Matthew Levine and Robert Haydon Jones

 

Matthew Levine
Only Coffee

Response

The Genesis of My Astonishing Rise to Fame & Fortune
By Robert Haydon Jones
Inspiration piece

 

First, because I know you will wonder, I have it on good authority that according to the ancient “Rules & Traditions,” my telling you all this is totally OK. So, please, don’t be spooked. I assure you — reading this does not put you in any sort of jeopardy.

The fact is you reading this story (and thinking it is terrific) is exactly what is supposed to happen!

 

One Saturday in October, I went to an Estate Tag Sale at a big, old mansion that had been owned by a rich, old recluse no one had seen for forty years.  Well, the house was shabby, but the contents were a wonder.  Before it was over, this Tag Sale had morphed into perhaps the most famous auction ever held in these here parts.

According to the local paper, there were paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Remington, Wyeth, Sarka, Homer, Sargent, Duffy, Matisse, Wyeth, Pinot and many others. There were 32 rooms of exquisite antiques.  (The Suits of Armor alone fetched more than $3,000,000.) The library housed one of the best private collections in the world.

I attended out of curiosity – the price tags were way out of my league. As it turned out, there were hordes of gawkers like me there – and the highly efficient folks running the sale for the estate had set up tables and bins with lower-priced items for us.

In the library was a bin full of old, leather-bound books all priced at $7. I combed through it and found a rare first edition published in 1893.

The title was in gilt: Hymns of Zarathustra (Avestan).  I’m a Rumi fan – and I’ve long had an interest in Zoroastrianism. So, I was thrilled.

Frankly, I was sure the appraisers had made a mistake. Even though this sacred book, bound in rich, Morocco leather, was written in a dead language that no one living could speak — and very few could read — it was a rare, beautiful, treasure. I paid the $7 and hurried out.

To get out, you had to exit the main house into the attached garage.

Three horse carriages, two stagecoaches and five hand-built prototype luxury cars had been housed there. Each car had its own pit and lift. The word was the cars and coaches had been acquired by celebrities and museums.

Here too the sale managers had several tables and bins filled with a jumble of items priced for the hoi polloi. There was nothing for me there – but as I neared the exit, I paused at the last table. On it were scores of dingy lanterns and kerosene lamps. I had to wonder: In a mansion chock full of treasures, why all the crummy lamps?

An old, tall, thin, black man in a snazzy red vest and a Yankee cap was sitting there with a cash box. He must have read my face.  “You’re too darn late,” he said gravely. “We had maybe twenty museums in here an hour ago. It was a real mob scene.

“A lady from a museum told me it was the most extraordinary private collection of antique illumination objects she had ever seen. We had the interlocking, windproof, lanterns from Napoleon’s coach go for $1.6 mil. Teddy Roosevelt’s portable chandelier fetched $600,000.

“This stuff here was for the stable hands and gardeners I guess. T’aint pretty but it did the job.  Lit up the darkness. You want one?

“Take your pick for $7.”

Well, I didn’t really want one. All that was left were old, ugly, wick lamps and lanterns. But for some reason I suddenly felt this was a bargain I couldn’t resist. I took the old lamp that was closest to me and counted out seven dollars in singles.

“Much obliged,” chirped the old guy. ”Here’s a bag for your lamp and that book you got. You know, these lamps shine up real good. Give it a rub when you get home – you’ll see what I mean. Hey, is that the Hymns of Zarathustra written in Avestan you got there? That’s one of my all time favorites!”

When I got home I rummaged around in my garage for something to polish the lamp with but all I could find was an ancient can of Brasso, which I believe was probably a relic from my time in the Marines decades back.

I gave the lamp a few swipes to no avail and so I left it in the garage.

Recently, Alice, my wife, had issued a “not one more piece of junk” fatwa that I had learned the hard way to take very seriously.

I went into my den and was examining the old book when the back doorbell rang.  My wife was out at the gym so I went to the door and opened up.

An enormous bald man who looked like the epitome of a circus strong man was standing there.  He was dressed in a 3-piece Tom Wolfe white suit. He was holding the lamp I had left in the garage.

“Good Afternoon, sir,” he said.  “My name is Marid. I am the Jinn of the lamp at your service. May I come in?”

*******************************************************************

Well, like you, right now, my first reaction was to smile. I suddenly realized that I was the subject of some sort of slow developing prank. I had a hunch that the old black man in the red vest who had sold me the lamp was behind it somehow.

The question was: “Why?” It seemed some folks were expanding a lot of effort on a prank that had nowhere to go.

“Sure,” I said. “Come right in Mr. Marid.  Would you care for some coffee? I’ve got plenty left from breakfast.”

“Oh, blessings on you, Mr. Jones,” he exclaimed, as we stepped into the kitchen. “I yearn for the taste of coffee – it has been such a long time since I quaffed a good cup of Joe.” His faintly accented voice was deep in a pleasant, manly sort of way.

He carried the lamp held out in front of him pressed between the palms of his huge outstretched hands. I decided that the occasion called for a fresh pot – so I ground the beans, boiled the water up and poured it on through.

He sat in the breakfast nook as I worked. It’s a pleasant, sun-dappled spot that looks directly out at the Aspetuck River that flows through my land about fifty yards away.  He talked non-stop as the coffee brewed:

I was a kind man. My house was a wonderful, blessed, refuge.

My wife was unusually beautiful (he gestured to a recent photo of her on the wall.); I should not be frightened; why wasn’t I frightened?

There was no reason for me to hurry. The three wishes thing did not apply to him. The Number of wishes per lucky visitor was more than 1 and less than 77.  He was forbidden to say the exact Number.

