"I'm not sure I should give you this," the waitress said, and I stared at her hard. She was a young lady with her hair in dozens of tiny little braids and skin the colour of caramel.
"Why the hell not?" I asked, possibly a little louder than I normally would have.
"Well you're shaking for a start," the little waitress offered, "plus, this is your seventh cup today!"
I banged my fist on the table. "Give me the damn coffee woman!"
The waitress sighed, stared at me for a moment with raised eyebrows, then slid the cup and saucer on to the table. "It's your funeral!" She muttered, her voice resigned.
I watched as the waitress walked away. It was just coffee, I could handle it! I took a sip and it was wonderful – all bitter and sweet at the same time, the way that coffee should be. Admittedly I had to lean over the table to do this because my hands were shaking too much not to spill the cup. But so what! I was on a roll – I'd just typed some of the best dialogue I'd ever written! And that was saying something. I did have five best sellers to my pen name after all.
I felt a sudden pain in my chest area and I clasped at my chest, my breath coming in short gasps. I leaned over the table like this, with both hands crossed over my chest now, the pain was so bad. The top of my head was touching the keyboard, probably bumping the keys and creating gibberish in my document, but right now I didn't care. It was becoming even harder to breathe and I had broken out in a terrible sweat, great drops of it running down my face and arms.
I sensed movement by my table and I didn't look, but the little waitress was back, I could tell.
"Sir!" She was saying, both hesitant and alarmed. "Sir, are you alright?"
"No," I managed to ground out, though I wasn't sure she heard me.
"Call an ambulance" the little waitress shouted.
I wasn't sure who she was talking to, but it all seemed a bit dramatic – and then I blacked out.
To say I woke up wouldn't be quite right. I was watching myself slumped over the table in the coffee house, my novel unfinished, my coffee cup smashed on the floor. The girl who'd given me my coffee was shaking my shoulder and almost shouting "Sir, wake up sir!"
It was too much to take in, so I looked down at my feet – which were now see-through. There but not there. As was the rest of my body.
In shock I stared around at the other people in the coffee house. There were a lot of white faces, and everyone was staring at me. No one was helping, although a tall thin man with black hair and a goatee was on the phone.
"We think he had a heart attack," he said. "He's not moving and he's not responsive."
A heart attack. Is that what had happened? I suppose I could have looked after myself a bit more, but why did this have to happen to me?
That's when I concluded that there must be a reason why I was still here. Perhaps I could revive myself by climbing back into my body! I floated over, past the waitress who had now given up on me and was now hunched over on the floor, clutching a tray to her chest. I tried to steady myself by placing my hands on the shoulders of my body but my ghost hands just went right through my physical body. Next I tried sitting on top of myself and rocking backwards but I just went right through the chair.
"Damn it all!" I shouted.
I turned to survey the scene around me. Everyone in the coffee house had been there when I was still alive, with the exception of a crowd of onlookers who were crowding around the front door. However, what I was looking for was another see-through being like myself. I needed advice and fast. Yet everyone I saw looked whole, solid and alive.
I glided to the front of the store. If I couldn't find another ghost here surely I could find one down the street – there was one of those new age shops down the street, perhaps they might even have a book on my condition. When I reached the front door I stopped. Not because I wanted to but because I could not physically move any further. Stubbornly I tried to force my way forward but my new ghost body, for whatever reason, could not leave the coffee shop.
I changed tactics and tried to float out a window. I just pushed off with my feet from the floor and glided through the air. It would have been really awesome except for one thing – I could not pass through the open window. I banged my fists on the window in frustration, causing a blonde lady below me to jump. That was interesting. Very interesting.
I glided over to the counter and picked up a cup. To my surprise, I could actually do this. Everyone's attention was on my dead body, so no one seemed to notice. To my surprise, the thought of drinking the coffee was strongly appealing. No, I thought, that's what got me into this mess in the first place. And yet I craved it. That bitter and sweet taste that I had loved all my life. I lifted a cup to my lips and tried to take a sip. The coffee went right through me and spilled on the floor.
