Chapter 35:

(Tristan) Kai Has Disease

Cafe Eris


What the HELL was THAT. Bookmark here

Was that… was that a TOOTHBRUSH? Oh hell no. Who drilled a whole through my Bablo Batisse painting? Who’s responsible? WHO DID THIS?Bookmark here

I heard footsteps approaching and turned to see Scanta looking on with a content expressionBookmark here

Oh. I knew which bastard did this.Bookmark here

“You like it? It’s a new art installation.” he grinned. Bookmark here

I wanted to throw up. “No. It’s an art violation”.Bookmark here

I was shaking. UNACCEPTABLE, BARBARIC, ATROCIOUS, DESPICABLE, NEFARIOUS.Bookmark here

“You asked me to redesign the café. This-” I pointed to the clock (or whatever the hell it is) with all my vigour “-is RUINING my artistic VISION”. I stomped my foot, “What the heck! What kind of monster just drills a hole through a painting!?”Bookmark here

He let out a slow chuckle. I was two seconds away from slapping his disgustingly bald head.Bookmark here

“Tristan, you should maybe get your vision checked.”Bookmark here

One second away.Bookmark here

“Rika Park herself donated the piece to the café. She insisted on it,” He gave me a cheeky smirk.Bookmark here

Oh for pete’s sake. I can’t even get rid of it now. Or else-Bookmark here

“She’ll tear up the entire café if I remove it.” Bookmark here

That smug, bald, eagle looking maniac. I won’t forget this.Bookmark here

I glared at the clock. And then I noticed something disturbing…Bookmark here

The glass. The blue glass from the vase. Shoot. How did that get there? Maybe I shouldn’t say anything. If he doesn't mention anything, I won’t either. Bookmark here

His expression suddenly turned somber. Bookmark here

Oh no.Bookmark here

He switched up so fast it gave me whiplash… What was he plotting? Am I in trouble?Bookmark here

“Tristan. The reason I’m here is...” he placed his hand over his mouth. Why so dramatic? I held my breath.Bookmark here

“We must hold an employee meeting immediately.”Bookmark here

Huh? “But I thought we already did this months superlati-”Bookmark here

“Nono. It’s not about that.”Bookmark here

“Wait. But I’m the only employee at the store right now… Where’s Wabong?”Bookmark here

“Tristan! Stop interrupting me. This is important news.” He cleared his throat and took a deep breath,Bookmark here

“Kai has disease.”Bookmark here

“...Ok? What do you mean? Did you mean A disease? What kind of disease?”Bookmark here

He wiped away a fake tear, “It is better left unsaid.”Bookmark here

“Alright then.”Bookmark here

“C'mon Tristan! Show a little sympathy! A little compassion!”Bookmark here

I stared at him. What is this? A movie?Bookmark here

He huffed and rolled his eyes at my lackluster reaction. “Point is, the only employees left are you and Rahim. Ben also got fired. Permanently.”Bookmark here

Great. I’ve never even met the dude.Bookmark here

“Oh and Wabong,” he added. But can we even count him?”Bookmark here

His somber expression turned to excitement, “So! We’re taking new hires. Please design a poster and put it in the front window.” He slapped me on the back. “Also, get everything ready for today before Rahim gets here, since you showed up early.” He disappeared into his office. Bookmark here

I wonder what he does all day. Where does he even live? According to the architecture of this place, there is an upper floor. I guess that’s his home. Bookmark here

I sighed. Nothing good ever happens when I come to work early. Or so I thought.Bookmark here

“Aw, cheer up,” Lolita’s sweet voice rang through the café. In the spot that Scanta was standing earlier, was now Lolita looking pretty as ever in a dark blue dress, frilly style as usual. Bookmark here

I blinked. “Wait. How are you here? The café hasn't even opened yet.”Bookmark here

She flicked her wrist adorned with beaded bracelets, “Oh don’t worry about it. What’s important is that I got to see you.” Bookmark here

Her smile really made my day.Bookmark here

And then Scanta decided to ruin it once again. He barged into the main floor, “TRISTAN! STOP TALKING TO YOURSELF.”Bookmark here

Lolita had disappeared, she was nowhere to be seen. Bookmark here

Damnit. She hid because of him again. I didn’t feel like fighting this bald eagle today, “Sorry, I’ll get on to designing that poster right away.”Bookmark here

He strutted back to his office picking up a muffin on the way.Bookmark here

I drafted a quick flyer and taped it to the window. I should offer a public apology for baiting any poor soul into this café. But if I must suffer, I suppose others should as well. Bookmark here

