Coffee – 15×15

by Liam Scheff
2 of 15×15

IMG_0758

“Ohhh,” she says, pausing, taking it all in, holding the daiquiri just below her chin, “I missed this.”

He looks at her, at the daiquiri, at her smiling face. He’d made, oh…3,000 of them, he’d bet. Maybe 80 for her. Three years, 1,100 days, 80 daiquiris, 200 ‘redheads’ (carrots, beets, apple, ginger, maybe some lemon), and 400 cups of tea.

“You missed it, too,” she goads him. “You did.”

“I did?” he says brightly. He laughs. She laughs with him. “I did.” he answers in the affirmative. “No, I did. It’s.. I did! Shit. How many afternoons, how many nights did we close together?”

She trades a straw for a long spoon and works on the daiquiri. “‘All local, fresh, organic fruit,’ remember?”

“No, all.. you forget. All ‘fresh, local, organic – and in season.'”

“In season!” she says, “Always in season. How could it be any other way with Anne in charge?”

He sips his coffee. “Over a thousand.”

“What?”

“Nights. We closed. Or…something like that.”

“No, that…three and a half-years. What’s that… five shifts per week? But I opened half of them.”

“Oh, that’s right,” he says. “So, we overlapped — shit! Do you remember…Sally?”

“Sally O’Mally!”

“That wasn’t her real name.”

“No, just what we called her because she’d be half drunk by 3. Man, did she get fired.”

“Yeah. So, maybe 500. Maybe 500 closings. If you worked half mornings.”

“Yeah, that’s…wow. Do you know what, Timmy pants? I have spent more time with you than I did with my husband.”

He’s silent for a moment.

“Hey,” she touches his arm, “don’t feel bad. It wasn’t your fault that he put his dick in every hole in Santa Monica.” She bursts into laughter.

“Jesus!” he says. “Oh…wow. Well, at least your not bitter.”

She hoists the daiquiri back, tilting it semi-congealed into her mouth, then angling it back down and closing her mouth to stop the flow.

“Thank fucking God there is alcohol in this thing,” she says through a mouth full of crushed smooth melted ice and fruit.

“Em.” Em, for Emily. He calls her this when he wants to really say something.

“Tim” she says, playing serious with him.

“So…”

“So?”

He looks at her. “So am I okay? Do I have money? Is he a bastard? How’s Emilia?”

He laughs, “Yeah, okay.”

She smiles. “We’re fine. He’s a bastard, but he’s a wealthy bastard and I really don’t have to work, but I like working. I married well.”

“You divorced well.”

“Touché!” she says, laughing out an exhale. “I fucking divorced well. What a fucking cocksucker he turned out to be.”

“Not literally?”

“No, but, maybe. Who knows? He never stopped fucking anyone. Not for a second. He was probably fucking barmaids at the wedding. He’d come back to me smiling, and I thought it was love. I mean…oxy-fucking-tocin, Tim. Don’t trust it. Do. Not. Trust. Your feelings when you’re having fucking hot sex.”

“Yeah. I know. Don’t forget, I’m still married.”

“Oh, God. Yes. And how is the dainty Mrs. C?”

Tim rubs his hand against his forehead and closes his eyes. He sighs. “She’s…she’s just…fine. Great. Taking language classes. Learning  many languages, so she can curse at me in many tongues.”

Emily puts the straw back into the long glass and sucks the remaining fruit and ice, letting it pull air and make a loud slurping sound. She keeps doing it until he opens his eyes and looks at her. She laughs.

“Oh, my poor baby. You married the very wrong girl.”

“Hm.”

“We both know you should have married me.” she says, her eyebrows raising a fraction of an inch, eyes still smiling, but sober. She sighs; her chest and narrow shoulders rise and fall.

“Yeah. Well. We were always busy working,” he replies.

“That we were.”

“We were!” he says, as though she were mocking him.

“I know! I mean, it was constant. Anne would call us any day we had three hours off to come in and do the books, or make a schedule. The bitch did not understand ‘day off.’ It was not in her native language of slave-driving.”

“Oh, she was…a little demanding.”

“A little!” Emily is leaning forward now, her blond curls bouncing as she speaks, “She had you take over the – do you remember that?”

“The baking! Holy –”

“And you couldn’t make the bread! It was like…a paddle! We had to tell customers it was a new kind of European loaf. Flat loaf!”