In my anger I threw the cup at the back wall, where it broke on impact and splashed all over some empty chairs. A collective gasp came out of the crowd of onlookers. The waitress who was already kneeling on the floor dropped her serving tray and widened her eyes. It would have been comical if I wasn't dead.
And then the ambulance arrived. "Well it's about damn time!" I shouted.
They didn't seem to hear me. There were two of them. One a petite dark lady and one a pale man who looked like he was a body builder. Body builder man pushed my body back so that my lifeless body was sitting upright in the chair. He took my pulse and shook his head.
By this point the lady had wheeled in a portable bed trolley and together she and the muscle man lifted my dead body on to the bed. I wanted to cry, but no tears would come. Then I had a sudden flash of inspiration and I floated on to the trolley, sitting next to my dead body. I probably couldn't leave the coffee shop because my body was still here, that had to be it. But as the ambulance officers wheeled my body through the door I got stuck on the threshold.
I watched as my body was loaded into the back of the ambulance van.
"NO!" I screamed. I kicked the door, and smashed my fists on thin air. It was like there was an invisible wall surrounding the coffee shop. What had happened to me?
As the ambulance drove away I turned and floated back into the coffee shop. As I floated in I noticed that everyone else was walking out. A police siren blared out front and a man's voice announced... something, I don't know, I wasn't listening. I was too busy watching a detective photograph the table with my laptop which he then proceeded to remove. My despair deepened to what felt like the point of no return.
And to my great annoyance I still wanted coffee. Wanted it like a man possessed. I floated over to where they kept the coffee beans and picked one up. I tried to crunch it between my teeth, and was satisfied when I could do so. However when I tried to swallow the bits of bean simply fell right through me to the floor. I could taste nothing, which might be just as well. Exasperated, it was all I could do to wail and moan.
"Did you hear that?"
I turned and saw that the tall pale barista and the little waitress had returned to the store. The waitress was staring up at the barista intently, waiting on an answer.
"Hear what?" He said and started to clear away the tables.
"That wailing noise!" I could sense that the waitress was on the verge of exploding.
"It's probably all in your imagination."
"And what about the coffee that flew through the air, did I imagine that too?"
"I told you I didn't see that, now help me clean up!"
There was an air of finality to the tall man's sentence and the girl took a deep breath and began to clean.
I also tried to take a deep breath, found that I couldn't and in my frustration I punched the wall. Unfortunately for the wall, I had chosen one of the plastered areas and my fist went right through the plaster, creating an unsightly hole. I noticed with some satisfaction that the barista noticed the damage this time, while the waitress dropped the sugar bowl she'd been holding and ran right out of the store.
The barista, tall thin man that he was, showed admirable bravery by picking up a broom and brandishing it. Exactly what he thought he could accomplish I wasn't sure but I'd had an awful day and my unsated coffee cravings were making me mad. I rushed forward and grabbed the broom handle instigating what must have been for him a terrifying tug of war. To the barista's credit he fought bravely, not wanting to give up, a look of determination etched on his face. However with my new found ghost strength I soon had the broom off him wrenching it out of his hands with a sudden pull.
I began to sweep the floor with the broom, if only because I thought it was the most frightening thing I could do. The barista backed up slowly, his tread wary, his eyes wide. And then finally he cracked – turned and ran out of the store without even locking up!
I did a little victory dance for a minute, but as my anger wore off I realised I was all alone. And now there was no one to make me coffee. I floated over to the coffee machine but I really had no idea how to use it. I also couldn't drink it, so what was the point? I opened up a pack of coffee beans and smelled them to get my kicks instead. Miserable and lonely as I was, there was something soothing about that smell.
Did you know that ghosts can't sleep? I didn't until last night. When I finally wrenched myself away from the coffee beans I was so bored I cleaned the store and locked it up from the inside. There wasn't much I could do about the hole I'd put in the wall, but I found some duct tape and patched it up.
