Sunday, June 10, 2007

Episode 08: Chi with your Chai?

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, when a deluge of customers miraculously descend upon the shop...

The rest of Saturday morning was a blur. Blackout's after-hours crowd was only the beginning of a veritable deluge of customers, streaming in through the door, and acting in a strangely un-customerly fashion.

Most of Andrew's previous customers were in a hurry to get somewhere else; their presence in his coffee shop was one more thing keeping them from being in another place--the coffee wasn't something they savored or appreciated, it was just rocket fuel to get them off the ground of the morning and out into the day.

They normally stormed out if the lineup took too long, or became irate if the particular type of coffee they wanted, but that Saturday morning, they did neither. While they waited in line, they gazed up at the canopy overhead in wonderment. Andrew kept waiting for someone to ask how the hell he'd grown a full sized tree in the middle of winter, or why the espresso machine was hanging from its branches, but aside from Blackout, no one seemed to want an answer for the mystery. They had been compelled inside out of the cold to have an experience that went far beyond coffee. Or tea for that matter. When Andrew informed people that they were making fresh pots of coffee and it'd only be a few moments until it was ready, they asked what else they could have, and often settled on tea.

Andrew was slack jawed.

Throughout the morning, Lara hurried back and forth between tables and the back room, throwing dirty cups, plates and utensils into the industrial dishwasher, rushing out new bags of coffee beans for Andrew to grind, refilling the sugar and cream containers, taking only one smoke break, and limiting her non-customer-service language to the back room. Andrew handled the grinding, the brewing, the boiling, the steeping, the cash and the smiles, which became increasingly less forced until finally around noon, a lull fell upon the shop. He looked up from putting fresh coffee on, the sound of the front door opening drawing his attention; a group of people were exiting, laughing amongst themselves. The only customers left in the shop were a love struck couple gazing at each other across a table nestled beneath one of the tree’s low-lying boughs, what Andrew could only assume was a midget dressed in a bright red jacket--Guy looks like a Leprechaun, Andrew thought, and Blackout and a few friends who were in the corner of the shop near the west window-wall, engaged in a heated debate while drinking round number who f-ing knows. Andrew took a deep breath.

A mix of scents filled his nostrils; coffee blending with tea and baking, along with a smell he could only think of as 'green'. That's how Andrew had described a visit to the Devonian Gardens in Calgary once. Green. It was how he described what it was like taking a spring course on the University of British Columbia campus. And it was the smell underneath everything else he was currently taking in with that deep breath.
Or above everything else, to be more accurate.

Lara stepped out of the back room with a tray of cups fresh out of the dishwasher. He looked over at her and gave an exhausted but satisfied smile. Bemused, he thought to himself. Or maybe confused and couldn't give a shit.

"I'm not much of mathematician," Lara said, "but I'm guessing we made a shit-load of money this morning."

"It's never been that busy in here," Andrew said. "And the way the people behaved..."

"Like they were in a Japanese Zen garden instead of a campus coffee shop?" Lara said.

"That's one way of putting it," Andrew said. "I think it would be safer to say that they came in looking for the Japanese Zen garden and bought the coffee to justify staying. I didn’t have one complaint all morning. It was like they were all high."

“Well, Blackout’s crew was,” Lara said. “But I know what you mean. I only had one smoke break all morning…and that was more out of habit than anything else, to stave off the craving or the bitchiness. But I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have needed it.”

“Bizarre,” Andrew said. “The tree must be good for feng-shui.”

Lara looked at the damaged tile. “I don’t think any feng-shui books call for this much deconstructionist interior décor. It’s not that the Tree is for feng-shui. I think it is feng shui.”

Andrew poured himself a coffee and proffered an empty cup to Lara. She nodded, and he poured her a cup as well. “How do you mean?” he asked, handing her the cup.

“It gives off good chi, good vibes, you know? Positive energy,” Lara replied, upending the sugar dispenser and sugar flow out in a white pillar.

“That’s true,” Andrew said. “You’d think, with everything that’s happened today, I’d be losing my mind. But I’m not. I feel strangely calm about the whole thing. I still don’t understand how it happened...but I also don’t know that I really care anymore. I mean, if it’s a dream, I’ll wake up. If it’s not…there’s a giant tree in the coffee shop. What the hell am I supposed to do about it? Call in an arborist? A tree felling crew?”

