Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oktober the Twelfth: Too Little, Too Latte

So I missed yesterday's story-- forgot my meds, had to take my sister to emergency care, and when I got back I was wiped. So here's a pick-me-up, late, and today's story comes tonight, after my critique group meets. I'm usually pretty jazzed, then.

Peace, Mari


Too Little, Too Latte

By Mari Kozlowski

"Would you like whip on that?" the guy at the window asked.

"Yes, please. And a Rocky Road crumb cake, too."

 The lady drove her Jeep up to the window and handed Danny a Visa card. She didn't look like the Jeep type, with her delicate manicured hands, dressed in a fragile pink chiffon dress with a wispy updo. More like a Harlequin romance heroine. The guys inside gawked a little, till their manager gave them an annoyed look. It was probably her husband's vehicle, borrowed for the day. They got all kinds coming through here, especially in the morning. Everybody wanted something special to start their workday; it made the rest of the time bearable. Unless you were the one doling out coffee and pastries.

 Danny handed the pretty Jeep girl her order and waited for her to sign the credit slip. No one used cash anymore, and no one said Thank You, either, lately. He was sick of being sick of it. Jeep lady drove away without a word or smile, and Danny took the next hundred and twenty-five customers in a row before Lynn let him go on break.
 You were supposed to stay in the back on breaks, or walk down to the pizza joint at the other end of the plaza, but Danny felt like sitting outside today. The only tan he'd gotten this summer was on his right arm, from handing out lattes through the window for eight hours. He grabbed a heavy cafe chair and pulled it around to the side, where nobody would see him. Can't risk offending the customers by letting them see a barista relaxing; that was what high management thought.

 It was a load of shit. Danny knew the customers only saw you when you were giving them their caffeine fix-- and then they only saw your hand around the cup. The only time he remembered a customer actually looking him in the eye was when a guy had complained about his order being messed up-- he'd been so pissed off and abusive, they'd had to call the police on him.

 That's how it was since the drive-thru got put in. Like suddenly, everyone had less time in the day, fewer seconds to spare on the most basic politeness. They talked on their cell phones while ordering, then complained if you didn't understand them.

 But right now, the sun felt good. It soaked into his hair and his mood. After break, Danny smiled through the rest of his shift, even though not one of the five hundred and thirty-four people in cars that he waited on returned the smile, gave a thank you or a tip over 50 cents.

 Well, no-- one of the regulars had left a buck in the cup. It was notable. 


JohnPainter said...

The focus and attention to details in this piece make for a very well-realized portrait of one young man's daily grind. The potentials here seem pretty wide-open, but for me the curiosity lies in how he will continue to avoid/confront/react-to what I assume must be his building disillusionment.

heavy hedonist said...

Thanks, John, for again allowing me to see the good parts of a piece. Knowing what resonates, even in a less than stellar story, is so very helpful.