“Oh, Jesus,” he says, squinting his eyes shut. “That was awful. You know, I had to work all night to fuck it up that perfectly.”

“Oh, Tim. That was… that was a high point.”

“She never asked me again. Never mentioned it. Or, what did she say. ‘Thanks for pitchin’ in. We hired a baker, so don’t get attached!’ She never let me operate the stove again.”

“Which isn’t fair, because you’re a good cook.”

“How do you –”

“You don’t remember? you cooked –”

“I cooked you dinner. Jeeesus. It was like…every week for a couple of months. Oh my God, how… ”

“How come you stopped? How come we didn’t end up together?”

He looks at her, she’s smiling that familiar smile he has not seen for two and a half years. She looks the same. She looks better, he thinks. She smells good. She looks healthy. She’s laughing and smiling and flirting, and it’s like…

“I don’t know,” he says. “We were always talking business. It always took over. How to manage the staff, how to run the lunch, the dinner, the breakfast, placing orders, deliveries…how do get out on time.”

“Yeah. We were good partners. We brainstormed well together. Something Steven and I couldn’t do to save our lives. Do you know that we even got into a fight when it came to signing the divorce papers? He wanted to use this stupid pen. He was going to be signing everything with this ink pen.”

“Like, what…like calligraphy?”

“Yeah! I mean, he had a little bottle of ink, and this special pen, and he took five minutes taking it out, and then he practiced his fucking signature for five minutes. I just sat there, watching this fucking ape-man pretend to be a king of his asshole domain, or whatever he thought he was doing. He always had some idea about…”

“Wasn’t he…”

“Royalty? Yeah. Like…a dauphin, twice removed, or something. An Earl of something. Something French. I never…I thought he didn’t care. I never cared. I mean. The money was nice, but –”

“Yeah, that’s not bad.”

“But Tim, it made me sick. He’d come home with a mouth-full of somebody’s pussy and try to have sex with me, and he’d bring me some…crap he bought at the mall. A scarf or some glass ball with a dead insect in it.”

“What?”

“Insects. Butterflies, that sort of thing.”

“Oh. Weird.”

“Uh. Yeah. Weird.”

“Where is he?”

“Remarried. A cousin.”

“What?”

“No, seriously. A, like…third cousin. I remember her. Black hair. She was at our wedding. Like a grown-up goth Lolita. Or Morticia, or something. With six inches of cleavage.”

“Hm.”

“I couldn’t compete with these itty bitties,” she looks down at her chest, takes her hands and pushes them up from the bottom, “Huh girls? Daddy didn’t like you,” she says, play-mocking.

“Em,” he says, laughing. “Shut the fuck up. You always had the nicest tits in the place.”

“Aww.” she pats his arm. “What a sweet thing to say. But how would you know, Tiger?”

“Come on,” he says, protesting.

“Ohhh,” she says. “You DO remember.”

He sips his coffee. He says nothing. In his head he says, “Shut up, you know I loved you.” He wants it to sound light, but it’s doesn’t quite, and he just looks at her.

She pats his arm again. “And I married Steve. Steve the dolphin fucker.”

They both burst into laughter. “And you married the sweet, darling Cornie.”

“Ugh.” he says.

“Not good?”

“When was it good?” We had a nice six months, mostly because she was still learning the language, and then — ”

“You and foreign girls.” She tips the glass back to get the melted remains of the daiquiri. “You never gave us locals a chance, you know.”

“I did have a thing for foreign girls. I guess I thought they must be saying something interesting that I just couldn’t understand.”

“Oh, no. Paging Dr. Freud. Mystery covering contempt.”

“Contempt?”

“Yeah, for women.”

“I don’t hate women!”

“No, not ‘women.’ Just those you like. You’re afraid of hating them… you’re afraid of getting bored with them.” His eyes widen in genuine astonishment. “I know you,” she says, poking a finger into his upper arm. “I know you, Einstein. You’re too smart for most of us, you just like to play dumb because you don’t like offending people.”

“Jesus, Emily. Wow. If I needed this abuse, I’d have called my mother.”

“Oh,” she pats the arm she was poking. “You know I love you.”

They both pause for a moment.

“Jesus, did you hear me say that? I haven’t seen you for so long, and it’s…. ”

“Easy.” he says. “Always was. Did that scare us?”

