Caption #1 – Jack (Doctor Weirdo) comes to visit.
Caption #2 – With a smile on my face Jack began telling me about Jana.
Caption #3 – My opening line to Banjo was “Make me laugh.”
Normally when our friend Jack, better known in some circles at Doctor Weirdo, comes to visit he twists the doorbell chime, but he knows that I’m an early riser and Rose is a sleeper-inner. People do not ever knock on my office window to gain entrance . . . except Jack now, I guess. It just startled me. I wasn’t sure what I was going to see when I opened the blinds: a couple hungry yard deer, a lost soul, or our next-door neighbor. Well, Jack is a dear, a wondering soul, and lives across the driveway from our home . . . maybe (we’ve never been in his house).
I opened the blinds to see Jack holding two “to go” containers of coffee. I opened the door and let him in. As he held the containers, I could already appreciate the aroma. While he stood waiting, I went and closed the hallway door so we wouldn’t wake Rose. I then wheeled an office chair back for Jack to sit on. This little morning ballet took only seconds; my massive office is about thirty feet long and is filled with paintings, various gear and tools, all leaving a one-way path about a yard wide.
After retrieving my chair Jack held out the two containers. He said, “One is decaf and one is full strength.” I took the full strength because I figured I was going to need it. I popped the lid. Wow, it was dark. I took a sip, almost chewed, and looked skeptical. Jack pulled several creamers out of his coat pocket. I emptied them all and then tasted coffee heaven.
With a smile on my face Jack began telling me about Jana, her coffee, and her coffee shop. I finally said, “Her operation sounds promising. When is the other shoe gonna drop?” Jack said, “There’s a man.” I looked at him and said, “There always is.” Jack asked, “You know how there used to be tons of photos of beautiful women with master and doctor degrees wanting to come to America and getting married?” I said, “Yes.” Jack said, “Apparently there’s something similar happening in Africa. The man’s name is Banjo. Jana cleared all diseases, and came to America as Banjo’s bride. I think nothing’s been planned out except for her to be his slave.” “So,” I asked, “Banjo is bankrolling the coffee shop?” Jack took a deep breath and looked up at our ceiling and said, “Kinda but ran short.” “So,” I started again, “You are bankrolling the coffee shop, are trying to help Jana, and Banjo is playing the tune you or Jana are dancing to?” Jack nodded his head and said, “Basically.” I asked, “What is the outcome you are looking for here?” Again, Jack was looking at the ceiling. “So, you want this to get better, so everyone is happy and wins.” Jack shook his head up and down, gave me a badly written Jana business card and an envelope. “Well, gotta go.” In a flash he was gone. My mouth was wide open so I could get my foot in it or out of it . . . depending on the perspective.
I finished off my coffee and then took the decaf into the bedroom, put in on the night stand with the top off, patted Rose on her bottom and asked what she would like for breakfast and then just happened to mention that Jack had been visiting. Rose, said “I’ll get right up.”
Rose took a shower and got dressed before joining me in the kitchen. She looked at the smallish bowl of yogurt at the breakfast table and looked questioningly at me. “I have a better idea . . . one you’ll just love.” The nod she gave me only moved a quarter inch or so. Soon we were on the road and headed towards Sixth Avenue, one of the main drags in Tacoma. “I’ll drop you off at a new coffee shop and then I’ll run over to Pao’s for a blueberry fritter for me and your favorite donut.” Seeing that her eyes narrowed I added, “Maybe two.”
Once I had dropped her off and had the fritter and the donuts in the car, I waited . . . my phone at the ready . . . after thirty minutes, maybe forty-five, I walked into the coffee shop. I saw a sad Black woman and a pissed off white woman. You can guess which one rode home with me.
The good news was that Rose loved Jana (not her real name, which contained several more syllables). The bad news was that she had met Banjo who smiled and told funny jokes to Rose before cornering Jana with a menacing look and perhaps a growl, towering over her and then leaving with a smile like nothing had happened. He seemed to grow taller as Jana shrank. Rose had a list of things that could or rather should be done with the coffee shop. I asked if she knew what kind of car Banjo drove. She did, “Yes, it’s gray.”
Over the next couple of days, Rose visited with Jana, and the shop became more colorful. She had better business cards made and printed out a thousand certificates for free coffee (only one per customer). I distributed some cards around the little shopping center and made a deal with the thrift store around the corner so they could give certificate for a free cup of coffee with each sale. Eventually, I saw a gray car pull up and a Black man get out of it. It was a Chrysler Pacifica. I waited until Banjo came back out and walked to his car to wave him down and introduce myself. My opening line was kind of a “Make my day” threat with “Make me laugh.” He could see my car and that someone large was in the passenger seat. A red flashing light was on the dashboard (police radio?). We talked for half an hour. Finally, I said, “I’ll check out some details and get back to you, soon. Be careful.” After Banjo left, I removed Pumpkin Boy and laid him in the trunk. He is a Thanksgiving greeter at our house each year. He’s a three-foot tall doll with a pumpkin for a head, a black suit coat, and an Irish newsboy cap. The red flashing light is simply a red flashing light.
A week later Rose and I had things pretty well in hand. We stopped in at Jana’s Coffee Shop. The room was filled with bright colors and the African music gave off a relaxing, yet moving beat. People were at most of the tables sipping coffee and nibbling on some amazing vegetable cakes that tasted sweet and wholesome. It was a place you could be alone or with friends, with space in-between. There was a microphone that could be used to make comments from anyone or stories from Africa by Jana.
Things were going along quietly and then Banjo showed up. Jana and Rose froze. I nodded toward Banjo as I walked up to the microphone. People turned and focused on me, as I gave accolades to Jana saying “It’s important to mention that Black women have to confront and overcome double oppression — racism and sexism. Jana has done a super job coming to strange country, and surviving . . . so far.” There was nice round of applause. I continued, “Jana is a great example for everyone.” Then I pointed to Banjo and said, “I’d like to introduce you to one of the other owners. This is Banjo, one name only. Banjo will be appearing at the Comedy Club next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Wish Banjo good luck and he will give each of you a free ticket for the event as well as a coupon for a beverage and an appetizer.” People streamed over to meet Banjo who just glowed as he met new friends and an audience.
Rose did a masterful job with her suggestions and follow-thru. She gave Jana the confidence to overcome any current problems and the courage to fight for citizenship and more. Banjo had been living in his Pacifica and was getting destitute after he had funded what he could for Jana, which pushed him over the edge. The Comedy Club was happy to take any free publicity that could boost attendance and they were thrilled that we picked up the check and gave them an SRO evening. The Comedy Club invited Banjo back on a regular basis. Jack might see a profit if they franchise. Don’t worry. The envelope wasn’t completely empty.
— Illustrated by Dr Johnny Wow – drjohnnywow.info