The next day, the Lisping Barista didn’t show up for work. She was supposed to open the Epiphany Cafe, but when the usual early-morning customers came by, everything was still locked up. The Waving Man took up his position just outside the door and waved at every car as it passed by. He didn’t say a word to the people when they saw the closed sign still dangling in the door. He didn’t stop them when they yanked on the handle, just in case. He didn’t console them if they stalked off, angry, or crept off, sad. He did wave at them when they drove away, as if he was thrilled to see them and couldn’t wait till they came again.
Not everyone made a big deal out of the Epiphany Cafe being closed. Some just drove by and saw the windows were still dark. They’d get their coffee somewhere else or go without. The Connecticut River, for instance, did not stop for coffee. It kept right on going, at least for a few miles, until, under the influence of the tides, it seemed to change its mind and turn back. Only one customer, one who knew the Owner, stopped to give her a call, and tell her the Lisping Barista had failed to show.
The Owner of the Epiphany Cafe, a worn out woman of a certain age, came to open up the cafe; but she didn’t unlock the door until after she waved away the Waving Man. “Go wave somewhere else,” she said. “You’re driving away my customers.” The Owner had little patience for anyone, including the Waving Man.
What little patience she had with the Lisping Barista had been completely used up. She no sooner put on an apron, brewed her first pot of coffee, and waited on her first customers, the local telephone line crew, than she began to complain of the Lisping Barista not being reliable. Up until this point, the Lisping Barista had been a perfect employee and she was well known as being the main attraction to the place, responsible for more sales than the daily drink specials. Any reasonable boss would have figured something had come up with the Lisping Barista and she had to have a good reason to not be there, but the Owner was not a reasonable boss; she was a tired boss, who long ago regretted buying the cafe, and was annoyed whenever she had to show up, herself.
The Owner had not been in the cafe that morning for more than five minutes before she decided, and told anyone who would listen, that the Lisping Barista was fired and she was looking to hire a better barista. None of the members of the local telephone line crew were ready to give up goldbricking. They’d rather be paid to drink coffee than to make it, but, seeing as though their specialty was communications, they said they’d spread the word. The morning was not yet half done before the whole town of Kenilworth, except the Lisping Barista, who was not paying attention, knew that she had been fired.
The local telephone line crew played telephone with the information. They spread it around, like they said they would, but it came out garbled and distorted. Everyone had a different idea of why the Lisping Barista got fired. The Dog Fearing iPhone Pecker thought she was fired for serving the Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs. The Crazy Dog Lady heard the problem was Rabbi !’s proselytizing. Little Theresa feared she got in trouble for giving away free coffee and went right to the cafe to explain. The Owner wasn’t having any of it and turned Little Theresa away when she tried to buy a cup of coffee for someone else. “I don’t have time to keep track of who paid and who didn’t.” Rabbi ! was told it was the broken pot. Chai Latte figured she’d been busted by the town police and the town police figured she’d been busted by her boss. The Therapist Emeritus hoped she’d run off with the Geeky Guy. That would’ve been a feather in her cap, a perfect conclusion to a successful treatment. The High Street Witch knew the Geeky Guy had come home that night and went off to work the next day. She was just glad the Lisping Barista was gone.
The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat heard when the owner gave him a call, offering him a job. Someone had told her the Lisping Barista had taken his application. “I hope you’re more reliable than your friend,” the Owner said to him, “and show up every day when you’re supposed to.” The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat said he was much obliged, ma’am; and assured her he’d reckon he’d be at least as good as he was in the last job he had.
The only one who was not told the Lisping Barista had been fired, except for the Lisping Barista herself, was me, yours truly, the author, S. Harry Zade. I supposed because I’m a fictional character, everyone treats me like I’m invisible.
The Geeky Guy was one of the last to hear. He’d been working all that morning, squinting into a spreadsheet, without benefit of a wake-me-up cup of coffee. He thought showing up at the cafe that morning would reveal his eagerness to see the Lisping Barista. He understood, perhaps from his reading of Kenilworth, or from what anonymous people had said, that women prefer men who don’t tell them they like them. They favor the strong, silent type; the kind that keeps his feelings to himself and communicates in snarls and grunts. No, he shrewdly counseled himself, it was best to play it cool and hard to get.
When he finally heard the Lisping Barista had been fired, the Geeky Guy went right down to the Epiphany Cafe, without even clicking save on his spreadsheet. He didn’t know what had happened, for her to get fired, but he knew it must’ve been his fault. He didn’t know what he could do, but he knew he had to do something. If she was fired, that meant she would leave. She’d go back to following the Spellbinding Fish Fry, which she loved, and he loved her too much to want her to be happy in anything that didn’t include him. Yes, that’s right, he loved her, or at least he knew, from his reading of Victorian literature, that, after having seen her naked, touched her in her womanly parts, and had her touch him where he most liked to be touched, he was supposed to.
The Geeky Guy had read enough about Scottish castles, ladies and knights and chivalry to know a damsel in distress when he saw one. Every damsel in distress needs a knight in shining armor. By the time the Geeky Guy arrived at the cafe, he knew just what he had to do. He stepped up to the counter and didn’t even bother ordering coffee. He knew who the owner was, without ever having met her. She was the tired one, exasperated by every customer. She said, not, May I help you? But, What do you want?
He looked up at the menu board, as if the price might be listed there. Not finding what he was looking for, he just asked, “I want to buy your cafe. Is it for sale?”