|Of Coffee and People
Author: svonnah-la-fay PM
3 ex-college students (the feminist, the optimist, the pessimist) with an emotionally needy and pregnant new friend (the prep) move to NY to open a coffee shop, help their friend through her pregnancy and raise her child themselves. Pricelessly hilarious.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Chapters: 41 - Words: 76,037 - Reviews: 277 - Favs: 106 - Follows: 44 - Updated: 10-06-10 - Published: 03-17-05 - id: 1861648
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hey guys, long time no talk. Since I last posted, I've gotten an agent, and the Woman's World book (since renamed Antebellum) has been out on submissions! I'm actually completing an intensive rewrite for it now, but so many of you have asked for updates to this story that I thought I'd oblige :-) It's pretty far from being publishing-ready, so I don't really have a problem with taking you all the way through the ending.
I hope you enjoy!
PS: I'm part of a FANTASTIC blog group now composed of famous former-FictionPress writers. We post every day, teaching writers how to write better, how to get an agent, and sharing industry news. Google 'Let The Words Flow' and you'll find us.
PPS: I have a website and a livejournal if you want to keep up with me. See my Bio for details :-)
REMINDER: I haven't edited any of this story. What you're seeing is the raw product I churned out at 17, so bear with it.
"If you don't give me chocolate right now I will eat your leg! With ketchup!"
"She's fine. The doctor says all her food cravings could be psychosomatic at this point," Nate explained as Ally licked a ball of Playdoh.
I eyed her with disgust. "That does not look like psycho- psychosomato- psychomac- whatever, to me. Why on earth did you buy her Playdoh?"
"He said it might be. I'm just playing it safe."
"You know, it says not to eat that stuff, right there on the label."
"How do you know?"
"Because... just because, okay? I know. Everyone knows. She's not supposed to eat it."
"Well, good thing she's not. She's just licking it."
"But it's going to get on her tongue, then in her system, and then she'll be dead!"
"She will not, Christy. Calm down."
"Hey, I thought you were all Mr. Overprotective over here, and now you're letting her eat poison! If she dies, I will not forgive you."
Nate swallowed rather hard. "Ally's not going to die. Don't say that."
It appeared I had struck a nerve. It shocked me enough so that I stopped my mouth and just watched as he took the Playdoh away from her.
"But I'm hungry!" she whined.
"Eat a banana. Banana's are good for you. So is everything on Sarza's shelf of the refrigerator; go raid that."
I shook my head silently at her. Sarza was annoyed enough by the sardine comment as it was, particularly since Ally flat out refused to call her anything other than Sarza Sardine. If she had been anyone other than herself, Ally would be dead, but as it was, she lived to continue to annoy everyone.
"What do you think of pepperoni pizza dripped in chocolate sauce and then glazed with peanut butter?"
"Why can't you crave normal stuff, like pickles?"
She gagged. "Do not mention pickles around me!"
"Yeesh, okay, fine!"
"Also, the doctor says my breasts are perfectly normal."
"Okay!" I said, "that's quite enough from you! Let's not go through this again."
"And that Nate would probably never need a mammogram."
"You asked him?"
"Well sure, why wouldn't we? This is Nate we're talking about. We don't want him getting breast cancer."
"No," I said, disgusted. "I suppose not."
It was approximately around this time that, after we had finally gotten settled into being just us four again, sleeping arrangements all normalized and everything, that Nate inevitably brought someone home again.
"I don't get it," I said to him as we stood behind the counter watching him eat. "Where do you go that you find these people?"
"'These people' are everywhere, Christy," Nate said philosophically as we watched our new tenant politely cut up his pancakes sopped in syrup and delicately spoon them into his mostly toothless mouth while Ally watched, darkly obsessed with the idea of pancakes and avacados. "Everywhere. Society has just trained you not to see them."
His name was Abe, short for Abraham. He was a black man with a gray beard and an indecipherable age, but I'm guessing he was in his sixties.
"Okay, but next time can you bring home a struggling artist instead of another homeless person?"
"Teegan was a struggling artist."
"Teegan was not a struggling artist. The word 'art' never came out of her mouth!"
"That doesn't mean she wasn't an artist!"