I asked him if he knew the man in the red vest back at the tag sale and he said yes, of course, he knew him. He had known him for a very long time.

I told him I had surmised that was the case. I poured the coffee out into mugs and we clinked them together and had some sips. It was great coffee. He told me it was great coffee.

His mug was empty. I poured more coffee into his mug and he smiled at me (he had quite a few gold teeth) and said, “Blessed are the brewers of Joe.” For some silly reason, I said, “Amen.”

It was only coffee – and I had made it – but now I was feeling totally stoned. I tried to speak but my words were not coming out of my mouth as sound but rather very slowly tumbling out of my mouth on to the table letter by letter like pieces of a Scrabble game.

He smiled indulgently at me – then he gathered the pile of letters together and shuffled through them. He was humming Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E,

When he lifted his huge hands – there was what I had been trying to say all spelled out: I FEEL TOTALLY STONED. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

There was a strong scent of cinnamon in the air.

He told me not to worry. He said, “Don’t forget, technically, you are my Master – I am here to serve you.”  He suggested I have some more coffee, which I did. It was really great coffee.

Then he told me he liked being with me. He liked me and my house and the river.  He told me to relax and he would tell me more. So, I closed my eyes and he told me a lot. But I wasn’t hearing words; I was hearing music of heart-rending beauty  — like I was listening with super headphones to 10,000 violins played by gypsies.

I think he told me everything.

Jinns were created right along with men and angels. Men were made from clay – Jinns from smokeless fire. Men and Jinns had occupied caves together for thousands of years.

When men left the caves, they forgot about Jinns.  He told me there were hundreds of varieties of Jinns. Some good, some bad. Like angels. Like man.

He told me that once every ten years all the Jinns of the world gather for 49 days in a huge cave. He told me that at the end of the 49th day, every Jinn had to “Return to Station.”

His current Station was the lamp. Why? He didn’t know why.

Finally, he told me I did have wishes coming. How many? He was forbidden to tell me the exact Number. “More than one, less than 77.”

“I love what I do,” he said. ” When a human being like you can ask for anything, ANYTHING, and have your wish granted – it’s like a lightening bolt of ecstasy – like you being directly connected to God through your wish – like you were directly connected to your mother with the umbilical cord.  I am the cord.”

The wonderful music suddenly stopped. “I know what I want,” I said. “But I am embarrassed to say it.” I was making sounds again – but my voice sounded like a little kid’s.

“No worries”, he said. “But you have to say the words. Then I’ll make the standard, official, Pronouncement.  Afterward, I’ll hang out in your garage until you or someone else rubs the lamp.”

“OK, Mr. Marid,” I said. “Get ready. Here come the words.”

*******************************************************************

Later, when Alice came home, I didn’t hesitate. I took her to the garage and showed her the lamp and told her what had happened.

She heard me out and we went back into the kitchen.

She rinsed out the mugs and put them in the dishwasher. I was surprised to see that Mr. Marid and I had consumed the entire pot of coffee.

Alice was smiling. “So, what’s going to happen? Am I going to wake up tomorrow forty years younger?”

“No,” I said. “I like you just as you are. So does Mr. Marid.

“This is all about yearning. As you know, I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life but I’ve never had success. My only published story was on that website run by a pudgy young man, who paid me $9.48 on Pay Pal and then proceeded to pick my other submissions to pieces.

“So, I told Mr. Marid that I wished that I could write a story that every reader would treasure in a deep sort of way like a pleasant memory from long ago.

“I told him I wished that the story would have so much power that 77 Movie producers would yearn to do a film based on it.

“And 77 TV producers would want to do a series based on my story.

“And the Movie would win an Oscar. And the TV Series an Emmy.”

“Well, what did Mr. Marid have to say about your wish?” Alice asked.

I told my wife I could give her an exact quote of Mr. Marid’s response:

 “Your wish is my command!”

 

 

 


				

13 Comments

  1. Carl Jacobs
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 7:59 am | #

    As the locals say on the island of Carriacou, when all are in agreement “ok,ok,ok,”

  2. Greg
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 8:01 am | #

    Very nice, Bob. Great imagery and language. You made drinking coffee feel intoxicating!

  3. Ed Lambertson
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 11:09 am | #

    What a perfect and delightful little story…..I felt like 9 again while reading, if only your Genie would grant me that.

  4. dave monroe
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | #

    fairy tale magic. Nice work. I love the part about speaking in letters, like a scrable game. Something of a Alice in Wonderland feel.
    Nice painting, too.

  5. Patricia
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm | #

    another interesting painting matthew.

  6. Sean Beaudoin
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 9:33 pm | #

    Great painting, great story. Jones nails it again.

  7. John H. Tucker
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm | #

    “Intoxicating,” on a triple-word score!

  8. Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm | #

    77 cups a kowffee with a jinn and all wishes are granted Again a very inventive story .

  9. Charles DeFanti
    Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm | #

    The Jinn was the server of coffee. Jones works his magic again.

  10. Barry Schwartz
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm | #

    I just knew the oil from lamp was going to ruin the book. Reading Bob’s short stories is akin to finding an oasis. You enjoy your time there and then look forward to the next one…

  11. paul zalon
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm | #

    Alice in Wonderland redux. Mr Jones gets a lot into a little!

  12. daniel rees shulman
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 8:17 am | #

    He’s done it again, this time magic about magic.

  13. Patty Potter Ewald
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:56 am | #

    Charming!!! You are a writer Jones! Am most impressed! Some lovely language and images that piqued curiosity, gave nuggets of most interesting info that pulled me in. And s sweet’ish O. Henry end. May Ur wish be granted u lucky man, lol!

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