Lara was stirring the coffee-sugar sludge, and said, “I’m not sure you could fell this Tree.”

“You know something I don’t?” Andrew asked.

“Women always do,” Lara smiled.

“Women always what?” Blackout asked, walking up with his coffee cup empty again.

“Know something we don’t,” Andrew replied.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Blackout said, raising a hand to reject Andrew’s raised pot of fresh coffee. “I’m waaaay over my caffeine limit. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t leave this morning…I’m tired as hell, I’ve got the new season of Galactica on DVD waiting for my to indulge, a gig to do tonight…but I just…loved being here this morning. Maybe it’s this tree thing.”

“Well, it’s that or it’s because it’s a magic bonsai tree grown from magic coffee beans,” Lara laughed.

Blackout furrowed his brow, one eyebrow arched.

“You’re weird,” he said to Lara, and put his cup down on the counter. “Hot. But weird.” He gave a friendly salute to Andrew. “I will say that the tree décor beats the hell out of that poor excuse for a bonsai you had behind the counter,” he said. “But you really need to get the espresso machine back. The good vibrations from your ambience aren’t going to cut it forever man.”

“I’ll get right on that,” Andrew said, watching Blackout leave with his friends. Which left only the love struck couple. The midget was gone as well.

“Hot…but weird,” Lara said as the front door closed. “Is that supposed to be some sort of compliment?”

“With Blackout…who knows?” Andrew said. “The guy bought your whole fake tree story…he’s obviously on some different wavelength of reality. There’s no way you could mistake this thing for a fake, unless you absolutely wanted to.”
“Maybe he wants to,” Lara said. “I mean, I believed in it right away, but I wanted to believe. I always have… to believe that magic could really happen.”

“So that’s what you think happened?” Andrew asked. “You believe those coffee beans the old man gave me were magic?”

“You have a better explanation?”

Andrew thought for a moment. “I don’t have an explanation,” Andrew said.

“Makes a hell of name for a coffee shop with a magic tree in it though, don’t you think?”

“What does?”

“Magic Beans,” Lara replied.


Gotthammer said...

I couldn't think of a better title for this episode, and I really didn't want to call it Magic Beans. That would just feel confusing. Besides, these episodes aren't chapter titles. They're just episodes. The fruit of my 30-45 minute writing labors. Still, if anyone has any witty suggestions...

It's definitely a 'middle episode,' establishing a few things, letting Lara and Andrew ruminate on what they think might be going on...and to begin establishing Blackout as the die-hard skeptic he is. I was sorely tempted to introduce a group of colorful characters from the comic shop that's above the copy shop, but that will have to wait. Too many characters too fast just gets messy.

dr riptide said...

Please, please can I be a character too? You already have half the GB staff in there although I haven't figured out who the Lara character is yet unless her last name is Croft. I'd be happy to settle for a fringe character, I'd even be the token new guy on the away team that never makes it....

Gotthammer said...

Half the GB staff? I've got Andrew and Mark...hardly counts as half the staff. Maybe half the creative nerd staff. But I'm sure I can find a way to put riptide into the story...stay tuned!

Matthew Littel said...

Hey Mike! It's Buzz from that crazy place called Camp Chestermere. Loving the story so far, just wanted to let you know that and to say that I saw something funny with your first post and the first part of each post after that. In the first post your characters name is Andrew WeEzle and in the other posts it becomes Andrew WeAzle. Just a small thing, hope to hear from you sometime.

Gotthammer said...

Yeah...those little "whoops" moments are peppered throughout the blog, mainly because for all intents and purposes, it's a first draft! But I appreciate the heads up on those sorts of things. For the record, I believe it should be spelled Weazle.

Anonymous said...

Just one minor proof reading comment. Laura doesn't "unend" the sugar dispenser. She should upend it.


Gotthammer said...

tru dat

the clean slate said...

hey maybe you could name the episode after the whole feng shui idea how the tree is creating that 'feel good feeling' in the coffee shop. i can't give any concrete suggestions but how the tree affects the atmosphere of the coffee shop could possibly lead you to a good title.

Gotthammer said...

5 points to C-bear, A.K.A. the Clean Slate, for getting my brain going for a catchy title to this episode. Original title: "A lucrative morning" Now: Chi with your Chai?