Rang, rang, rang.
Klive Anderson thumbed the progress in his writing journal as he snoozed the blaring alarm on his phone. 5:45 was, by most people’s standards, an awful time to start the day, but he was used to it. Waking up was easy; the nights were another story. Some days he could lay down in his bed for the night and crash immediately, though occasionally he’d find himself on the couch.
Then there were days like today. Up before his alarm after tossing and turning in bed for hours waiting on sleep that never came. He wasn’t troubled, nor was he overly stressed or worried. Klive was only 27, and he figured he could manage an all-nighter every once in a while. They weren’t all that bad, to tell the truth. Sometimes, though, the story in his head was just too vibrant, like a dream he could remember. When that happened, he would write. With the follow-up alarm already singing, he took one last look at The Bestimator before closing the cover and readied himself for the day.
His morning ritual, especially during a South Texas winter, was quite the tedious affair. To begin every day, he had to shave. Though he would love to grow his beard out, work wouldn’t allow it. He viewed this as a shame because he had the genetics to grow a fine beard. Without one, he was the kind of guy who looked younger than he was, despite the first signs of losing his hair. Add that to the fact he wasn’t fit or fat and of average height, you were left with just a regular Joe named Klive.
After the shave and shower came the clothes. First, there was the base layer. Thermal underwear, or long-johns as he had always called them, were crucial on cold mornings. Next came the actual work clothes. He often thought he wouldn’t mind testing out just how flame-retardant his work wear was, but since it was the oil field, he was quick to put those thoughts out of his head. Ask, and you shall receive. Finally, and this was the tricky part, he looked to his overalls. Insulated, but bulky, he could never make the right choice.
Winter in South Texas was unlike winter in most parts of the world. That was due to the finicky nature of Texan weather in general. One day it would be cold, and that would only be because it was also wet. Other days, like today, there would be frost. Then the next day would be clear skies, sunshine, and a borderline need for sunglasses. Today he gambled, deciding against the overalls. His phone promised a cool morning but a clear afternoon, and he was inclined to believe it.
Klive tiptoed out into the main room of the apartment. He quietly put on his boots, grabbed his keys, and very gently creaked the handle on the door and slipped outside. The crisp air from the frigid morning rushed him as the door nearly got away from him. The night had been cold for sure, but thankfully it lacked the moisture.
Last year on an icy evening, he had hit the top step of the concrete staircase with a little too much speed. He slipped on the ice and nearly went ass over tea kettle down to the bottom. This led to a habit of taking things nice and slow in the mornings, starting with a breath of fresh air. Despite the refresher, Klive was still human and the lack of rest the night before called for a serious dose of caffeine.
Klive glanced in the coffeeshop that doubled as the bottom floor of his apartment. The Brew Bean was dark, aside from the lava lamp that glowed and globed bright orange in the window, and by all indications was still closed. He glanced at his watch and decided to give it just a while longer.
Out on the street, he opened the door to his truck and stepped in. Turning the keys, the sequence of electrical relays fired as he heard the hum of the block heater going to work. His old Ford diesel, bulletproof as it was, disliked the cold far more than he did. He couldn’t bring himself to get a new truck, despite it being 17 years old. If they still made the 7.3L engine, like he had in his work truck, maybe he’d consider it. Since they didn’t, he’d ride this one until it fell apart.
After a few rounds of heating the glow plugs, he gave the engine a try. For all the care he took in the mornings to be as quiet as possible when leaving the apartment, it all ended when he cold started his truck. The engine whined and coughed, echoing down the main drag in Lily Grove. The revolutions were slow and difficult at first, as white smoke bellowed from his exhaust pipe. But as the cylinders gained ground, she came alive. Klive gave a victorious thump on the dashboard as the rig turned over and the purr of the engine roared against the sleepy little street.
Glancing up through the windshield, he saw the Brew Bean was now open for business. The shop, like the rest of the downtown strip, was likely now wide awake, thanks to one rickety old diesel. He smiled as he turned up the cab heater and made his way to the shop.
Stepping into the quaint little coffee house, he inhaled the robust scent of the first brew of the day. The warmth around him wasn’t too bad either. The Brew Bean was the only local place to get a cup of coffee in the morning. That was if you weren’t counting the stuff the gas station offered. Lily Grove was just the right kind of small town, the kind that wasn’t big enough for chain stores or gourmet branded coffee, and that was just fine with everyone who lived here.
The Brew Bean itself was right at home, a little bit country while just a little bit rock and roll. No hipster couches or cluttered bookshelves, just handmade stained wooden tables and chairs on an original hardwood floor. The morning papers were stuffed in a galvanized feed trough, though sometimes they were last week’s issues. The walls were the contrast, littered with brightly colored posters with a retro Eighties vibe to them. Those, along with the lava lamp, gave the place the character that made it special.
Klive looked over to the counter near to where the register was mounted. The shop still had the original metal cash machine from when the place was first built, the type of machine that rang when the handle was pulled. Next to the antique was a mop of unruly, dirty-blonde hair, the definition of bedhead if Klive had ever seen it. As he approached, the owner declined to lift aforementioned head off the counter, as she slid him his coffee. The paper cup was as brightly colored and funky as the posters on the wall.
For a moment, just like every morning, he thought about greeting the gal. But he had long learned that some people aren’t in a conversing mood until more respectable hours of the day. Not everyone was what you would call a morning person. Instead, he slid three dollar bills toward her and turned to the exit. Klive heard the clanging of the register and rustling of cash in the draws as the bells above the door jingled upon his exit. Though severely muffled, he swore he even heard the shop keep mutter, “Thanks a lot.”