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Early Morning Pour

From YOU'RE WELCOME: stories on service

(excerpt)

Julie comes into work at eleven today.  She’s the closer.  I get to leave at five if there’s no happy hour traffic.  (There rarely is, except on Holidays.)  I usually stay a little longer.  See if she needs anything. 

 

Around nine forty-five an older man comes in, wearing a wet winter coat and sunglasses, his hands jammed into his pockets.  He’s clearly been outside for some time.  I nod at him when our eyes meet, but I’m skeptical to do anything else.  He sort of reminded me of my Little League baseball coach – who terrified me, though I never knew why; Dark eyes.  Towering height.  The fact he smoked cigarettes and didn’t speak much.  And he would rarely look us in the eye.  As soon as this guy walked in the café I knew there was something suspicious about him, but I couldn’t do much to prevent it.  He ambled over to the to-go and condiments table, which rested below the “Looking to Hire” ads.  He stayed there, staring at the wall, reading each “Wanted” ad, for nearly fifteen minutes. I changed playlists four different times, shifting from classic rock, to contemporary pop, to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to Roy Orbison.  When “It’s Over” came on he turned away from the wall of employment – hands still in his pockets – and moved toward the register. 

I didn’t acknowledge him, instead opting to stand guard at the register and wait for him to speak on what he needed.  Normally I would start talking to someone before they even made it through the door, but this guy creeped me out – and he kept swishing around something in his mouth, a cherry twist, a rope, frog legs, who the shit knew.

But then he started talking.  And I had no choice but to listen.

           

On a Friday, I decided I was going to tell Julie how I felt about her.  The next day.  But first I needed to accomplish a series of assignments:

  1. Shower

  2. Listen to the Lemonheads album It’s A Shame About Ray a few times, purposefully skipping the “Mrs. Robinson” cover – which, although it makes for a solid cover, is not a song I need to hear so often.

  3. Think it over

  4. Think things through

  5. Double check and see if Julie is still working the next day, ensuring no one has switched or picked up her shift

  6. Re-read the last few weeks of text messages, IM and email correspondence with her, as my instincts were right in assuming she was really into me lately

  7. Drink a fifth of gin I had stashed underneath my mattress

  8. Get a haircut?

  9. Think it over

  10.  Eat

  11.  Get a good night’s sleep

  12.  Don’t worry so much about it

  13.  But still, think things through

  14.  Make sure the shower I took is still leaving a clean impression.  If not, re-shower

  15.  Eat an English muffin with chunky peanut butter 

 

I finished work early for a Friday, and turned the open sign to close at five-forty.  The boos would be unhappy with this, but the boos is never around on a Friday.  The boos is too busy boosing his wife and kids around. 

            Kodak is standing outside, taking photos of the sunset from Gulliver Street.  I usually catch him around the time I’m throwing out the coffee, and he’s become such a devout hand-me-downer most of us instantly set up a large cup for him whenever we pour out the day’s coffee.  “Instant coffee,” I always say to him as I hand him the cup, which makes me smile after a long day, although Kodka doesn’t get the joke, and only smiles and does a mock-Irish jig in place – but not too much, as his camera is dangling around his neck.  Kodak reminds me of being in this town and the eccentricity it submits.  I love people like him.  He could run for mayor tomorrow and probably get fifteen or twenty percent of the votes, on the simple fact everyone only knows him as Kodak, the quiet kid who walks around and takes photos of everything in town, lives with his parents, and drinks free “Instant coffee.”

           

            My name’s Eric.  Plain and small.  I make three hundred and seventy-so bucks a week.  I don’t get into too much trouble, because I don’t trust anyone to bail me out.  My favorite song in the whole world is “Hi-Fi” by M. Ward, which is tricky, as it sounds like a pleasant, upbeat jingle-jangle, but the truth is it’s a sad pop song.  

 

            I’m in love with a girl named Julie, which is just like listening to an orchestra tune their instruments, all trying to retain a clearer sound over the cacophony, then return to silence, awaiting the conductor’s first gesture.

 

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