“It might have. Did we lose our chance…” She says it more than asks it.

“Did we?” he returns.

She leans in, smiling, eyebrows up, “Well…did we, Tim? You’re the married guy now. I’m just a single girl –”

“With a kid and an ex-husband,” he says evenly. “And I’ve got a wife with thorns for teeth. And a 1 year old.”

“Hmm.”

“What do you think?”

“About us?”

“Yeah, sure. Or, whatever…whatever you want it to be about. But, I want to tell you something.”

“Yeah?” he asks, finishing his coffee.

“What is it?”

She puts her hand on his forearm, smiles, leans an inch closer. “I missed my friend. I missed you. We shouldn’t have…”

“Drifted,” he says. “But we both got married,”

“To the wrong… ”

“Yeah.” he says. Feeling the weight of it.

“The wrong fucking people.”

“But we have the right kids.”

“I — I know!” she says, straightening up like a shot. “Oh, little Em. I love her so.. so much. I’d…”

“I know,” he says. It changes everything. They’re better than we are, aren’t they? Worth fighting for.”

“I know. Would she let you…”

“Who, Constance, or Susie?”

“Constance.”

“Okay. Would she let me what?”

“Do you know why Anne called us here?”

“I have an idea. I heard. She’s sick.”

“Like half of the West Side, ” she says. “Since last year when the heavy radiation started coming in on the rain. I’m just fucking glad prince douchebag made us move so far south and inland.”

“Holy shit, I thought you were crazy to do that.”

“But then you moved to the Valley, dude!”

“I know…I know. The freaking valley of death. But, yeah, beyond the mountains, it’s better.”

“So…”

“So?”

“So, do you know why she called us here?”

“Because she’s sick – but…I couldn’t figure out the rest. I mean, I thought, does…she doesn’t want to hire us back? I’m at La Stranga full time. I mean, I don’t get an hour off per week.”

“And I’ve been out of the business for two years. She knows that, I do catering from home. From my fucking perfect stainless steel kitchen that prince douchebag financed, thank you very much.”

“And, what, she wants us…I mean, I’m not moving to the West Side.”

“Yeah. I mean, No. I don’t think that’s what she had in mind.”

“What then? Move the restaurant?”

“I think so.”

“Inland?”

“Yeah, Tim. And I think she wants us to run it again.”

“Wow. Is this a guess?”

“Well…yes and no. The moving the restaurant, I know. She told me that. The rest — well, she made a big deal out of bringing us down here.”

“I always thought she hated me.”

“Tim. She loved you. Remember when she’d walk up and rub your neck when you were tired?”

“Holy shit, that always freaked me out. I thought she was going to suck my blood or something.”

She laughs. “She’s an odd one, that’s true. But she trusted you, she trusts us. And I don’t think there’s been anyone else who…”

“Who stayed so long, and worked so hard,”

“And got along with everybody, but kept everyone in line.”

“We were good at that.”

“We were.”

He motions to the barmaid for more coffee.

“Hmm. Move the restaurant inland. Out of the radiation zone. And we’d…”

“Run it?”

“Together?”

He blows on the coffee to cool it.

“Good?” she asks.

“Always good. Ecuador. Organic. Green coffee. Roasted this morning.”

“Always good,” she repeats.

–          –          –          –

This is Story 2 in 15×15. A story written in one hour with no major edits or revisions.

Liam Scheff is author of Official Stories, The Geneticals, and co-author of Summer of ’74, and its teaser comic – all available on Amazon and/or Kindle.

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About Liam Scheff

"Author, Artist, Film, Permaculture." Liam Scheff is a writer, artist and stand-up lecturer on issues that people usually don't make comic books about. (Visit liamscheff.com). Liam's highly-praised book "Official Stories" reveals the complex details behind the myths of our times.
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One Response to Coffee – 15×15

  1. Penelope says:

    Here in lies the heart of the problem with our complicated species. We don’t communicate well and we totally blow it by complicating love. Why they couldn’t just say “it”…..just say “I love you” when they knew?

    You’ve certainly captured it. You’ve painted a great word picture, evoked emotion in this reader and illustrated how life, in it’s totally f’d up way, will go on amid the changes that will have to occur with radiation as a daily part of our lives.

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