A lot happened the next day at the Epiphany Cafe. Not as much as before, when the Lisping Barista said yes to the Geeky Guy, but it was a close second in eventfulness. The Moodus noises made their rumblings early that morning, waking everyone up before they were ready. This meant a lot of business at the Epiphany Cafe, as people stopped for a jolt of caffeine. Everyone was in a bad mood when they arrived, what the people of Kenilworth called a Moodus mood; but as soon as they saw who was at the counter, they felt better.
The Lisping Barista had returned.
There was no fanfare when she had arrived early that morning; she simply passed the Waving Man and unlocked the door. She erased where the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat had written Cowboy Coffee $2 and wrote in the cafe’s full range of fancy coffee concoctions. She threw out the stale cookies, the greenish pre-made sandwich wraps, and fired up the panini press. In no time at all, she was making express magic at the espresso machine, as if she had never left. She apparently hadn’t heard that she’d been fired.
It didn’t take long before word spread that the Lisping Barista was back. The telephone crew was the first in the door, and they told everyone else. The Connecticut River babbled on about it. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs wagged their tails off. The Moodus noises stopped their grumbling. Rabbi ! gave God His due. The Therapist Emeritus nodded, smiled her inscrutable smile, and said it was very interesting. Chai Latte was especially pleased, for not only could he now get a chai latte, but he was also back in business, selling a kilo in no time despite the fact that the Town Cop gave up his customary Dunkin’ Donuts run to see what the fuss at the cafe was about. The only thing missing was a big brass band.
The Lisping Barista took it all in stride, accustomed to a multitude of admirers. The espresso maker hissed, the foamer slurped, and the tip jar overflowed. The cafe soon settled into an eighty megahertz hum, conducive to the arrival of the muse. While she’d been gone, she acquired one new piercing and no new visible tattoos. Her hair, a blond girl’s version of dreadlocks, seemed especially gnarly. There was an angry, red scar on her wrist. She was the worse for wear, but that was still pretty good.
There were a few notable Kenilworth residents who hadn’t been in yet. The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was the one who was supposed to open up, not the Lisping Barista, but he was missing in action. Someone said that he’d been at the Seven-Eleven, buying a case of beer before dawn. Little Theresa, having to clean up her nightly crucifixion display, was running late to work. She wouldn’t be giving away a cup of coffee until later. The Geeky Guy, who had been at the cafe all day, every day, since the Lisping Barista got fired, hoping to catch her picking up her check, was nowhere to be found. He had an appointment that couldn’t be missed. The Dog Fearing iPhone Pecker came to the door, but saw the Crazy Dog Lady was there with her dogs, so she turned away. The High Street Witch came to the door, too, but saw her brother, the Geeky guy, wasn’t there, so she turned away.
The Owner of the Epiphany Cafe was rarely there, anyway; but she did come in at noon. The Owner of the Epiphany Cafe had heard the Lisping Barista was working, as if owners had no say in the matter. Consequently, the Owner of the Epiphany Cafe came in and fired the Lisping Barista again.
In the time it took for the Owner of the Epiphany Cafe to form the words, You’re fired, everything changed. The telephone crew got disconnected. The Connecticut River all but stopped its flow. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs put their tails between their legs. The Therapist Emeritus had that look on her face when she disapproves but doesn’t want anyone to know. The Moodus noises swore out loud. Chai Latte swore out loud. Even Rabbi ! swore out loud, but it was in Hebrew, so no one understood. The Town Cop reached for his nightstick. If there had been a big brass band, it would’ve sounded like shit.
The Lisping Barista did not have her apron off before the Owner of the Epiphany Cafe realized that the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was missing in action and she had no one to run the shop. Not one to run the shop, herself, she declared the cafe closed.
“Everyone out,” she said. “We’re closed.”
At that moment, the grumbling of the Moodus noises could not have been heard over the grumbling of the patrons of the Epiphany Cafe. If the Connecticut River had flooded its banks, no one would’ve been surprised. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs wrinkled their noses. The Therapist Emeritus called it a setback. Rabbi ! compared it to the Babylonian Exile. The Lisping Barista asked for her check. The Owner of the Epiphany Cafe said she wasn’t paying her for the morning’s work because she’d been fired already. Everyone slapped their laptops closed, clicked the lock key on their phones, shut down their tablets, got their coffee in to-go cups, scarfed up the cookies that were going to be thrown out anyway, and started to pack up. The Town Cop thought it had been a lot simpler when he just went to Dunkin’Donuts. Chai Latte said that, if he had to leave, he was never coming back.
“I’m selling the place, anyway,” said the Owner of the Epiphany Cafe. “So I really don’t give a crap.”
As the patrons began to file out the door, they met with unexpected traffic, for the Geeky Guy’s appointment was over and he was just trying to come in. They told him it was closed. The Moodus noises said he was between a rock and a hard place. The Connecticut River told him to change his course. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs said, Look! squirrel! The Therapist Emeritus urged him to let go. Chai Latte said chill out. Rabbi ! said choose life. The Town Cop tapped his nightstick and said move along son, there’s nothing to see here.
“But you don’t understand,” said the Geeky Guy. “I own this place now. I bought it. I just came from the closing.”
It took a minute before it really sunk in. The Moodus noises paused. The Connecticut River froze. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs took a sniff and all the people said, practically in unison, “So, we don’t have to leave?”
“No,” said the Geeky Guy, “Why would I want you to leave? Stay. Drink coffee. Use the Wi-Fi. I own this place now.”
The Moodus noises gave a cheer, the Connecticut River, a wave. The Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs acted like they saw a cat. Rabbi !, as if the messiah had arrived. Chai Latte got a good high. The Therapist Emeritus declared a breakthrough. The Town Cop said the case was cracked. If there had been a big brass band, you wouldn’t have heard it.
“Tho,” said the Lisping Barista. “Are you hiring a barithta?