Sunday, January 18, 2009

Old life, new life

I like the corner coffee shop, "Donna's Sunrise Smile", for a number of reasons. One is that it's a moderately successful independent place. Call it a lingering touch from my Durance, but since I fought my way free from my Keeper, I've gotten used to things being a lot less... predictable.

Also, the place is much larger than most people would believe. You wouldn't think that a five-story apartment building in a crowded city could do that, but Donna has somehow managed it.

The most important reason that I like the place is that, in exchange for a few interesting herbs (and instruction on proper use, storage, effects and warnings), Donna and the supervisors also pass along news from a few of my other Lost contacts... as well as anything strange they notice.

Like today.

"Wyatt," Donna said, using the mortal name I had adopted. "Jenny and Marcus both told me that someone had been by earlier this week with a picture that looked like you."

I frowned into my mug, sipping a new concoction with a trace of fennel in it. "Women?" I asked, suspecting I already knew the answers. "Subtly overdressed for the neighborhood? Lots of tasteful makeup?"

She raised an eyebrow. "How did you know?"

There was no simple way to explain, and she deserved to stay out of this mess as much as possible. "It's complicated." I managed a reassuring gesture around another sip of the liquid sunrise from my mug, then looked her in the eye. "I've not knocked anyone up nor committed any crime," I told her, speaking the truth. She picked up on it, and a bit of tension eased out of her expression.

"But I do know things that they would rather keep... under wraps." I knew better than to say, "... in the family." Donna would connect the dots to create a picture that was incorrect, but not completely inaccurate.

She blinked.

I pulled out a small bag made of rough blue paper, the top rolled shut. "Buglewort blossoms," I explained, setting it on the counter and nudging it toward her. "I've doublechecked to make sure that each one is exactly that."

She took the bag. "Isn't that supposed to be for cleaning wounds or as a sedative?"

"These are some more of my specials," I said, emphasizing the last word. "They work like guarana, in case you run low of that." I went on to give her the usual brief description of dosage, effects, durations and warnings. "I may have to skip town," I said, wrapping it up. "They shouldn't bother you too much after that."

I could practically feel her curiosity flaring at me as she copied down the information on the side of the bag with a felt-tip pen and stowed the bag in a cupboard labeled, "Donna's". I finished the brew, wishing that I could swallow all my worries and mistakes so easily.

"We'll miss you," she said. "Especially your 'specials'. Damned if I can figure out where you keep getting them."

"Fellah's got to keep a few surprises," I told her, managing a half-smile. "But I do have a few other friends in the hobby. Might be able to send you a few things now and then, for old time's sake."

She nodded, then gave me a pensive look. "Just take care of yourself, okay? You're a decent man, and those are as rare as..."

I tried, really, but I couldn't help myself. "Sasquatch sightings?" I offered.

She nodded, a surprised but approving grin spreading across her face. "Y'know, I think I like that better than hen's teeth," she said, seeming to taste the words for a moment. "At least there are grainy pictures and somewhat inexplicable footprints of those."

I laughed and got up, leaving some money for my coffee on the counter. While Donna turned to focus on a new customer, I rolled a pair of twenties inside a one-dollar bill and dropped the tube into the tip jar.

Now, all I had to do was figure out how to get my family's investigators off my trail.


Suppose that you find yourself in the witness protection program. Suppose that you had to avoid all of your usual hobbies, associates, and whatnot. What would that entail?

Take a look at your life and think about all of it. What you do, where you go, who you talk to, and all of that. What is truly unique and therefore identifiable about your life? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up? It's a really interesting exercise, especially in the Internet Age when virtually any conceivable hobby (and a few that seem inconceivable) has a web-presence... and internet usage can be tapped from uncountable different points on the connection.

* World of Warcraft? No more. Gonna give up your level 50 character and start from scratch? I don't think so.
* Facebook? Nope. Too easy to become a fan of all your old favorite stuff, even if you use a new username and different userpic.
* Chat rooms? Nope. Again, it's not enough to use a different username, you've got to steer completely clear of every chatroom you've ever used.
* Local sports games? Sorry. Pick a new team. Better yet, pick a new sport.
* Favorite vice? Kick the habits, friend. All of them. If you've got a favorite mixed drink, you'd better never order it. If you've acquired a taste for a special blend of tobacco, you'd better get used to never smoking it again, either.

What else would you have to give up? What vices would you allow yourself to pursue if your usual ones were taken away, with a warning that the people *hunting* you will kill you if they find you?

(Notes describing the building the coffee shop is in for future reference)
The top floor is studios, the floor below that is one-bedrooms, the floor below that is two-bedrooms. The ground floor has the customer area, the kitchen and customer bathrooms. The whole first floor was once a single and rather spacious apartment, but now Donna only lives in half of it. The other half holds cramped but serviceable employee lockers and bathrooms. The basement holds what has to be at least a couple of weeks' worth of supplies at any given time filling most of the space. The business office is also down there, but the last room is where the magic happens: Donna has somehow picked up what amounts to a fully-functional coffee and tea research lab, and the skills to use it to full effect.

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