The barista arrived at five am but to me it felt like forever. I noticed he was hesitant and pale as he peered around the door, so I was very careful not to make any movements or sounds. After all, if I was to ever escape this place I would need help. I watched as he quietly slipped into the building and made his way to the coffee machine. I'd cleaned up as much as I could but clearly I hadn't cleaned up the machine properly as he started fiddling around with it. It was torture not to reach out to someone, to be acknowledged, but I was determined to stay where I was until customers arrived. After all, I had a plan.
What I hadn't counted on was how much I wanted coffee. The barista made himself a cup, and as he took a sip and smiled the smile of coffee satisfaction I wanted to wipe that smile right off his face in ghostly fashion. Instead I contented myself with a little bag of beans I had left on a table in the back corner of the room, smelling them as if my life depended on it.
It was some time before the little waitress arrived, her hair still in dozens of tiny braids. I wondered how long it took to do that as she popped her head around the door.
"Catrina," the barista said, "you're just in time!"
He held out a cup and saucer of coffee that he had just made but still Catrina did not budge from the door.
"This place is haunted!" Catrina blurted out. "I've just come for my pay."
The tall barista sighed and put the coffee on the bench. He pulled his goatee and rubbed his hand through his dark hair.
"Look, I've been here since five and nothing has happened to me, I don't know what happened yesterday, but maybe it was a one off thing."
Catrina didn't look convinced but she took a step inside the building and looked around as if she expected me to jump out at her at any minute.
"I don't know," Catrina almost whispered. "I just don't know."
The barista frowned. "If you stay I'll double your pay."
Catrina raised her eyebrows and stared. "Well," she said after a while, "I suppose I could come back.
But any freaky business and I'm leaving!" This last statement Catrina made while looking at the empty room, as if she were addressing me.
The barista smiled and pushed the coffee cup across the bench towards Catrina.
"It's a deal."
It wasn't until the place was busy that I dared to enact my plan. For hours I simply sat rocking backwards and forward sniffing my little packet of coffee beans in the darkest corner of the room. But during the pre-work rush, I floated off my chair and hovered next to the coffee machine, awaiting orders.
I waited until the little waitress, Catrina, was already busy delivering coffee to another side of the room. Then I grabbed the next order, a hazelnut latte, and slowly but surely glided it over to the lady who had ordered it. In the corner of my eye I could see a hippy with dreadlocks staring at me with his mouth wide open, but the lady I had delivered to was so engrossed in conversation she merely said "thank you," with a sideways glance and kept talking.
Clearly I had not thought this through enough. I needed more attention for my plan to work. I glided across the room and returned to my corner. That's where I found it – the little packet of coffee beans I'd been sniffing last night. I took the bag to the centre of a group of tables where people were already seated and began to spell out the words 'help me' in coffee beans on the floor.
At first nobody noticed, but halfway through help a lady screamed. I froze, wondering if this was really going to work the way I wanted it to. Then I pushed on, for I had no other plan. A well dressed business man with grey hair was the next to comment.
"How do you do that?" He asked Catrina, his face all screwed up.
"Do wha-" Catrina began to ask, but then stopped short as she noticed the beans on the floor.
She nearly dropped the coffee cup she'd been holding, but an elderly lady took it off her. I figured the old lady didn't want to wait for her coffee, or perhaps it wasn't her coffee and she was just an opportunist. Either way, she was the only person who didn't seem bothered by what I was doing.
But that wasn't what I needed. Someone who believed in ghosts but wasn't interested in helping me or simply thought it was all a marvel of modern technology wouldn't solve the situation I was in. I needed an expert – someone who knew what they were doing and wanted to do it.
Finally, as I was spelling out the last e, the barista with the goatee walked out of the prep area to see what all the fuss was about. He went even paler than normal and put a hand on Catrina's shoulder. They exchanged a look – Catrina's worried face staring up at the barista's stern expression.
"Don't worry," the barista said, "I'll handle this." He then went and picked up the phone.
I had no idea who he was calling but at least it was a start. It's always hard to make out exactly what's being said when you can only hear one side of a conversation, but I distinctly heard the words, "I need your talents, I will pay you."
Somehow the barista's phone call didn't reassure everyone else, as now that I'd finished spelling they were all leaving in droves. Catrina sat down on a chair so quickly it was as if she couldn't support herself any longer. I wondered who was coming, and if they would be friendly.
