Thursday, January 25, 2007

Episode 02: Thank God It's Friday

What has gone before: Andrew Weazle is the owner of a coffee shop on the University of Alberta campus. The shop is not doing well financially, and Andrew is on his way to deliver what he believes to be his final Friday night deposit. He meets a homeless man who offers to trade Andrew's deposit for some coffee beans, which he claims are magic...

It was nothing short of intoxicating; the exchange with the homeless man, then the ascent to his car, a spring in his step for a good deed done, a strike against the wrongs of a consumerist society gone mad, followed by the utter fury of the vainly repeated turns of the key in the ignition, the growl of the starter growing progressively quieter, blink of the battery light fading like Andrew’s enthusiasm.

He got out of the car and slammed the door, hard, flinching for a moment. He’d done that once when the window was half rolled down and the glass had literally exploded. The air was cold enough to crack the glass all on its own, he didn’t need to go giving it assistance.

He opened his coat and shivered as the cold fingers of winter clawed their way through the breach in his defenses. Quickly digging his cell phone and wallet out, he quickly closed his jacket, hugging himself while he retrieved the roadside assistance membership card from his wallet and dialed the number on rapidly benumbed fingers.

The number rang twice, and then an automated message system picked up with a click.

“Welcome to AMA Roadside Assistance,” said an automated female voice. “Due to severe weather…”

The response time was going to be up to two to three hours, and they were sorry for any inconvenience.
Andrew swore and grabbed his backpack from the car, locked it and headed back to the coffee shop, to wait out his time on hold in warmth. During his descent back down the parkade stairwell he noticed the absence of Lump the Homeless at the landing on the ground level.

I guess he's off to spend his newly acquired treasure.

He smiled with the amusement of knowing that in a few minutes he'd have a chance to grind up the ‘magic’ coffee beans and see what they tasted like. For some, drinking coffee that had been in the pocket of a man whose clothing smelled like raw sewage would be off-putting, but for Andrew, who had actually tried Kopi Luwak, a coffee made from beans which had actually passed through the digestive system of a catlike animal (and fondly referred to as "poop coffee" as a direct result), these were just another exotic bean.

Who knows? he mused, perhaps I'll stumble upon some new culinary adventure.

And what would you call this new elixir? his self asked him, its mental voice rife with sarcasm. Bum coffee? That would go great with the Kopi Luwak. Would you like your bum coffee with a shot of poop?

Andrew laughed out loud at the thought, and quickened his pace. The cold was brutal now, the wind piercing. He reached the shop and fumbled his keys into the lock with fingers so cold they seemed to be on someone else's hands. He stumbled into the entryway where delicious warmth greeted him and returned blood flow to his extremities...the recorded voice for roadside assistance was repeating its mantra for the third time now.
He pushed the "speaker" button and the cheery pre-recorded voice once again gave way to tinny strains of hold music which struggled out of the phone's micro-speaker. Andrew kicked off his boots to preserve the pristine condition of his earlier mop job and crossed to the counter where he deposited the phone.

Since he wasn’t going anywhere fast, he decided French Press would be the way to go in making his Bum Coffee. He started some water boiling, took out the beans and put them on the counter. Dark roast, near as he could tell. Andrew removed his coat and wool hat and hung them in the back room out of habit, then returned to the beans.

Dropping them into the grinder, he wondered, what happens when you grind magic coffee beans? He grinned. “My name’s not Jack and my mother has never owned a cow,” he said and turned switched the grinder on.

Many things did not happen; the grinder did not explode in blue, ethereal light; it did not grow arms and legs, don a top hat and engage in soft-shoe; it did not, like some cappuccino culture Transformer morph into a robot.

The one thing that did happen was that the ‘magic’ coffee beans became coffee grounds smelling suspiciously like a French roast, without a hint of raw sewage. The water boiled, the grounds were soaked, and a bloom spread through the water like dark spreading branches. A chopstick from Edo was employed to stir the slurry, and then Andrew waited patiently while the coffee steeped.

The ritual of preparing the coffee had quieted his nerves. He looked around the shop, drinking in the vision. The motley arrangement of chairs and love seats, the formica topped tables, the trendy art on the walls…the staircase leading to the small second level that was likely some sort of violation of building code. The coffee bar itself, with the espresso machine, the bottles of flavor syrup, the antique cash register which he said gave character but really meant more work when you did the books, the mishmash of second hand mugs that said this shop was not only trendy but socially conscious, and finally, the dead bonsai tree in the deepest corner of the room, underneath the second floor.