-------------------------Bookmark here

Three difficult weeks went by with no word from any applicants. I basically shouldered 70% of the shifts but Rahim still ended up winning the best employee award. We had one guy walk into the café to apply, but Scanta took one look at him and denied his application. He said that apparently, “We already have someone. We’re just waiting for them.”Bookmark here

Sounds like his usual bullcrap to me.Bookmark here

Another two weeks went by as the weather got a little warmer. The plants bloomed outside and Scanta used the café scissors to steal flowers (they were more like weeds) from the public displays to put in the café as “decor”, as he described it. I was running on 4 hours of sleep. At this point, Rahim and I spent more time at the café than anywhere else. It felt oddly empty without Kai though - and Wabong, even though he’s never here anyways.Bookmark here

The café’s bell rang to signify that someone had entered. It was a slow Tuesday afternoon and there were very few customers scattered throughout.Bookmark here

Suddenly Scanta, seemingly materializing out of thin air, came to welcome Maisha who had just walked in. He attempted to shake her hand but she snatched it away. As she should. Cooties. Bookmark here

“I’ve been expecting you,” he clasped his hands together.Bookmark here

She stared at him. “.................................Ok.”Bookmark here

She handed him a neatly stapled stack of crisp papers, “Here. It’s my resume,” she took a deep breath, “I want to work here.”Bookmark here

Rahim burst into the main floor, “WAIT REALLY? For real?!” his eyes went wide as he beamed.Bookmark here

She nodded. Rahim looked like he wanted to say something, but Maisha was fixed on the resume in Scanta’s hands.Bookmark here

Scanta leaned against the counter and flipped through the pages, pretending to read them. Should I tell him they’re upside down? Bookmark here

“Um, Scanta-” I interrupted, “you’re holding it u-’Bookmark here

“No one asked Tristan.”Bookmark here

Well then. Nevermind.Bookmark here

Rahim clutched his hands in anticipation. Scanta smiled and handed back her papers. Bookmark here

“Why do you want to work here?”Bookmark here

Maisha shifted around awkwardly, “I... just want to try something new. That’s all.”Bookmark here

That’s all?Bookmark here

Scanta’s face morphed into a frown, “I’m really sorry to say but, that was a lame answer soooooOOOO…” he held his breath dramatically, “We can’t hire you.” Bookmark here

“Oh. Ok.”Bookmark here

Rahim’s face dropped.Bookmark here

Scanta let out a boisterous laugh, “Just kidding! You’re hired.”Bookmark here

“Really?” Maisha questioned.Bookmark here

“Really!” Rahim exclaimed, his smile was back. “YES! It’s gonna be great! I can show you around!”Bookmark here

Scanta smiled expressively “Yes! I know I can count on Rahim, my most exceptional employee!” He gave me a pointed look.Bookmark here

Ok, screw you too Scanta. Bookmark here

“You’re in charge. I’m out!” He pointed finger guns at Rahim and turned to leave.Bookmark here

“Where are you going? This is your café.” Seriously, he always does this. Bookmark here

He completely ignored me, as usual, and headed for the door, humming. Bookmark here

“Wait! No proper interview?” Maisha asked.Bookmark here

Scanta, without turning back around, put up his hand and said, “Nope!”, and just like that he was gone.Bookmark here

We all stared at each other. “..... Now what?”Bookmark here

“I guess Rahim’s the new boss,” I said.Bookmark here

“Oh!? I am?” he smiled cluelessly. I can’t hate him. The kid was just happy to be here. “Ok, then I’ll give Maisha a tour of the place,” he dragged her away towards the baking equipment.Bookmark here

--------Bookmark here

Scanta unfortunately eventually came back the day after to give Maisha a proper schedule and hours. Rahim spent the rest of this week showing Maisha each and every kitchen appliance owned by the café. He spoke very passionately about our state of the art Byson Convection Oven. Genu would drop by sometimes as well, and he seemed kind of happy to see both kids working at the café.Bookmark here

This was actually great for me. Maisha was an even more average employee than I was so maybe I’d be spared this month from Scanta and his superlatives. Bookmark here

But one thing I wouldn’t be spared from, was Rika’s wrath. She decided to drop by today, AGAIN. Coco was with her as usual.Bookmark here

“Hey!!! Nice to see you again!” Rahim exclaimed. Maisha handed Coco a plate of frog bread from the display case. He gave her a small thanks and waved timidly to Rahim. Woah, his whole demeanour had changed.Bookmark here