It was a fine sunny afternoon when the priest arrived. The coffee shop was empty, except for the barista, the priest and myself, due to a 'closed for exorcism' sign on the front door.
"Hello Kenneth ," the young priest said, holding out a hand to the barista. "I'm Zan."
Kenneth took Zan's hand and shook once before letting go. "Welcome Zan, I hope you can help us with the problem we've been having."
As their conversation continued, I tried not to take offense to being called a problem. After all, I wanted someone who was able to see me. To this end I floated up in front of Zan and waved my hands around in front of his face. "Hello!" I shouted.
But Zan did not acknowledge me, he simply continued talking to Kenneth.
Frustrated, I grabbed Zan's hand and shook it. Zan jumped and stared, not at me, but at his hand.
"This ghost is capable of terrible things, but I think he just wants-" Kenneth broke off, seeing Zan staring at his hand.
Zan reached inside his robes and produced a cross, which he proceeded to wave around madly.
"Out, foul demon, out!" He shouted.
This would have been more impressive to me if I wasn't standing right behind him. Clearly Zan could not see me. I was so disappointed I grabbed a small bag of coffee beans and tipped them all over Zan's head.
"Kenneth," Zan practically shouted, "get out of here, it's not safe!"
"I'll give you not safe," I said and poked Zan in the bum with a broom.
Zan jumped and started splashing something around. It didn't take me long to realise it was holy water. Or at least it was supposed to be. I floated under a spray of it deliberately and it went right through me. Not for the first time, I figured that Zan was not a very good priest.
As Zan pulled a small bible out of his coat and began to recite "Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures..." I decided I'd had enough. I wasn't a demon and Zan really should take up something other than being a priest. I filled a coffee cup with boiling water and floated it towards Zan menacingly. Zan very bravely tried to continue as I approached with a stuttered "to-today and to-tomorrow," but as I drew closer he completely lost his nerve and ran out of the store.
I sighed and put the coffee cup on the table. Outside I could hear Zan saying that I was a very strong demon and Kenneth should give up all hope. I hoped that Kenneth had more sense than Zan. I picked up the broom of the floor and began to sweep the coffee beans I'd dropped while Zan was in the shop. "A very strong demon indeed!" I could hear Zan saying in a high pitched voice, but he seemed quite far away. I turned to watch his departure and sure enough he was in his car starting the engine.
I slumped over a table and floated there for a while. What would become of me? Would I ever escape this coffee shop? And why did I still want to drink coffee when I couldn't? Kenneth re-entered the shop and I perked up, delighted and hopeful.
"I hope you're happy!" Kenneth said in my general direction.
"No I'm not actually," I said, rubbing a finger over the table. It was a hopeless effort though as Kenneth, clearly not hearing me, picked up his phone and tried calling someone else.
I listened with intent interest as Kenneth said, "hello, is this wizard for hire?"
Oh dear, I thought. Who was coming next?
It was early evening when the wizard arrived. He wasn't like a story book wizard – no long beard or robes and not a wrinkle in sight. Instead, he was a young man in a business suit with a brief case and dark glasses. Kenneth offered him his hand and they shook, each taking the measure of each other, both nodding slightly.
"I'm Ahmet," the wizard said. "You must be Kenneth."
"Indeed I am," Kenneth said. "Can you help me with my problem? I thought we had a ghost, but the priest said it's a very strong demon."
Ahmet cast a glance around the coffee shop from the doorway and took a deep breath. "There is no demon here, my friend."
"Whatever it is, can you make it go away?" Kenneth whispered. I threw a coffee bean at his head.
Ahmet noticed and raised his eyebrows. "I shall try." He said.
Ahmet pulled something from his pocket of his coat and I watched with interest as he began to hammer two nails into the door frame. I waited patiently for him to enter the store. But in the very next moment Ahmet turned around and headed back to his car. I clasped my non-corporeal hands together in impatience.
