Funny Contemporary

“patio of Awaken Cafe- I’ll be wearing a hat - see you at noon!’ 

Joanna re-read the brief text message, looking for some further clue. A mustachioed man bumped her slightly as he walked past. Joanna appreciated his well cut suit, his mincing precise steps, and his unfortunately bare, well coiffed head

 Zach, Mr. Right, her rest-of-life partner, and future husband, would be waiting for her. That seemed like enough information yesterday, but now looking from the Awaken Cafe door out into the patio, filled with people at small metal tables, she wished she knew what color hat, or if he wore a jacket too. If he was a slob, or a neat freak; could he cook, did he drink coffee or tea, also seemed like important details he had left out. Beyonce or Taylor? For more information seemed necessary, and would help her to differentiate between the two, three, no four qualifiers who fit her limited description of man in a hat.   

Joanna glanced at her Versace watch, 12:00 exactly. 30 minutes for this, then a buffer of 30 minutes to travel back to the office to prepare for the meeting with her biggest client. The walk took ten minutes, so if this Zach turned out to be interesting, she had an extra 20 minutes to see if he would fit job she needed him for.

Successful in every area of her life, Joanna had never found a partner that met her requirements; independent, clean and able to listen. She had yet to find a man who could be all three. Some boyfriends hit two, but never all. Joanna has heard from her friends who settled, the mansplaining dates, drunk and sloppy boyfriends and useless husbands. Joanna has enough problems in her life, she doesn’t need another problem, no matter how tight their abs.  

Talia said Zach was different, a real catch, if she could find him. Joanna rubbed a leaf of one of the tall monstera palm plants growing in large pots through the patio. Well watered, the shaded patio allowed them just enough light to thrive, but the tall, wide leaves obscured large sections of the patio. She would have to walk through, like a fool, lost asking for directions. ‘Excuse me, can you point me to my blind date?”

Her fist crushed a section of the leaf as rage rolled through her at this lack of control. Every aspect of her life, and her boutique law firm was kept under tight control, on a time schedule that produced maximum results with a minimum of errors. Only one person could put her at such disadvantage, put her in this ridiculous situation.

Her morning had started off great, an hour on the Peloton, deep squats to loosen her hips, and a green smoothie, all before 8 AM. At her office the To Do checkboxes fell like dominos, clicking together toward her accomplishments, until her Mom called.

“Joanna!” Her mom’s sharp voice slid through her Alexander McQueen white cotton blouse, through her toned abs and into her lungs, catching her breath. 

“Aunt Lucy is asking if you will bring your new beau to John-iffer’s wedding, your sister is bringing Will and I really think this a great chance for the family to meet him. 

“Mom, he’s not available. He’s busy with… 

“Julia, 4 years younger, is getting married this summer to a wonderful man!” 

“Will doesn't have a job.” Joanna sighed.

“Whatever… You remember, Bonita from down the street? Her nephew will be there, he has a good job driving for UPS, you two can come together. I can give him your number-“


“You need to get this man told me about to come to the wedding. Unless- did he break up with you?”

“No.” Joanna squished her eyes closed at her own dumb mistake, mentioning a Tinder match, Jack, wonderful on the phone but in person dressed like a toddler, in cut-off jeans and movie t-shirts, and then acted like one.

“This is a family wedding, it’s completely acceptable to not bring a date, and …” Joanna started.

“You need a friend in your life Joanna, you can’t just go through life alone-

“Mom, I have friends!”

“Boy- friends.” Her Mom’s voice pierced through the phone to prick her heart, thick shame and guilt pouring out at this fault in her life.

“I’ve men friends.” Joanna said, searching to think of a single name.    

Two white shirted men scurried outside her office, rushing to meet her demands. “Marcus, and Bill.”

“Honey, no. They work for you. “

“Henry.” Joanna spoke the word and then slapped her hand over her eyes. Why that name, she didn’t even know a Henry ? “He’s my friend. But he might not be able to go-”

“Bring someone Joanna.” As usual Joanna felt the request as a directive. “I can’t have my beautiful daughter showing up without a date. My sister would never let me live it down. Please!”   

Joanna hung up on her Mom, and dialed the only person who could save her. 

“What’s up?” Talia asked. The VP of Human Resources of the law firm stood in the office doorway. Barely 5 feet tall, with more curves in her hair then Joanna had in her whole body, she was Joanna’s best and only friend. 

“I need to find a date for my cousin’s wedding. By next week.” 

Talia, folded her arms, and closed her eyes, already on the case.  

“He needs to look good, not talk to much, not needy of course, husband material. "Talia’s fingers tapped as rolled through internal portfolio of applicants.

“I know! Zach, he’ll be perfect.” Talia snapped, her bright brown eyes wide and sparkling. She twirled out, her black and white striped skirt blurring into gray as she swiped right on someone in her mental database.

Joanna’s head collapsed onto her desk. This was never going to work.   

Looking through the Awaken Cafe patio, she knew what to do. She had become managing partner of the law firm for a reason, she knew she had to just pick one of these multiple Zachs and be bold.

Joanna’s eyes narrowed to the one man who fit the profile of what little she knew.  

Dressed in a three piece suit with a porkpie hat, he had a pot of tea on his table, and a plate with two untouched muffins.

Knowing the first impressions mattered, Joanna pulled her shoulders back, and put on her best high wattage smile, as she practiced every day in the mirror. It seemed silly to practice, but after her assistant showed her that picture of her scowling at a client, she went to work. 

'Be bold!" The mantra echoed in her as she took long strides through the crowded patio, eyes focused on her target. 

