I went to a creative writing meetup at Genuine Joe’s this past Friday. I wanted to get some constructive criticism for my non-fiction story “The Freelance Editirix and The Pro Bono Pussy Magnet.” Examining Genuine Joe’s from the outside, I said to myself, “Looks safe. I’ll just go inside and drink some chai like the naive bitch that I am.”
I arrived a little late. One author was assigning roles to members of the group for a reading of his almost unbelievably racist play. (I’m not even going to get it into it. Except to say when I asked the author why he thought a play about slaves at the end of the Civil War should be performed in the old Italian style of Commedia dell’arte, he stated simply it was “over my head.” Guess so, Hawaiian Shirt, guess so.)
So we began the embarrassing task of reading aloud lines written to sound like what a weird old white man imagined black southerners sounded like in 1865. (I don’t want to talk about it. But one of the characters was named “Voodoo Chile,” [sorrywhatwhatwhat?] and, even more confounding, almost no one in the group understood how “chile” should sound. “Chee-lay” like the country and “Chile…lee?” were among some of the guesses.) Just when we thought all we had to do was wade through some embarrassing racial tension for the next twenty minutes, an enormous woman with short grey hair and a tie-dye shirt burst through the curtain that separated our little group from the rest of the coffee house.
Her voice shook as she declared, “We reserved this room a month ago! We have always met in this room the first Friday of every month! And I’m sorry, but you all are going to have to move.” A silence fell. The intruder temporarily took her eyes off of us to take a sip of her foaming drink. Sip completed, she resumed her menacing stance, now with a prominent foamed-milk mustache adding to the ferocity of her warrior pose. Her croc-wearing feet formed the rubbery platform that assured she and her message would not budge in the face of injustice.
One of the older women in our group narrowed her eyes behind her small wire frame glasses. In the split second that separates heroes from normal slobs, she decided that our small creative writing group would not go down without a fucking fight. She held the gaze of the tie-dye woman and said: “We reserved this room weeks ago. They messed up our reservation. They do this to us every month. WE RESERVED THIS ROOM.” Our champion settled back in her seat and lowered her gaze to the script. “Continue,” she ordered the narrator. Everyone else looked at each other nervously.
The woman in the tie-dye retreated, temporarily. Shortly, a young employee entered, with the official Genuine Joe’s meeting room schedule. “Who did you make a reservation with? Did you tell them it was for every Friday? Yeah, I’m really sorry, but I don’t see it here. We can schedule you all for next week. But the other group is scheduled for this room.”
“That OLD BAG!” The self-appointed militant cried, well within earshot of the tie-dye woman, splayed crocs visible just beyond the curtain.
“Um, ok. We can sit somewhere else.” The actual leader of our group said. Then we went to go sit somewhere else. There were lots of seats.
Eventually everyone read my story. “I like it,” one woman said. “But it just kind of peters out. I feel like it needs a weirder ending, or a punchline.”