When Ahmet returned I rushed to the door. To my great relief he finally entered the coffee shop and he was carrying a great big bag of salt. If he saw me he didn't show it, he simply started pouring a line of salt around the inside boundary of the store. I watched with interest, wondering if this would actually do something to me, and when he finished I floated up to his face and waved my arms around wildly. Ahmet took no notice and began to walk outside.
I grabbed the bottom edge of Ahmet's coat, the way a child would grab at clothes for attention. I knew it wasn't the most mature response, but as Ahmet couldn't see me I was running out of options. Ahmet stopped, looked down, and then said to the room at large, "I shall return!"
Relieved, I let go of Ahmet's clothing. Ahmet walked outside to his car, where Kenneth was waiting.
"You have a very lonely ghost my friend," Ahmet said, as he grabbed a large staff from his little car.
"Do you think that the ghost is dangerous?" Kenneth asked in a whisper.
"I do not think he is evil, no," replied Ahmet. "But I shall try to move him on for you."
Ahmet entered the store where I was currently doing back-flips in mid air to see if Ahmet would take notice. He didn't. Instead he walked to the centre of the store, planted the staff with a resounding bang and raised a hand. "Let the dead return to the dead," he began and his coat and trousers began to ripple as if they were in a strong wind. "Let the living be surrounded only by the living," he shouted, and his eyes changed colour to gold.
"That's a damn cool party trick!" I shouted.
Ahmet continued as if he couldn't hear me. "Let these four walls contain only good, and let all the living here be protected from harm."
I could literally feel a cold wind as Ahmet said these words, and as he finished he lowered his arm, lifted his staff and a hush fell over the room.
I felt really calm somehow, and as Ahmet left the room I tried to follow him.
I got stuck at the doorway however, and I stared at the floor in disappointment. "What I could really use right now is a cup of coffee!" I said out loud, to no one at all.
"Is that right, dear?"
I looked up in shock. I hadn't been expecting anyone to hear me. Outside was a very old lady, judging by her wrinkles and her white hair. She was also blind, as her eyes had a milky appearance, and she wasn't focusing on anything.
And that's why it was really weird when she stared at the sign on the front door. Kenneth returned from saying goodbye to Ahmet, who was now driving away in his car.
"What's going on here, dear?" the little old lady asked Kenneth.
"We're trying to exorcise a ghost," Kenneth said, with a completely straight face and a deadpan voice.
"Oh no," the old lady said, entering the store, "you shouldn't do that, that will only make him angry."
I perked up at this; the old lady was on to something.
"Wait, be careful," Kenneth nearly shouted.
The little old lady walked to the centre of the store and looked at me. Even though she was blind, she seemed to see me.
"I'm not afraid, dear," the old lady said.
Kenneth stood in the doorway for a long moment, staring at the old lady in what appeared to be shock.
"I tell you what," the old lady said, "if you make me a cup of coffee, I'll have a chat to your ghost."
Kenneth hesitated at the doorway, then after a moment's consideration he walked over to the coffee machine. As he started to make a coffee the old lady once again turned her attention to me.
"Pull me up a chair sonny," the old lady said.
Intrigued, I did as she said, placing the chair right behind her so she couldn't miss it. The old lady sat down very slowly and then stared at the ceiling, which meant that she looked right at me, as I was floating above her.
"I see you, Ronald Story," the old lady said.
I froze in surprise. Ronald Story was my pen name.
"A productive writer is what you were," she continued, "but you never did have much patience."
At the words 'you were' I felt so miserable I couldn't speak, but I continued to listen.
"Why is it that you won't go on to the afterlife?" The old lady asked me. "What is your unfinished business?"
At this, I had to think. It was true that I had a novel I hadn't finished, but on the grand scale of things this didn't seem to matter. I wished I had made things work better with my ex-wife, but she was lost to me now and there was no point going back to her as a ghost.
"I," I said, "I simply wanted more time!"
"We all want more time when we are having a good time dear, but we all get what we are given."
The old lady's tone was soft and understanding. If I could have I would have cried.
"Then how," I began, "how do I get out of this store?"
"The answer," replied the old lady, "is within you."
