Travis Shaw practically oozed out of his ratty apartment building, battling to get one foot in front of the other. He was only twenty two but he moved with the agility of a geriatric with a rusty fake hip.
His clothes even looked tired. The trick of pulling them out of the drier and hanging them up immediately was clearly no replacement for a mother’s ironing as the wrinkles made a pattern like a road map.
His short hair stuck up at odd angles and he seemed to turtle his pale but symmetrical face into the collar of his button up. Behind him, the sun had just barely slipped its head above the horizon and not unlike Travis himself was struggling to penetrate the infamous Los Angeles morning haze.
Despite the limited sunlight he still pulled his two dollar aviators from his shirt front to cover his tired eyes. He tightened the strap on his backpack and with the eagerness of a five year old going to the dentist, trudged toward his destination.
Now Los Angeles might be renowned for the rich and famous but there were actually much more people like this and unfortunately even more places to go with it. In the hills of Hollywood, just above the glitz, glammer and let’s not forget the tackiness of Hollywood Boulevard were hundreds of apartment buildings in need of some serious TLC. In desperate need of some simple necessities like fresh paint and hedge trimming, not waterfall chasing.
Travis’ residence, the creatively named Sycamore Apartments due to its position on North Sycamore Avenue was typical for the area. The peeling paint made it look like the skin of a young boy who had failed to listen to his mother when she begged for him to put sunscreen on at the pool. It fell off in patches as if the four story building was in actual pain.
The exterior windows were covered with rusty steel bars and the pool looked more like a giant ashtray than a refreshing place for horseplay. The water was a disturbing hue of green and the state of decay was epitomized by the pool scooper which floated on the surface amongst cigarette butts and dead leaves. What do you use to scoop out the scooper?
Admittedly, like all of the streets in Los Angeles, the streets were lined with some beautiful trees. However, it was a little surprising that this particular street was bordered on both sides by large Pine trees considering their placement on North Sycamore.
The falling nettles unsuccessfully covered the extremely cracked sidewalk as Travis continued his slow march South toward the Avenue of Stars.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared none other than Spiderman!
That’s right Spiderman!
Complete with skin tight red and blue suit, the friendly neighbourhood comic book crusader cartwheeled in front of Travis and literally jumped up onto a fire hydrant.
Travis, surprisingly, didn’t even flinch as he ignored the local hero perched on the water distributor and continued to trudge by. He did though wave a careless hand in the superheroes direction.
Somehow Spiderman managed to look disappointed even though his face was covered by his mask.
“C’mon man, don’t ruin the illusion.”
And with that he actually flipped right off the hydrant and ran past Travis. It was extremely impressive but Travis didn’t show it as he had lived next door to him for the last two years.
Frustration surged through Travis’ veins. He wanted to tell the caped idiot to calm the hell down. There were no kids to fool anywhere around but instead he relented with a sigh. Maybe it was the fact that he was too tired to argue or maybe he was impressed by the pan handlers eagerness at five in the morning but he held his tongue and simply muttered, “sorry … Spiderman.”
The words seemed to reinvigorate Charlie who leapt up onto an already slightly bent light pole and swung around with the grace of a ballet dancer.
“Have a good day citizen and if you need help … I’m in the neighbourhood.”
And with that he launched from the pole and ran off to take photos with tourists as he begged them for money.
Travis shook his head at Charlie’s exuberance and slowly marched on whispering to himself, “I need some frickin’ caffeine.”
A couple of minutes later, Travis, his energy level even lower after his ten minute trudge, only just managed to push his way past the surprisingly heavy door of the Burger King on the dilapidated corner of Sunset and La Brea.
Not surprisingly, at the unbelievably early hour of 5:45am, the place was deserted. The only “customer” and that term could only be used very loosely, was a homeless man who despite the heat wore his entire wardrobe and cradled the smallest cup of coffee discarded coins could buy.
Travis, however, gave him a wave, “morning Reginald.”
The affable homeless gentleman grinned and doffed his ski cap with fluffy ears, his beanie and his ball cap, which had all previously teetered on his unwashed hair.
“Top of the morning to you, young squire. You are always a welcome sight within my castle’s walls.”
He gestured proudly at his plastic chairs, napkin holders and advertisements on every window announcing the latest artery clogging discount food item. That’s right, Reginald thought he was the Burger King.
Travis couldn’t help but smile at the down on his luck but not spirit gentleman as he approached the counter, removed his sunglasses and tucked them into the neck of his shirt.
His smile was met with that of the middle aged Latino server but with at least a hundred more watts of iridescence. His name tag said Miguel and even though his paycheck said minimum wage, his demeanour shouted that he was proud of his job and even prouder of a job well done.
“Travis, me amigo, the usual?”
He held his finger above the register, at the ready.
“Make it a double,” uttered Travis not hiding his defeat.
