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Coffee and Books
by Ambika Thompson

15 coffee mugs clip art free cliparts that you can download to you ...

Ambika is a parent, musician, and writer living in Berlin. She has contributed short stories to NPR Berlin, and Fanzine, and has had stories shortlisted for the Reader Short Story 2012, and the Fresher Writer Prize 2015 contests. She is also one half of a cello riot grrl band. http://ambikathompson.com

“Not everything is about love,” I told the employee at Starbucks after he asked me if I was reading a love story when he saw the book in my hand. It was pink. I thought that might have confused him.

 “What’s it about then?,” he asked.

“Revenge,” I said too loudly, “Revenge against a nosey Starbucks barista.”

He rolled his eyes at me and said, “Cranky.” Then he asked the person behind me what they wanted, followed by, “Is your book a love story?” I turned to look at the man standing behind me that was holding a book that had written on it in gigantic letters Donald Rumsfeld: Man, Myth or Moron. The man shook his head, “Did you know that Rumsfeld only had a B.A. in politics?”

The Starbucks employee smiled, “Really? Was he ever in love?”

I came back the next day wearing a disguise; a fedora and an adhesive moustache, and carrying a different book, the Oxford English Dictionary. 

When it was my turn at the counter he asked me, “Is that a crime novel?” I hadn’t expected that to be the question but I used the answer I had already prepared anyways. “Yes.” He smiled the same smile as yesterday and handed me a coffee. “I like crime novels. Have a nice day.”

I tried to overhear the next interactions he had with other customers as I slowly stirred sugar into my coffee. The distance, the crap slow jazz, and the noise of the milk-froth-thing-a-ma-jigger made it hard to make out for sure what he was saying, but it seemed that he asked everyone the same question. I knew I had to get to the bottom of this barista’s story.

The next day I came in wearing a head device that I had made the previous night. Tinfoil hearing cones where fixed, via a neon pink colander, to my ears so I could hear him better when I stood stirring my coffee. I also wore thick glasses, so he wouldn’t recognize my face and carried a new book, Pat Robertson’s New World Order. He didn’t ask me about the book, and only referenced to it to remind me not to leave it behind. For a moment I thought it had all been in my head. As I stood stirring sugar into my coffee I eavesdropped on his next interactions.

“Is that a cookbook?” he asked a young woman. I knew it. “It” being not entirely too well defined in my mind though.

I waited on the sidewalk across the street for him to finish work. To my dismay he had the closing shift, so by the time he was done, I was cold, tired and hungry. I knew I should have brought a lawn chair, and packed a lunch.

When he left I followed slowly behind him to avoid being detected, but I wasn’t very good at it. He seemed nervous as he walked. He kept looking back at me, quickening his pace every time he realized that I was still there. We rounded another corner and he dashed inside Starbucks Headquarters. I froze. I knew that I couldn’t follow him inside.

I scanned the office windows for signs of life. Most were dark, but then he appeared in a window looking directly at me. A man came up behind him. I eagerly anticipated a sexy moment. Instead he reached under the barista’s chin, making it look as though he was about to choke him. I held my breath. Then to my horror, he ripped his face off. I wanted to look away but that’s when I saw it. He was a robot. The man seemed to be doing something with his head, then he put the barista’s face back on. He was still looking at me as he turned away from the window.

I waited all night for him to come out again, and as he did, presumably to go to work, I immediately jumped him and started beating him with a pipe.

I swear officer, they’re taking over. That’s really what happened. How can you not believe me? Starbucks is evil.

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