At this point Kenneth brought the old lady a coffee. She turned her head slightly at the sound of his footsteps and indicated a nearby table. "Just place it over there dear, thank you."
Kenneth did as she said and then retreated, as if he were afraid to be near me. I watched in a daze as the old lady stood and took a sip of coffee.
"What do you mean, the answer is within me?" I asked, dreading the answer.
The old lady closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying her coffee. The moment passed and the old lady looked down at me, for I was floating near the floor now, which was just easier in the mood I was in.
"That," the old lady replied, "is for you to find out."
"But how do I find out?" I blurted out, unable to suppress my curiosity and frustration.
"It will take something you're not accustomed to waiting for," the old lady replied.
I thought for a minute while the old lady drained her cup. I wanted to appear really smart and knowledgeable, but I had no idea what the answer was. Finally I asked, "What do you mean?"
The old lady smiled kindly. "It will take time dear, it will take time."
With this last mysterious statement the old lady turned to Kenneth.
"Don't be afraid of this one," she said, "it is quite safe to reopen your store."
Then with one last look at me she said, "Do behave dear, your afterlife depends on it."
And with that, she walked out of the coffee shop.
I wasn't entirely sure that the old lady had helped me at all. The only reason I was considering what she said was because she could 'see' and hear me, when other people couldn't. Kenneth also seemed bewildered, his expression a puzzled frown. Seeing as I couldn't talk to him I decided to negotiate a truce by being nice. After all, perhaps the old lady would come back. Or someone else who could see ghosts would arrive.
I picked up the cup and saucer the old lady left on the table and floated it over to Kenneth. His eyes widened and his hands shook a little, but he did not move. I placed the cup and saucer gently on the bench and then, for lack of anything better to do, I grabbed a broom from out back and started sweeping the floor.
"I thought you had this place exorcised!" I listened to this startled outcry with some annoyance and spun around to see Catrina at the door.
Kenneth was frowning at the broom, which to him must have looked as if it was floating in mid-air.
"It didn't work," Kenneth replied.
Catrina rolled her eyes, placed her hands on her hips and was probably about to suggest something awful when Kenneth continued.
"I have an idea." He said. "The ghost can help us."
Catrina blinked a few times. "The ghost can what?" She finally said.
"Help us," Kenneth said with determination. He turned to me. "You've got nothing better to do, right?"
I considered Kenneth's offer. I may as well, after all, a haunted coffee shop would attract people who were interested in ghosts. Maybe one of them would be able to see me and give good advice. I dropped the broom and grabbed a small packet of coffee beans from behind the counter. I pulled them out one by one and spelled 'yes' on a nearby table. Kenneth looked pleased. Catrina looked like she might pass out.
Despite Catrina's reservations, she seemed to deal quite well with me in the kitchen, giving me little odd jobs to do here and there. However, when it came time to open the store to customers she had a few misgivings.
"I don't think our customers are going to handle this very well," she whispered to Kenneth.
"Sure they will," he whispered back. "People will come from miles around to see something that can't be seen."
I waited by the kitchen irritably. I was a ghost, I wasn't deaf.
Five minutes later our first customer came in, a female cyclist dressed all in lycra.
"A cappuccino to have here please," she asked nicely and paid in cash.
"One cappuccino coming right up," Kenneth said. Meanwhile Catrina was busy cleaning.
I waited while Kenneth did things with the coffee machine like froth milk and boil coffee beans. When the cappuccino was ready Kenneth handed it in what he thought was my general direction and said, "Ronald, could you deliver to the lady please?"
"Who's Ronald?" The nice cyclist lady asked.
I took the cup and saucer and drifted over to her table, sliding the coffee towards her. The lady gave a little shriek and doubled up on herself, clutching her knees to her chest.
I drifted away to give the lady some space but she was looking from side to side like as if she expected to see wires or a person.
"It's okay," Kenneth said, although his forehead was creased with concern. "Ronald is our friendly ghost."
"Ghost?" The lady said. "There's no such thing as ghosts!"
I really wanted to slap this lady, but I clenched my ghostly fists and stayed in my corner of the room.
"Actually there is," Catrina piped up, "I never used to believe in them either."
