I don’t even like coffee. I’m in here for the barista, who I like very much, and who has failed to notice me this morning on any of the seventeen occasions I’ve walked past the window.
My legs feel like froth.
“What can I get you?” she asks.
“What have you got?”
She rolls her eyes and steps aside to reveal the menu.
“Er, give me an Americano with an extra shot.”
She passes me a loyalty card – stamped – which I take to mean she wants to see me again.
At a table, I drink the coffee, which goes to my head, and use the free Wi-Fi to do a bit of research, which includes finding facts to impress her with. Here’s one: the world’s most expensive coffee is fed to some sort of cat, then pulled from its poo and sold for hundreds of pounds. Tastes less acidic, apparently.
I’m sure that’s not all it tastes.
I write my mobile number on the loyalty card.
Back in the queue and I’m behind a guy in a suit. He has a handkerchief in his top pocket and his nose in the air. Don’t look down on me, pal, we’re all here for the same thing.
Well, we’re not.
Or maybe we are. What’s he smiling at her for? I stand close enough to make us both feel weird and he moves on down the counter.
“Break!” she yells, and disappears through a door, and now I’m dealing with – who is this? He’s a walking latte. Tall and skinny and so much milk. He asks if he can help. No, not really.
“I’ll take a flat white,” I say. “With a pump of vanilla. And whip.”
“Whip?” he checks.
“Whip.” I keep hold of my card.
Sitting down, I neck the flat white and regret it. I have cream up my nostrils. You can die from an overdose of caffeine, it says here. My heart is crashing around in my chest. My head feels light. I should leave at this point, but I can’t. Instead I empty the napkins from the dispenser on the table and count them. There are one hundred and four.
She’s back, emerging through the steam.
Once more to the queue and I’m wired. I could start a fight right now. This kid to my left has nudged me with his satchel – twice – so I’d have grounds. I glare at him and must look a full package of crazy because he steps away with his hands up.
That’s right, satchel boy.
OK, this is it. I lead with the phone number. She looks at the card, then back at me.
My legs are gone again.
“What would you like?” she asks.
“I’d like a Grande Mocha – whatever that is – soy, triple shot, extra hot, four pumps hazelnut, two pumps peppermint, caramel drizzle, all the cream. And you can hold the cat crap.”
“You want sprinkles?” she laughs.
Mark Stocker is a writer and advertising creative from Suffolk, England. He won the Flash 500 2021 Short Story Competition and has had stories shortlisted by Cranked Anvil and Lunate Fiction, and published by The Phare and Flash Fiction Magazine.