Miguel managed to ring up the order and take Travis’ crumpled bills like a whirling dervish whilst still showcasing his concern.
“Is everything alright? Big night perhaps?”
He asked with an eye twinkle.
“Not really, I went out for a couple of drinks and when I got home the first Harry Potter movie was on. Needless to say, I couldn’t turn it off.”
Miguel hit a button on a large machine and it went to work on Travis’ icy concoction. As he turned back to give his attention back to Travis he instinctively grabbed a rag and went to work, not wasting a second.
“Never seen it.”
Miguel admitted as the rag continued to fly, leaving behind a pristine shine.
Travis was gobsmacked. The mere mention of his favourite book and movie franchise for that matter seemed to have invigorated him like no caffeinated beverage could and he stared at Miguel, incredulous in disbelief.
“Are you serious? Harry Potter? Hermione? He Who Must Not Be Named?”
Miguel looked even more confused.
“Why must he not be named? Is he terribly disfigured?”
“What? No. Well yes actually. You see, he’s this extremely evil wizard …”
Despite having no idea what was going on, Miguel hung on every word as his rag continued to flutter about the spotless bench. But explaining the plot of a movie which could only be described as mind boggling was impossible without the presence of caffeine coursing through Travis’ system, so he gave up.
“You just have to watch it, OK?”
The question was more of an urgent demand but he need not have worried as Miguel grinned and nodded his obedience, “as you wish.”
“So … you didn’t meet any senoritas on your night out then?”
Travis tried to hide his blushing face with a swipe of his unkempt hair spikes. The follicles, however, seemed to simply bounce back into their organized chaos.
“Afraid not buddy.”
The machine behind him beeped, signalling the completion of the blending process. Miguel turned on a dime and flicked it from its holder.
He looked utterly bewildered that his friend had not been ravaged by countless ladies but then he got an idea. You could almost see the figurative bulb appear above his head as a cheeky grin spread across his lips.
“You know … mi alma’s niece is single….”
He let the suggestion hang in the air as he handed Travis an insanely oversized, icy, coffee frappacino with one hand. With his other hand he plucked a straw from the meticulous container, whacked the bottom against the faux marble and passed him the now uncovered straw. Watching Miguel at work was not unlike watching Clayton Kershaw on the mound. He was in another world to everyone else that even tried to do what he did. Although admittedly Miguel was one of the few in his profession who actually tried.
Travis pulled the straw from its sheath and plunged his weapon into the gargantuan drink. Miguel balled up the wrapper and tossed it in the garbage can across the room without even checking to see if it went in. It did.
Travis took a huge suck and let out a sigh of relief, finally regaining a little bit of his life blood as the sugary concoction coursed through his body. Now if Travis’ parents were here they would say the cavity creating beverage was simply another indicator of a young man in desperate need of a transition. But luckily they weren’t. He smirked as he thought of them hundreds of miles away back home in Boston. But as he took his second sip he couldn’t help but feel guilty and he promised himself that he would Skype them later that night.
I mean, he was twenty-two, he should be growing up, drinking coffee, enjoying wine and cheese but instead he woke up with a Big Gulp sized sugary concoction and when he did drink alcohol he chugged cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and definitely did not pause to smell the bouquet.
As Travis fought brain freeze, Miguel just continued to wait patiently for an answer. Travis who had completely forgotten the question, as usual lost in his own mundane thoughts, finally shook himself free returning Miguel’s plea.
“Isn’t she the one you showed me on your Facebook? With the huge mole on her nose?”
Miguel looked heartbroken.
“I thought you said you liked the witches movies?”
Clearly he would like nothing better than to be related to his favourite customer and to see him with a nice young woman. Despite definitely being not interested, there was nothing complicated about it, Travis couldn’t break this lovable man’s heart as he relented.
“That is so sweet of you, and she does seem … nice, but to be honest I wouldn’t want anything to ruin our relationship.”
Fortunately Travis’ white lie worked and it immediately cheered up Miguel, although admittedly it wouldn’t have taken much to perk up this serving savant. He had been working for hours without the need of any caffeination.
So with sugar and caffeine rejuvenating Travis for at least the next twenty minutes, he headed for the door before he could break the spell. He gave a grateful tip of his drink.
“You’ve done it again Miguel. See you tomorrow.”
Miguel though couldn’t help going for one last hail Mary, “I have other single relatives!”
Travis again shook his spiky cow lick collection. Miguel was determined.
As he opened the door, he shouted across the room.
A voice bellowed from the back corner as Travis took off to start his day.
“May all your arrows fly true and may you be blessed with a progeny of boys.”
As the door closed, Reginald brought home his powerful words by carefully placing a bright yellow cardboard crown atop his combination of head coverings, once again surveying his territory. He smiled proudly as Miguel pushed around a mop on the already spotless floor with the smooth flair of Fred Astaire on the dance floor.