The lady raised her eyebrows and muttered about candid camera when another lady cyclist entered the store. The second lady was clad in jeans and a t-shirt and her presence seemed to distract the first lady cyclist sufficiently that she settled down and stopped asking questions.
The second lady cyclist ordered a flat white and sat down at the same table as her friend. I hovered near the kitchen hopefully, but Kenneth gave the coffee to Catrina to deliver. I slumped over and started floating upside down, depressed that Kenneth seemed to have given up on his idea already.
But then a gaggle of teenage boys entered the coffee shop and as Kenneth started pumping out coffee after coffee he called out "Ronald, don't wander off, we'll need your help here."
I flipped up the right way round and perked up considerably. The first cup of coffee went to a tall boy with a large nose and blue eyes.
"Whoa!" Was his response as the coffee floated through the air. "How do you do that? That is so cool!"
I beamed with pride and floated back to the kitchen. Two more coffees followed to ecstatic whoops and cheers from the table full of boys. I noticed that the lady cyclists were shaking their heads and whispering together whilst scanning the store as if they thought they could work out a scientific explanation. I didn't care, I was on such a high from being appreciated.
And then the coffee cravings hit me, stronger than ever before. I floated back to the kitchen and picked up a handful of coffee beans, sniffing them as hard as I could. Coffees piled up on the bench and Catrina rushed them here and there.
"Are you helping or not, Ronald?" Kenneth almost shouted.
I clenched my handful of beans in determination, forced myself to float to the bench where the coffees were sitting and attempted to pick up a cup. I say attempted as I was shaking very badly and the coffee spilled over the edge of the cup on to the saucer. Kenneth saw this and shook his head.
My feelings plummeted. I felt so low and useless that I was tempted to throw a cup at the wall again. Instead, I placed my hands flat on the bench and waited a few minutes for the shaking to subside. By this point the coffees had all been delivered, but I was determined to help with the next round.
As the next customers entered I felt my spirits rise. They had parked a news van out front. This was my real chance for exposure! Catrina took their order, (two black coffees, no sugar, to go), and I steeled myself to give a great performance.
I felt like I couldn't wait for Kenneth to make the order, even though I knew it wouldn't take long due to the simplicity of the drinks. Kenneth went to hand the coffees to the news crew and I lifted the drinks out of his hand and I held out the foam cups to a lady who I presumed was a reporter as she looked like a blonde model.
Instead of taking the offered drinks the lady turned to what must be the camera man, a short guy with short brown hair.
"Michael, grab the camera, quick!"
Michael didn't need to be told twice. He ran across the road to the news van, wrenched open the sliding door and heaved a camera to his shoulder. By the time he'd run back he was already filming.
"This is Penelope Harris reporting from 'Coffee on the Corner,' a coffee shop on the corner of Long and Main. Today we are witnessing what appears to be ghostly activity, as coffee cups hover in the air."
At this Penelope turned to the side and gestured to the coffees I was holding.
"Hoax or ghost?" Penelope asked, turning back to the camera. "Come visit 'Coffee on the Corner' and find out!"
At this Michael stopped filming and Penelope took the coffees I handed her.
"Thanks for the story," she said to Kenneth with a wink.
"No problem, thank you!" Kenneth said, seemingly in a daze.
As soon as the news crew had left Catrina grabbed Kenneth's arm and started jumping up and down Kenneth looked at her and she let out a squeal.
"We're going to be on the tele!" She shrieked.
Kenneth snapped out of his daze and broke into a smile.
"Good job Ronald," he said. "Good job."
The day after the news report the coffee shop was so busy Catrina and I could barely keep up with the orders. But we worked all morning without incident, for now that people had heard that Coffee on the Corner was haunted they were genuinely curious and not so freaked out. Strange how that worked, but I suppose we were attracting the people who were interested and repelling the people who were not.
I was mid-way through delivering a coffee to the table when the cravings hit. They were so bad I doubled over, nearly dropping the cup. I was shaking as well, and I as I approached the table coffee began to slop over the sides of the cup. I attempted to lower the cup to the table and instead tipped it over. Coffee spilled all over the table and all over a red-haired lady's lap.
