes!”

The third: “Were you with us the morning of the marathon?”

Sitting across from the guy in dreads, black suit, no tie: “Don’t talk about that stuff while we’re on here.”

Dreads: “Don’t talk about what? He was waiting on the platform and the umbrella hit him in the—”

“Did you hear about the guy who got stuck in the revolving door?” This from a white kid looking up from his paperback.

“Because it’s bad luck to say that stuff.”

“—finished eating and I get down there. This massive, unbelievably vibrant puddle—”

“Remember Adrian that time we were at Wondee? When he picked up the fork and stabbed it through his own—”

An olive-skinned woman seated down the car, tight black dress, uncrosses her legs and fixes me with her eyes. Is it a smile?

“—severed three fingers I think when it swung—”

“—like ‘Hey bitch, why don’t you’—”

“I had brunch,” says an older woman, “the morning of September the 11th,” and we all swivel towards her. Sheepishly, “Of course I’ve had a few since then.”

In the middle of the car, two passengers hanging off the center pole who’ve up to now shown not a mite of interest in each other suddenly swing together and find each other’s lips, holding for a few heartbeats.

We decelerate towards a stop. The doors open.

“I’ll see you tonight,” the one says, and turns to find her way off.

The other watches her go, eyes darting between strangers, tracking her window to window.

A man walks in, suit bruised with grime. The doors close behind him.

“Ladies and gentleman, I don’t beg, I don’t steal.”

The doors close and for thirty seconds more, we’re alone with each other, hurtling through the tunnel into the dark.

pencilJeff Bakkensen once came in second place in a George Washington look-alike contest. Recent fiction can be found in Oblong Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, and Straylight Literary Magazine. Email: jeffrey.bakkensen[at]gmail.com

Future Historians Look Back

Flash
Jeffrey Bakkensen


manure cart
Photo Credit: Greg Fallis

The fairgrounds opened promptly at ten, but at dawn the tail end of the admissions line had already stretched past the tennis courts on Waverley and out into Lake Street, slowing traffic towards the business improvement district. The stalls had been evacuated of champion cows and pigs just the night before, and the smell of something distinctly barnish hung in the air throughout the morning. No matter. The spectators had come to the fairgrounds for enlightenment, and that, they received in spades.

This year’s event, titled Future Historians Look Back, offered the interested an early opportunity to hear from some of tomorrow’s most eminent authorities as they discussed the issues that would enter the annals as definitive of our time. Seminars and panel discussions included “The Lyricism of Gaga,” “Sports as Religion in the Early Twenty-first Century,” and “Economic Policies of the Late Republican Party.” The hay in the livestock viewing areas was trampled underfoot as economists, historians and students of law pushed forward to hear the sage words of our future wise men. One by one, the budding Herodotuses and Thucydideses climbed or were carried up the stepladder to the podium and delivered their kernels of truth to the general audience, which quickly found favorites.

For most of us, the highlight of the morning was a panel of toddling linguists and media scholars discussing the theme “Fin De Siècle At the Beginning of the Second Millennium.”

L. Kenneth Kind, age eight, dominated the early goings with his position that we have reached not only the end of history, but of art as well. To quote the conclusion of his prepared remarks:

There is nothing new to be said, no social interactions remaining unexplored, no cultural touchstones that have not been discovered to be fraudulent. There is nothing that shocks anymore, and because there is nothing that shocks, there is no humor. Without humor, there is no redemption, and without redemption there is no art. Finis.

Those assembled shivered in excitement to be at the end of something, to view the dissolution of old forms. We stood breathless in our sudden freedom. But it wouldn’t be so easy. Jeremy Peterman, seven, of Swampscott, countered that evolving technology and cultural norms would always introduce new circumstances requiring new creative paradigms; every story in all of history is just adaptation within contemporary frameworks. He in turn was shouted down by a pair of twins in unisex jean overalls, who pointed to the long creative decline in television and film and the accompanying corporatization of the industry. Near the end of our allotted time, Erin Krutz, also seven, drew cheers and more than a few cynical guffaws when she suggested that the decline of formal venues might offer exciting possibilities for lived art, for art as experience, a shared value-making process involving both participants and consumers. She would have kept on, but just then we broke for crust-free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and most of the afternoon was spent napping.

pencil

Jeff Bakkensen was born and raised in Andover, MA, and got his start writing books for and about his favorite stuffed animals. When these failed to draw a wide audience, he moved on to Georgetown University, where he played rugby. When a tragic graduation cut short his athletic career, he moved to Chicago, where he currently works for an educational nonprofit. He anticipates his next move will bring him fame and riches. Email: jeffrey.bakkensen[at]gmail.com