Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.
Three years. Spent three years building up a really cool base of customers: moms who read a lot and knew their tea; academics wearing expensive plaid shirts; graduate students. Very mellow gig.
Very high customer rotation. Nobody stayed more than an hour, which was great for us. For a while, cadres of lonely fat men coagulated around some of the tables to drink free refills and offer up conspiracy theories. Eventually, we vibed them out. We didn’t want people who endlessly tinkered with their sci-fi novel before returning to their parents’ basement; we wanted nice, sane people who bought coffee and hung around for a little while. For three years, that’s exactly what we got. It was great.
Gina’s dad started showing up over the summer. He was in his late-sixties – long silver hair and black Harley Davidson t-shirts. He worked out so much that he started developing bitch tits, which nobody mentioned. For a while, he’d just waft the place. Then, he felt comfortable enough to hang around behind the counter, filling his mug up with iced coffee and not paying. His line was that he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.
Gina’s Dad had had about a million jobs: art dealer, boat maker, furniture restorer, independent film producer, musician, self-defense instructor, real estate mogul, scuba diving instructor. Every few years, he’d return from California or South Africa or wherever and kibbitz with Gina and her mom for a few months. Now, he was here at the coffee shop, telling us how we were fucking up the espressos. How he had lived in Italy and that’s now how Italians drank it; that’s how dumb Americans drank it.
Pretty soon, we switched coffee distributors. We had busted our asses getting a deal with Dogwood Coffee out of Minnesota. They had all these cool training programs, and their guy would call us every few weeks to make sure everything was going well. Gina’s Dad, behind the scenes, decided this was too expensive, so he brokered another deal to get us Starbucks overstock from a friend of his who ran a supermarket. Really back alley shit. Things got worse when the customers immediately figured out we were charging indie prices for Starbucks and left in droves.
Gina’s Dad had a thing when he’d talk to you. He’d put his hand on your elbow and squeeze tightly. He’d speak in his mellow voice, telling you how important it is to upsell, but there was hostile bullshit undercurrent to the whole fucking thing. A dude who didn’t have a pot to piss in making like he was a guru.
His friends started hanging around, all day. Senior citizen bodybuilders who order one cup and then bitch about refills. Gina’s Dad, being everybody’s fucking pal, let them drink for free and loiter for hours. At the end of their hitch, he’d make a big show of putting a twenty dollar in the register. What a great fucking guy.
So I killed him. I slit his fucking throat. Should have seen it. Big strong guy bragging about beating up his drill sergeants in boot camp winds up dying with his head hanging back between his shoulder blades like a broken toy. You should have heard him scream. You should have heard him pray and beg.
Anyway, the cops barely looked into the thing. Gina’s Dad had bragged — lied — about running drugs, so they figured maybe somebody caught wind of it.
The muscleheads left once they figured out they had to pay for biscotti. We started serving better coffee, again. Gina and I started dating.
Great few years, that.