It had been a gift from his grandfather, who had died from cancer the year before. The old man had loved gardening, and while he was in the hospital, Andrew had bought him the bonsai tree to take care of. His grandfather had returned the gift to Andrew, but the green thumb was not hereditary and the tree had died within a month of his grandfather’s passing. He’d been unable to bring himself to throw it away. But like the tree, the shop was dying too.

And you gave away over two hundred bucks to a homeless guy, his inner voice replied. Brilliant.

Lara, the girl he’d just hired, had been wearing a shirt that had “The Rule of Three” written on it overtop of a pentagram. When Andrew had asked what the Rule of Three was, Lara had told him that it basically was the Wiccan equivalent of “you reap what you sow”, except that in Wicca, whatever good or bad you did came back to you multiplied by three.

Which means we’re going to get a return of six hundred bucks on this?

“I don’t think it works like that,” Andrew told his Inner Voice. On cartoons, your inner voice was either a devil or an angel, or both engaged in a sort of shoulder-oriented presidential debate, but Andrew was pretty sure his had lost his halo a while back.

Deciding to savor the moment of still being the owner of the coffee shop, he returned to his ministrations on the French Press. “Even Steven,” he said as he deliberately, depressed the plunger rod, the smell of the coffee wafting up. Maybe he had discovered a new culinary experience.

Into the mug, and mixed with a bit of cream and a good deal of sugar. He caught a lot of flack for that; real connoisseurs of coffee said it had to be black. He said he didn’t give a shit, he needed the sugar.

He stopped a moment before raising it to his lips. Maybe the magic wasn’t released upon grinding…maybe the magic happened when it went inside you.

A whole month too late for a Christmas special you loser, his inner voice told him. Drink the damn coffee already.

So Andrew did.

And many things did not happen. He did not explode, for which he was eternally grateful; he did not drop to the floor, mug shattering into a thousand pieces while he writhed in pain and slowly with many bone cracking and latex stretching special effects transformed into a werewolf; and he did not turn into a frog or a prince.

The one thing that did happen from Andrew’s perspective at least, was that the hold music coming from his phone was interrupted by a human voice. Andrew put down the coffee and picked up the phone.

“Andrew Weazle. Account number 0002999221. 221. TWO. TWO. ONE. My car is dead. Dead. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I turn the key and it doesn’t do what normally happens when I turn the key. I just want you to tow it. Yes I’ll pay extra if they have to tow it farther than…yes. Yes. Four to five hours? What the hell am I supposed to do…yes. No. Sorry. Leave the keys in the car? But what if someone…right. No one can steal it because it’s dead. Very good. Thank you.” He clicked the cell phone shut.

I guess we’re done savoring this moment then, said his inner voice. You gonna drink the rest of that coffee before we embark on another epic Shackletoneque trek to the car park?

Andrew looked down at the cup of coffee. This was no fairy tale. He’d given the last money he was likely to earn from this shop to a vagrant who was likely off to some pub to drink it away, his car was in need of mechanical repair, and the building he was standing in would no longer be his when the weekend was over. He looked at his watch.


“Thank God it’s Friday,” he said ruefully, then upended the cup of coffee into the pot the bonsai tree stood in, and then went to the back room to grab his coat and hat.

As he grabbed the garments from their hook, many things happened.

A sound like ice cracking filled Andrew’s ears.

A smell like coffee and stepping off the airplane in Cancun filled his nostrils.

The ground beneath his feet vibrated.

And as he turned to look out into the shop to see what was happening, something struck him hard in the face and he crumpled to the ground, blackness overtaking him before he reached it.


blankpage80 said...

what?? i have to wait a week to see what happens!

poop coffee. LOL!

Mandy said...

nice work thus far mikie. i love how we instantly and unconditionally must love Lump the Bum. shine on, blue eyes, shine on...

Sir Lunch-a-lot said...

Intriguing... Very well done, Mike. The only way this tale could be better is if I really like coffee, which I don't. But while reading this, it's really easy to pretend that I do. Looking forward to the next installment

Big Deet said...

Well done! Make sure we'll be back to find out. It's easy and enjoyable reading.

Tim said...

'...another epic Shackletoneque trek to the car park'?

That's daring...