Maybe-Zach turned toward her. He must have felt her gaze, her focused attention had turned lesser men into wet, pathetic puddles. The man from earlier!

As he looked up with a smile, a little quiver squirmed in her stomach at his square jaw and well kept mustache. Joanna felt underdressed in her white blouse and gray slacks, she should have worn her blue skirt suit, tailored to curve her straight lines, accentuating what little femininity she had.  

He stood up, turning in welcome.  

Hopefully-Zach’s suit jacket pulled tight against muscular shoulders, his dress shirt gleamed white. The tickle in her stomach became a puppy turning somersaults at the tailored pants and gleaming black leather belt. She could already feel the glorious texture of pressed starch under her fingers.  Her heart pounded in her chest as if she had completed a complicated multi-tab formula in Excel; perfection stood in front of her. She stepped sideways to dodge a monstera plant while keeping eye contact with Dreamy-Zach, and navigating the crowded tables. Her arms close to her body, and elbows slightly back as Talia showed her, just like a runway model, the sounds around her faded away, until she had but one purpose. She willed herself to grow taller and lithe. Her practiced smile turned real as she imagined Soon-To-Be-Husband Zach on her arm at the wedding, his eyes glittering with desire for her! 

When her right foot kicked the iron table leg, she would not be stopped, she moved her weight onto her left with an adroit shift, but leaning too far forward, her foot too far back, the balance of power had shifted, and she lost. With her smile still wide, continuing to hold eye contact, she fell straight forward. Her arms, held slightly behind her didn't help at all as she landed onto Oh- God-Not-Zach, bouncing off his starched shirt and then onto a small café table, catapulting several cups of coffee in the air, as she fell face first onto the monstera, and then, the coup de grâce, the spilled coffee rained down on her back, and the cups clattered to the floor. 

From the floor, she watched Her-Zach frown in disgust, high-stepping in black leather cap-toe oxfords around her prone body. Batting away helpful hands, she saw him hug, then passionately kiss a bearded man in a flannel shirt. How could he choose that, lumberjack over her! But of course, no straight man dresses that well.  

Eventually standing, she examined her shirt, coffee stains covered her back, and her pants smeared with cinnamon roll icing.  

“I saw your uh, accident. Can I help?” A young man stood in front of her, a boy really, in a baseball cap, wrinkled polo shirt and cargo pants. He help out tiny café napkins.  

“Are you Joanna? I’m Zach, Talia’s friend.”  

Joanna looked up to see the unshaven man smile, his eyes soft and kind. He reached down to wipe away the icing with the postage stamp sized tissues, until Joanna slapped his hand.

“I’ll do it-” She said, grabbing at them. The thin, delicate napkins looked beautiful, but succeeded only in smearing the icing further. 

“I tried to wave to you,” Real Zach said, “but there are all these plants.” He back-handed a leaf from the monstera Joanna crashed into, cracking a stem. The plant leaned at a precarious angle, several of the leaves cracked and bent.

“My Mom has these," he frowned, "not so big, but all over our house.”

Joanna kept wiping, and smearing the icing. “You live with your mom?”

Zach grinned. ”It’s a long story, I’m saving money see, to build a new youth center in town, living in the basement, I have my own door even! When I'm not at work, I’m a day trader for crypto. You know about crypto? It’s the the future, I can explain it to you.” Zach pointed at Joanna’s pants. “You got most of it, I can barely notice.”

Joanna looked at this man, performed a mental accounting and landed at two out of three.

“Talia, you say? I never heard of her. My name is Jill. Here take this."

She handed the pile of coffee and icing -stained napkins to Oh-Hell-No-Zach, and turned away. 

With a deep knee bend, just like her goblet squats, she picked up the monstera plant and walked out, her pants, and her pride stained forever. 

Joanna called in to cancel on the rest of her day. She took the plant back to her apartment and walked in, comforted by the stillness of an immaculate room where nothing had happened since she left. 

She looked around, and then with a nod brought it over to the window, placing it carefully down.

It stood independent, tidy, and ready to listen to her stories. 

She smiled at her new beau. "I think I’ll call you Henry."

May 11, 2024 01:45

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Amanda Stogsdill
21:58 May 25, 2024

Very funny. Don't cry over spilled milk—or coffee, will have fit Joanna perfectly. If only she wasn't looking for Mr. Perfect!


Marty B
04:29 May 26, 2024

Sometimes perfect gets in the way!


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Darvico Ulmeli
11:03 May 16, 2024

Enjoyed the story. Made me smile. Well done.


Marty B
18:53 May 16, 2024

Thanks Darvico! Great to hear!


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Philip Ebuluofor
20:28 May 14, 2024

Fine work. Descriptive power second to none.


Marty B
21:56 May 14, 2024

Thanks Philip- Your words mean a lot coming from such a great writer!


Philip Ebuluofor
07:54 May 18, 2024



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Jim LaFleur
11:05 May 12, 2024

Marty, your story was a joy to read! The way you wove humor and a touch of philosophy into the narrative was brilliant. Henry turned out to be quite the character! 😄🌿


Marty B
03:48 May 13, 2024

I really appreciate your comment- thanks! We all need more plants in our lives ;)


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Mary Bendickson
21:28 May 11, 2024

Oh, this made me laugh.😂. So many cringing points.


Marty B
01:51 May 12, 2024

You made my day! Thanks!


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Alexis Araneta
18:13 May 11, 2024

Ha !! Glad she has the "right man" in Henry. Great story that flowed like a river. The descriptions were on point ! Lovely work !


Marty B
19:33 May 11, 2024

Yes, she found her match! Thanks for your great comments!


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