“WHERE IS THE OWNER?” Rika demanded as she snatched the plate away from Coco.Bookmark here

Scanta came rushing towards us from his office, “Rika! How nice to see you here. What can I do for you?”Bookmark here

She set down the plate and handed him a brown envelope...This seemed super shady. Was I witnessing a crime? We all watched suspensefully as Scanta took out papers from the envelope. Bookmark here

What the heck.Bookmark here

They were some kid’s drawings. Scribbles of green and pink that were probably meant to be frogs with hearts above them. Some family portraits too except it was just stick figures of Coco and Rika I’m assuming. It was cute I guess. But it wasn’t real art.Bookmark here

“THESE ARE PRECIOUS AND VERY VALUABLE DRAWINGS DONE BY THE ONE AND ONLY COCO-CHAN. CHILDHOOD ART OF A GLOBAL CELEBRITY.” Bookmark here

Coco turned away to hide his face out of embarrassment.Bookmark here

“I’M GRACIOUSLY DONATING THEM TO BE PUT UP IN THE CAFÉ. THE DECOR, APART FROM THE CLOCK, IS TERRIBLY BORING. CHANGE IT. THIS IS NOT A REQUEST.”Bookmark here

Ah. So I AM witnessing a crime. And I couldn’t even object.Bookmark here

Scanta grinned, “Of course! I’d be more than happy to!”Bookmark here

Yeah, I bet you would, you bastard.Bookmark here

“And oh my gosh, I totally agree about the current decor, how about we put up these lovely drawings right over here?” He taped a drawing to my expertly crafted painting wall, which was now defiled by children’s art projects. Rika nodded in approval then went to sit at one of the tables with a cup of tea.Bookmark here

Scanta continued blatantly disrespecting my artistic vision by layering the “frog” drawings over the Ban Ba Vinci paintings right in front of all the customers. I sat during my break and watched in horror, unable to prevent this human rights crisis. Maisha and Rahim were (unwillingly) helping him, while no one was managing the rest of the café. Typical.Bookmark here

“New art installation?” said a voice from behind us. Bookmark here

I jumped and turned to see who had just walked in.Bookmark here

Oh great.Bookmark here

As if this day couldn’t get any worse. My lookalike who was (allegedly) more attractive, decided to show up. He flashed Rahim and Maisha a smile. Rahim returned it, Maisha did not.Bookmark here

“Hey! If it isn’t the better looking version of Tristan!” Scanta shouted for the entire café to hear. “What can I do for you?”Bookmark here

Trevor laughed awkwardly. “Oh, I’m just here to-” he noticed Maisha’s employee name tag “Hey, you work here now?” he asked her.Bookmark here

“Yep. Why are you here?”Bookmark here

“Oh, I’m just picking up some pastries. Half a dozen lemon bars. It’s cool you work here now. I’ll drop by more often.”Bookmark here

“Don’t.” Bookmark here

Before I could offer to get his order, Scanta interrupted, “TRISTAN and RAHIM, I need your help here.” He looked expectantly at Maisha.Bookmark here

She sighed, “Alright I guess I’ll get them for you.” Trevor followed her to the front counter. They chatted while Rahim and I did Scanta’s bidding.Bookmark here

He had just finished putting up the last of Coco’s “art” when he paused dramatically. Scanta took a step back and stared at the café door. What the hell. This is creepy. He held his chin in a thinking position and finally turned to us with an unfittingly somber expression. Then his eyes went wide. I was not prepared for what came out of his mouth next.Bookmark here

“GUYS! GENU BROKE HIS KNEE!”Bookmark here

“What?” Rahim and I said in unison. Wait, how exactly does he know that? Maisha and Trevor’s chat was interrupted as they snapped their attention towards a hysteric Scanta in its natural habitat. The people in the café also listened in. I guess everyone around here knows Genu somehow. And I mean everyone. Bookmark here

“What’s going on?” Pimmy (that singer from the café event) asked. The 3 girls surrounding her also looked concerned.Bookmark here

“YES, EXPLAIN.” Rika demanded.Bookmark here

Scanta gestured a punch. “He got jumped by a teenager!”Bookmark here

“What does that mean?” I asked. And how exactly do you know this???Bookmark here

He huffed, “Tristan. Like I just said, he got into a fight with a teenage boy! It was all like AAAAHHH and WHOPHAAAA and BAMMMM!!” he explained, wildly flailing his arms around.Bookmark here