Abe looked sane, kind, and good at telling stories, but he had to be a homeless person for a reason, right?
"Do we have to be feeding him here in public?"
"Why not? We can keep an eye on him and simultaneously educate people about the invisibility of society's throwaways."
The reason for Abe's homelessness surfaced the next morning. I spent most of the night tossing and turning, worrying he would go crazy and kill us all in our sleep (it was a full moon, coincidentally), or at least Nate, with whom he was bunking, being male and all, but the morning found us all awake, if creeped out.
I woke up and stumbled into the kitchen to find him already seated, eating cereal and reading the ingredients.
The trouble with Abe was that he was deeply intelligent. Uneducated, but very intelligent. It was this intelligence that made him a little crazy at times.
"Did you know this cereal has preservatives in it?"
I almost dropped the bowl I was getting down.
"Preservatives. They turn your flesh to plastic. I don't want to be preserved. But the system wants to preserve you. It wants to keep you around and make you an example, and kill you slowly so you spend all your money trying to get better, while they slowly plastify you."
Seriously. This one would have to go. I can't talk plastic and preservatives and the system this early in the morning, particularly with a creepy old man whom I don't know.
Nate assured me that Abe came with good references, such as the managers from the stores he would beg food from. They seemed to have known him for years. He was reliable in showing up, always polite, and had never had any psychotic fits or episodes that anyone was aware of.
"So why is he homeless then? Being a little unusual in the head is no reason to be a street person!"
"You just don't get it, do you Christy?" Nate said, shaking his head at me and looking so superior and smug that I rolled my eyes and stomped away just to make a point.
Abe was also manically obsessive about cleaning, but only if we asked him to clean. I still hadn't tidied up the apartment like I was supposed to, so Nate mentioned it casually to me that morning, and the next thing we know Abe's on his hands and knees scrubbing the corners with someone's toothbrush (it was never reliably determined whose). He also happened to be a gifted electrician.
Abe and Nate wandered around for an entire afternoon once gesturing and arguing loudly over circuits and speakers and systems. Nate was trying to install a stereo so we could have music in the House.
"I think it's a lovely idea," Ally said.
"Yeah, but not if he has to live with us!"
"You're just close-minded, Christy," Ally said haughtily.
"Yeah, wait until he robs us blind or murders us while we're sleeping... or not sleeping! Then we'll see how close-minded I am."
"No, silly. You won't be able to be close-minded because you'll be dead. You won't have a mind."
The only ally I seemed to find in this situation was Sarza, but we were obviously unable to unite and put our collective feet down: Sarza and I were still feuding over Jason the Pretty Boy.
Despite the fact that I was now pretty reliably dating Jason the Second, doing such interesting things as feeding pigeons, seeing movies, and attending mathematics lectures, I was still pretty much in lust with Jason the First.
A girl can dream, can't she, particularly when the words 'relationship' have never come up between Jason the Second and I?
The First wandered in a few days after Halloween and slouched on my grungy counter which defiled his beauty, and in very hip slang terms apologized for not coming to our Halloween party, since he had, apparently 'shit' to do.
Then he ordered some kind of coffee I made on autopilot, too much aware that he was following my bright-pink head around behind the counter, winked at me, and sauntered off.
"He's pretty, but brainless," Ally commented as he walked away.
"Shh," I said, "wait until his butt is so far away I can't see it move anymore."
"You are hopeless. Guys like that don't care about girls. They use them and then throw them away. Like tissue paper. Jason the Second is a good guy, and he likes you. Don't get all happy excited about the shiny apple that's rotten inside."
"Wow. Aren't you a little more bitter than usual?"
"I've known guys like him my whole life," she said, deadly serious. "They're no good. They love you and leave you. Wait, they don't even love you. They use you and leave you."
"Ally, I... I'm not sure I'm the right person to talk to about this."
She pretended our little serious exchange hadn't happened and went back to counting the registers.
"Nate's a good guy, though," I ventured.
"Yes. Nate's wonderful. He'd never do anything to hurt m- ...anyone."
I nodded. Sometimes I felt like I was a doll, or a pet dog or something -there to confess to, but incapable of really helping anything.
"Do we have any pickled onions?" Ally moaned.