I was so embarrassed I could have screamed. The lady did scream, and Catrina dropped everything and ran to grab the first aid box. Upon arriving at the table however, I could see Catrina visibly breathe a sigh of relief. It was iced coffee that I'd been delivering.
"I'm so sorry," Catrina told the lady. "I'll grab you a towel right away."
The red-haired lady did not look particularly relieved by this and began to dab at her clothes with a napkin, which filled with coffee after approximately three seconds.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled, but of course the lady didn't hear.
Catrina returned with towels and the red-haired lady snatched them off her.
"Get your ghost under control!" She snapped, and stormed out of the coffee shop.
Everyone went quiet for a minute and Catrina looked like she might cry. I patted her on the shoulder as if to say, 'there, there,' but Catrina went rigid under my touch.
"Having a ghost help was a stupid idea!" She announced and then stormed off into the break room.
I looked at Kenneth, who was frowning, and I felt very small. But then he said, "Hurry up Ronald, there are people waiting," and I noticed a group of cups on the bench.
I stopped shaking and began to deliver again. People went back to their conversations and I felt relieved.
It was on the third day after the news report that he arrived. A wannabe writer with his laptop. He ordered coffee after coffee until he had the shakes. Catrina, who seemed to have forgiven me, took his order for his fourth cup of coffee but I delivered to his table.
I hesitated on handing this man a coffee. The man looked up and for a moment all he could see was his coffee cup floating in mid-air.
"Put it on the table you damn ghost!" The man snapped at me, and I was tempted to throw the coffee in his face.
Instead, I gently placed the cup on the table and 'sat' down opposite him.
"You don't want to do this you know," I said, even though the man clearly could not hear me.
He continued to type and took a sip of his coffee.
"You're so impatient and so rude," I continued. "You're what I used to be like –and now I'm dead!"
The man took no notice, and I forged on regardless.
"You need to slow down," I said. "Working hard is good, but you need to take care of yourself and be kind to other people."
At this the man took another shaky sip of coffee. I found I couldn't stand to watch. So I floated around behind the man and read what he was writing.
Surprisingly it was a romance story, and at the sight of the line 'it was love at first sight' I rolled my eyes and took over the keyboard. I hit the caps lock key and typed NO MORE COFFEE FOR YOU TODAY.
The man stated at what I'd written, his eyes nearly bulging out of his head. For some reason it had become normal for a ghost to deliver coffee, but I guess he hadn't expected to interact with me in any other way. Finally, after a minute's consideration, the man closed his laptop and walked out of the store in a hurry. I gave a little cheer and did a little dance.
Mid-dance I stopped. There was an unusually bright light at the coffee shop's front door. I floated over to it, curious as to what it was. As I floated in front of the light, I heard a voice.
"Have you any last requests?" The voice boomed.
I didn't know what was happening but it sounded very final. I thought for a minute, but I knew what I wanted.
"Well," I said, "I would like a cup of coffee."
"You have five minutes," the voice boomed.
I felt a tingling sensation and I looked down. My body was no longer see-through. I turned to stare at Kenneth and Catrina and it was obvious from their shock that they could see me.
I walked over to them.
"I'm sorry, I have to go," I said.
They stared at me, still in shock.
"But before I go, could I have a coffee?"
Kenneth and Catrina looked at each other.
"Of course!" They answered in unison.
Kenneth set about making a flat white and I turned to Catrina.
"I'm sorry I was rude to you," I said.
"It's okay," she said, "I forgive you."
We smiled at each other for a moment until Kenneth passed me a cup of coffee.
"Thank you," I said, taking the offered cup.
"No, thank you," Kenneth said, and he blinked a lot and sniffed.
Whether he was sad because I would no longer be a draw card or because he would miss me, I couldn't tell. I took a sip of coffee and sighed a happy sigh.
"It is time to go," the deep voice boomed and I could see myself turning translucent again.
I put down the coffee cup and walked to the door. I didn't know where I was going, but it was a new adventure. I took a step through the door and waved goodbye.