What has gone before: Andrew Weazle, the owner of a failing coffee shop on the University of Alberta campus trades what he believes to be the final Friday night deposit in return for 'magic coffee beans' from a homeless man. After dumping the coffee made by the magic beans into a potted bonsai tree, a massive ash tree mysteriously grows overnight inside the shop. Andrew and his new employee Lara discover that the Tree's growth has been limited to the coffee shop, but are still faced with the additional cost repairing the damage the growth has caused...
A loud pounding on the front doors startled both of them. Lara jumped up from the tree and whirled around. Andrew thrust his head out of his v-arm reverie, disheveled hair peeking out from fingers splayed across his head.
A face was pressed as close as it could be to the glass, one hand over the eyes to allow the viewer to see from the bright morning glare outside to the dim interior of the shop.
"Blackout," he said with a grimace.
"What?" Lara asked.
"He's a weekly regular on Saturday and Sunday mornings," Andrew said, waving at the face pressed to the glass. Blackout's free hand was pointing emphatically at the handle to the door. "He's a DJ...does a regular gig at one of the clubs on Whyte. He does the after-hours cool down stuff, so he's up all night, then comes in here for a caffiene fix."
Andrew crossed the debris-strewn floor and opened the front lock. Blackout slipped into the warmth of the coffee shop and pulled off his toque. He was a broadly built man in his late twenties with a goatee and a shaved head which was mostly bald.
"Man, you're late," he said, rubbing his hands together and blowing on them. "I was standing outside for a good ten minutes before I thought to knock."
"I was busy," Andrew said dryly.
"With what?" Blackout started to say, but stopped in mid-"what?" when his eyes took in the shop. "Holy shit. What happened here?"
Andrew looked at Lara. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, most of the words in Andrew's current picture could be summed up by How the hell am I supposed to explain all this. Lara's picture could have had the caption, I'm not the one who let him in.
"I'm renovating," Andrew said, a weak smile on his face.
"Is that a real tree?" Blackout said, squinting as his eyes continued to adjust to the dim light inside the shop. "That can't be a real tree. You didn't have a tree here last week."
"It looks fake to you?" Andrew asked.
"Well, no...it looks really real," Blackout said. "But it can't be...you can't grow a tree in a week. And it's deciduous...they don't have leaves in the winter." He sounded like he was trying to talk himself into believing the tree wasn't real. Lara took the opportunity and jumped in.
"I made it," she said.
Blackout looked at her, his expression betraying the fact that he hadn't realized she was in the room until just that moment.
"F-ing A," Blackout said. "That's a remarkable piece of work. What did you use?"
"Well, the main trunk and the branches are real," Lara said. "I got the idea from how they built Fangorn Forest in Lord of the Rings."
"Very cool," Blackout nodded in appreciation. "And the rest?"
"Silk plants grafted into the real parts of the tree," Lara continued.
"How the hell did you get it in the door?" Blackout asked.
Lara's eyes widened. She hadn't thought of that.
"We brought it in through the window," Andrew chimed in. "Those windows slide open to make a patio, remember?"
"No, I don't," Blackout said. "I don't think you've ever had them open when I've been here."
"Well, it's usually too cool in the morning," Andrew said.
"And it came in pieces," Lara said. "Branches had to be sawed off and then reattached to transport it in the first place. The upper regions where the foliage is really thick...there aren't even full sections of branch up there."
"That had to be a crazy amount of work," Blackout said. He looked down at the floor and the damage the Tree had caused. "You obviously aren't finished. I just really needed a coffee."
"I can make you one, if you don't mind waiting a few minutes," Lara said. Andrew shot her a look that said we need to get him out of here. She returned his look with a glare that said we need to make some money, dipshit.
"Where's the espresso machine?" Blackout asked, taking a seat at the bar.
"In the back," Andrew replied. He looked nervously up into the tree to where the espresso machine was still precariously perched. It looked to be in pretty good shape if he could just get it down. He followed Lara behind the counter to assist her in making a pot of coffee with the regular coffee makers which had miraculously survived the tree's onslaught.
"We thought it best to keep the shop open while renovations were taking place," Lara said.
Andrew coughed and nearly dropped the pot he was filling with water.
"I still haven't got your name," Blackout said.
"My name's Lara," Lara said, cleaning off the bar and the counter.
"Mark," Blackout replied. "But everyone calls me Blackout."
"Because he plays the music until it isn't black out anymore," Andrew said, filling the machines with coffee grounds. He found himself falling into his morning work routine. If only that espresso machine were down here I might actually be able to make a bid at doing business today. But I'd need customers for it to make a difference.
"Well, if you're serious about being open," Blackout said, "You should clean up all those chairs and tables. I had a pretty full room when I shut down and the group wanted to know where they go to get some java...I told them all you make the best damn coffee I've ever tasted, and they're all on their way over."
Andrew looked at Lara. She looked up at the tree with a smile on her face.
"I'll get the broom," Andrew said.