"I thought you didn't want to hear the word 'pickle'."
"Oh, Christy, don't say that!" She said, turning green and running away.
I shook my head. Morning sickness. What a bitch.
"Don't let the customers catch you swearing," Nate said, passing by with a heavy bag full of stuff from the local hardware store.
Man, sometimes I seriously wonder if Nate is psychic, or if I just say things out loud without realizing it.
"The latter," he shouted back at me, going up the stairs.
"You got the ladder?!" Abe asked excitedly, poking his head from around the corner where he'd been staring at the ceiling all morning in despair.
"Who's a mad hatter?" Ally asked, returning from the bathroom wiping her mouth and holding her growing stomach. "Didn't he win a costume contest?"
When Abe wasn't working fervently on the installation project, he was sitting at the counter talking at whoever was available. We tried to keep him from bothering the customers, but we couldn't always be available for his ramblings.
"We're losing business!" Sarza would complain to Nate at least once a night.
"Maybe we wouldn't if we had an extra waitress around!"
"I'm getting my education and working at a job that pays twice what you get in an hour, and all of it goes towards this coffee house, so don't even start that with me! I'm contributing!"
"It's not like we're paying him," I would point out.
"And that's something else we should discuss!" Nate would latch on with his humanitarian views, and Sarza would eventually end up leaving in disgust to go study.
And so, Abe remained firmly where he was. Against my will, the old man started to grow on me. He had a funny way of talking, like an accent I couldn't quite place, and of course made the occasional odd comment or movement, but he was kind and gentle and hardworking and never complained, and occasionally his stories were quite interesting, if not necessarily true.
"So then I said to him, "Get thee gone from my side, spirit!" because I'd been in church that morning, see, and the word of the Lord was filled up in my head, but he just looked at me with the saddest eyes you'd ever seen and asked if that was really what I wanted. Now, I've never known a spirit to get all human like that, so I hesitated just a little, but he took that opportunity to bring out his deck of cards again, and-"
"Wait," Ally said, interrupting. "Is this still the rainbow-spotted talking lemur, or are we back to the green and orange giant newt?"
"This is the lemur. The newt only comes when I've been working around some of those bathroom chemicals for too long; the lemur is pure spirits."
"What's a lemur?" I wondered. "Isn't that another name for an armadillo?"
"No Christy," Ally said. "It's a type of snake."
"You're both wrong, young ladies," Abe corrected both of us. "It's a jungle cat."
"And he never even finished eleventh grade!" Ally said happily, touching his hand and smiling.
Yeah, it makes me wonder what I was doing all those years.
"Speaking of bathrooms, I was in the public one today trying to locate any mainline wires, and I found these." From his pockets he pulled forth a wad of napkins. "I don't think they really belonged in the ceiling vent."
Ally and I both kept straight faces as I took them from his outstretched hand and deposited them in the garbage.
"I guess we missed some," Ally said lightly, and then she walked off to check on the sitting customers.
I got an order, so I went to work to fill it while the customer, a professional-looking woman, waited impatiently for me.
"If you look at me like that one more time I shall put a towel over you," I heard Abe say quietly.
"Are you talking to me?!" The woman asked, horrified.
"No ma'am, the toaster."
"See what I mean?" Sarza said triumphantly to Nate later that night when I had relayed the story and how hard I had to try to keep from laughing. "He's crazy! He's got to go!"
"He'll stay as long as he wants to!"
"I want him out tomorrow!"
"He'll stay until Thanksgiving!"
"If he leaves, I'm bringing home two more just like him!"
"Not if you haven't any legs, you won't!"
"Oh, now are you discriminating against the disabled?"
"I -No -What?"
"I'm going for a walk!" Nate announced dramatically.
"I'm going to bed!"
"I'm going to the refrigerator for more ice cream."
"I'm, um..." I said. "I'm..."
But no one was listening to me, except for Abe, who never seemed to notice the loud arguments that raged about him were indeed about him.
"You're what, Magenta-Head?"
"I'm... going to get you more coffee."
"Well thank you kindly."
"On second thought, ice cream isn't such a good idea," Ally said, sitting down heavily and covering her mouth. "Tuna sandwiches!"
I'll update more in a couple days. Thanks for reading!