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One early Saturday morning Grady Stockdale decided to put his mind to work on a book of crosswords at the local coffee shop, The Coffee Garden. It was a lethally hot muggy Atlanta morning and all Grady wanted was his iced coffee, his cigarillo, and his crosswords. He checked his silver wristwatch: 9:13. He checked his shirt front pocket: two cigarillos. Grady pulled one out and lit the cigarillo with three matches at once enjoying his walk to The Coffee Garden.

Once he had his iced coffee in hand and the second cigarillo hanging out of the corner of his mouth, Grady passed the register and went through an oak door that led to the café’s backyard: a small sunny garden speckled with faded green, yellow, purple, and pink chairs that circle chrome yellow tables zigzagging between thick flowerbeds sprouting with life while a forgotten red wheelbarrow rusts upside down against a wooden trellis smeared with brilliant ivy glossing in the sunlight.

Grady took in the sight. Then let out a grunt of relief, lit his cigarillo, and made his way to the table at the far back of the garden near the shade of leafy pine branches hanging over the top of the trellis like arms of neighbors always saying hello. But when Grady took that first drag of the cigarillo, he dropped his book of crosswords and the cigarillo fell out if his mouth and he screamed as smoke slowly drifted up out of his cavernous mouth like his soul abandoning his body. Pain instantly took over his entire being. Starting at his ankle the agony inflated around him like a bubble. He looked down. All he saw were two beady eyes attached to what might be a bald rat.

“YOU WANT TO FIGHT ME, DOG?!” Grady screamed at the animal which cowered under a chrome yellow chair.

—“Mister, he’s just teething,” said a small voice around the corner of the ivy trellis. Grady ripped his gaze in the direction of the voice and saw a girl of maybe six or seven years old. And the puppy shot out from under the chair and ran straight to the girl, jumped in her arms, whimpered, and licked her face.

And Grady had a heart attack right there in The Coffee Garden, and died.

I'm a writer who just graduated with a screenwriting degree from LMU, Los Angeles. I have one script represented by management and another is being considered for direction by the Wu Tang Clan's RZA.


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