“I’ll have a coffee please.”
“Certainly sir. Which of our ninety thousand combinations would you like?”
“Oh. Eh? Erm. Just give me an espresso.”
“Short, tall, grande or venti sir?”
“Can I interest you in milk or syrup or caramel or cream or chocolate with your coffee sir?”
“What? No, I, er, I just want a coffee thanks.”
“Yeah I am…” Carl feels his cheeks redden.
The barista smiles politely. “You’re new to this aren’t you sir?”
“Yes I am. I’m a little nervous to tell the truth. I hope other people like this book I’ve brought along to read. I don’t really know the author. Is it pronounced Sharlene or Charlene?” Carl showed the man his book choice.
“Ah, excellent choice. If you take a glance sir, you can see that a lot of other people had the same idea. And don’t worry about your lack of confidence about the book, you’re not the first to fear what the others might think. But usually, once people see other people reading the same book it calms them a bit. Do you feel calmer now sir, knowing that you’re not alone in choosing that book?”
“Yes. Yes I do. Thank you.”
“Not at all sir. It looks like it must be a good one. Look at her smile.” The man points over Carl’s shoulder who turns to see a woman who is smiling like a maniac as she intently stares at a page. Her hand waits with the corner of the page ready to turn in an instant.
“Yes. She does seem to be enjoying it.” Carl ums and ers for a minute. “On second thoughts, maybe I’d like something extra in my coffee. Is that reasonable?”
“Of course. Latte?”
“Is it wise?”
“Regular, skinny, whole or soy?”
“I can’t be sure.”
“Sure you can be. Just say one of the words.”
“All right, I’ll say… skinny.”
“Ah, the healthy option.”
“Oh? Good. I’m trying to watch my waist.” It was true, Carl joined a gym just a month ago to battle the increasing layer of fat growing about his core.
“Most are. Most are.” The man looks round behind him and shouts something. A voice shouts back. “It’ll just be a moment sir.”
“I can wait. But, erm, should I read my book while I wait?”
“Yes, you can if you like sir.”
“What, here by the counter?”
“People tend to take a chair. If you look sir, that one by the window is free. That would allow you to occasionally gaze out at the street, and it would also allow a great deal more people see what an excellent choice in reading material you made.”
“That is a good idea. Thank you.”
“Not at all. I’ll be happy to bring your caffe latte over to you when it’s ready. Is that all sir?”
“Er, is it?”
“Yes, it can be sir.”
“Then I’ll go and wait over by the window. I’ll read my book to pass the time.”
“Very good. Thank you for your custom sir.”
Carl wanders over to the window seat the barista recommended for him. He sits facing away from the window, but realises he won’t be able to gaze out of it easily, nor will people be able to see his excellent choice of book, written by Charlene (or Sharlene) Handcock. A great author, very popular. He awkwardly shuffles around to the other side of the table, attracting a few glances that quickly return to the page they were reading. A few moments later his coffee arrives. The barista says that he ought to continue to read as the coffee is exceptionally hot. He estimates it will be another seven minutes and twelve seconds before Carl should take the first sip.
“If you need me to guide you on how to take a sip then please call me over sir. I will be happy to help. And don’t worry, a lot of people don’t know how to do it the first time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Thank you very much. I’ll give it a try by myself first, but if I can’t do it then I’ll call you over.”
The barista nods and leaves for the counter. Carl continues to read the story. It must be very good because whenever he looks out of the window there are people standing looking at him reading it with expressions of approval. Exactly seven minutes and twelve seconds later Carl closes the book and prepares to sip at his coffee. He purses his lips and steadies himself. He gently touches the cup to his bottom lip and tips it slightly, a sip’s worth of coffee enters his mouth.
“Wow. That was especially well done sir.” The barista calls from across the shop.
“Ah. Merely beginners luck.” Carl puts the cup down and picks the book back up. He is unsure as to whether the coffee is too hot to drink still. He can’t let go of the nagging suspicion that it isn’t and so puts the book down and prepares himself to take another sip. This time he tips it further and allows a little more to enter his mouth. Upon doing so he has a revelation. He stands and takes his cup of coffee over to the counter.
“This coffee tastes shitty.”
The barista smiles slyly and his eyes twinkle. “That’s because it is.” He shifts to the side slightly, allowing Carl to catch a glimpse of the kitchen area. Appallingly, he witnesses a bulbous globe of a man wearing only a t-shirt kneeling on the floor with a thick tube piercing his anus. A brown fluid flows through the tube into the man. Once all the fluid has gone from the tube, it’s removed and the man’s hole plugged up. He is then shaken by two large mechanical arms that pinch around his equatorial waist, they turn him around one eighty degrees and his anus is unbunged so that the fluid explodes out like blood from a split artery, filling a waiting tray of cups and glasses. The man has continental sweat patches underneath both armpits and his brow is dripping.
The barista steps back in front of Carl, “You probably won’t like it if you see where the latte comes from though sir. Oh, and it’s pronounced Shar–le–nay sir.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” Carl says casually and takes his post-enema coffee back to the table by the window and continues to read the latest novel by his favourite author.