“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Or do you?”
This is how most conversations with Leland went. Leland being the one asking “or do you?”. He had an un-nerving way of getting under your skin and disarming you until you really did have no idea what he, or yourself was talking about and you left the interaction off balance and bewildered.
The Haunt was a favourite local coffee shop with tasty treats and comfy chairs. University students got buzzed on coffee, laughed with friends, and surfed the net in an attempt to keep their minds from what they should be doing. Office and shop workers from the area got buzzed on coffee, laughed with friends, and surfed the net in an attempt to keep their minds from what they should be doing. And the unemployed got buzzed on coffee, laughed with friends, and surfed the net.
It was a cold October day so with all the hot air blowing around The Haunt the windows had fogged up and it was because of this that no one saw Leland coming until it was too late. The door opened, the little bell attached ding-a-linged and half the noses in the place were immediately engrossed in books and laptops. The other half (a little slow on the uptake) took a quick peek around to see who it was and then followed suit. Unfortunately for Rufus, he had his iPod plugged into his ears and didn’t hear the door ring, or the sudden quiet of the room. He didn’t know Leland was there until he was already at Rufus’ table asking to sit down.
“Er, uh…” sensing defeat Rufus motioned Leland to pull up a chair.
And now there was great relief throughout the room. Everyone relaxed, looked around smiling at each other and got happily back to doing what they shouldn’t have been. Only Rufus closed the note pad in front of him and put away his head phones as he prepared himself for the inevitable.
It must be said that Leland wasn’t a total disaster. Good hair, clean teeth, well dressed, well read on a multitude of topics, and up to date on a myriad of current events. It was these multitudes and myriads that did get annoying. A little too much nit picking and detailing of minutiae along with second guessing of everyone else and a bad habit of talking in riddles were the real reasons most everyone was glad to be off the hook for the time being.
For the moment Leland was at the counter ordering coffee, which he knew he wanted, and discussing the ingredients of various goodies, which he wasn’t sure if he wanted. The girl behind the counter humoured him with all the information he could ever want about the cookies, squares, and cakes that sat in the glass cooler. She'd baked them all herself and even told Leland how long and at what temperatures each had been in the oven for. She was really quite nice and used to his strange questions so answered them all with a cheery smile. After some moments of deliberation Leland settled on a large oatmeal cookie, he took that and then fixed his coffee with cream and sugar and made his way back across the room to where Rufus sat waiting and pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Got a headache?" Leland asked him.
"What? No, just a little stressed." Rufus said and he put his glasses back on.
"You should maybe drink a nice herbal tea then and cut down on your caffeine in this place."
"Yeah, I don't know. What kind of cookie did you get?"
"Oatmeal. 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit."
Rufus fidgeted in his seat. "Yeah?"
"You ever do any baking? I like baking every now and then. I love a good date square. Do you like date squares? You remember that other coffee shop that used to be down the street with the really good date squares? They had a great macaroni too! You know I had my first cappuccino at that place. Loved it, but thinking back I wonder if it was really that good. I mean it was before the big coffee craze ever took over and it was before I knew anything about coffee and I wonder if it would still stand up to a taste test now. No way of knowing really, but those were good date squares and macaroni." Leland paused and dipped a chunk of cookie into his coffee before eating it and slurping from his mug.
"Oats are good for you though" Leland continued.
"Yeah, yeah that's true." Rufus fidgeted in his seat.
"High in fibre, they lower cholesterol and are high in B vitamins. Samuel Johnson didn't like them though. Thought they were only good for horses. You ever read any Samuel Johnson? Dr. Johnson?" Leland paused and slurped more coffee. "I had to read a bit in an English Literature class. You know I always thought it was Hunter S. Thompson who said "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" but it was really Samuel Johnson. Seems crazy a guy way back then saying something like that, but you really picture Hunter driving through the desert with an ether soaked rag by his feet yelling out at passing cars "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man"! But old Doc Johnson was alright. Don't let that picture with the powdered wig fool you." Leland pounded his hand on the table and laughed startling the rest of the room who just as quickly returned to their own business trying to not catch Leland's eyes. "He gets a bit of bad rap for being boring because he wrote a dictionary but he did some other good stuff too."
Leland popped the last of his cookie into his mouth and then took another loud slurp of coffee. Rufus took a sip of his own coffee and then removed his glasses again to rub the bridge of his nose.
"Stress is a killer." Leland said to him. "I'm telling you, herbal teas are what you need."
"Yeah, herbal tea. I know. I like a nice mint tea now and then. Even chamomile." Rufus said and replaced his glasses.
"Chamomile's good." Leland injected. "But you have to watch your stress. Situations and people that cause you stress. What were you listening to when I came in? Music can sometimes really key you up too. And diet. Don't forget diet. Those oats we were talking about are full of complex carbohydrates, they digest slowly and stabilize blood glucose levels. Stay away from those date squares and probably even the macaroni and cheese unless the macaroni is whole wheat, but even then... And that chamomile tea is good, don't get me wrong, but there's some good herbs that work really well at fighting stress. Rosemary is high in antioxidants and has B vitamins like them oats. Oregano's another good herb to make a tea out of and basil as well. Basil even keeps demons away."
"You know I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." Rufus finally interrupted.
Leland smiled knowingly "Or do you?"