“Scanta. Please explain the situation clearly. What has happened to Genu Tibia?” Anastasia, the detective lady, questioned.Bookmark here

“That kid, the highschool one, he asked for information on Jessica Lemoteur, but Genu refused him business. And then that kid got mad and then went like AAAAHHH and WHOPHAAAA and BAMMM!! And then Genu fell to the ground and broke his knee. The end.”Bookmark here

….What?Bookmark here

“And who exactly is this kid who attacked him?” Trevor asked.Bookmark here

“He goes to Elohssa High. The ‘comedian’.” Scanta made air quotes with his fingers as he said “comedian”.Bookmark here

Rika snapped her fingers, “IS IT THAT RIDICULOUS BOY THAT CAUSED A SCENE AT THE TALENT EVENT?”Bookmark here

Trevor and Maisha gave each other a look.Bookmark here

“Oh, for goodness’ sake.” Maisha grumbled, while taking out her phone to call someone.Bookmark here

“Anywho. Long story short. Jimothy wanted info and he didn’t get it so he attacked Genu. Genu’s in the hospital. Poor boy can’t fight. Unlike me. That reminds me, one time in the Arctic, I-”Bookmark here

“We should visit him immediately.” DJ McDizzle interrupted. Bookmark here

The others nodded in agreement.Bookmark here

One by one everyone filed out of the café and towards the hospital. It was instant, as if everyone agreed it was the right move.Bookmark here

Scanta shut down the café, deciding that “This was an emergency.”Bookmark here

Trevor went home while me, Maisha, and Rahim caught the bus to the hospital. Scanta rode his bike there. Yes, I said that correctly. His bike. When I made fun of him for it, he said he’d race us there. Bookmark here

As we approached the room we heard Scanta’s voice chatting enthusiastically with Genu. Bookmark here

What the hell? How fast did this man peddle?Bookmark here

We went inside, and I noticed right away that the room was HUGE. I ducked back out and saw that the door said VIP. How did he afford this??? Wasn’t he a college student like me???Bookmark here

Scanta was sitting by his bed on the other end of the room, chatting up a storm. “You are truly a crucial part of our community and you’ll be missed. Thank you so much for all the resumes.” Scanta winked at ‘resumes’. Bookmark here

Wait a damn minute-Bookmark here

Jessica, who I assume Maisha had called earlier, walked in at the same time as us. I kept forgetting that Jessica and Genu were actually friends. Bookmark here

We placed our gift of Rahim’s butter tarts on the table beside Jessica’s gift, which looked to be a Bossil Watch. Bookmark here

We sat down as Scanta continued rambling. “Genu my boy, this is an injustice. I was so shocked when I heard the news-” how did he hear the news? “-I cannot believe that silly pest did that to you. It was Jimothy right? My sources are reliable, usually, but I am asking because I don’t want it to be true, and the reason is, although that boy is a complete buffoon he pays me a hefty sum in order to use our stage for his late night comedy sets each week, and you see, as much I despise him for doing this to you, I wouldn’t want to fire him.” Bookmark here

Scanta paused. Genu, catching on, nodded in affirmation. Bookmark here

Scanta continued, “So it’s true, isn’t it. He really did this to you. Like I said, I am enraged at his behaviour, so I will make sure to raise his fee for using our stage. This offense cannot go without consequences, I insist. Oh, I am so glad you understand about not firing him, I knew you would. After all, you wouldn’t want this café to go out of business, right? I know how much you love this café, I hope you know how much we appreciate you as well. I will have you know that we are all standing with you in this difficult moment, and you are not alone.”Bookmark here

Scanta finished his little speech (finally) and looked at Genu expectantly. Bookmark here

Genu looked at our faces, and then around the huge hospital room. “Who is ‘we’? Are there others coming?” he asked. Just as he did, Rika and Coco walked in.Bookmark here

Rika strutted towards the hospital bed and shoved us all out of the way. She pulled out a wad of cash and handed it to him. Bookmark here

“MY APOLOGIES, THIS WAS QUITE SUDDEN. I COULD NOT GET ANOTHER GIFT. PLEASE ACCEPT THIS INSTEAD. IF IT IS NOT ENOUGH I HAVE MORE. I CAN ALSO SEND MY SUBORDINATES TO FOLLOW THE ONE WHO DID THIS HORRIBLE THING TO YOU, JUST SAY THE WORD.” Bookmark here

One of the nurses came into the room and asked Rika to quiet down since she was disrupting the other patients.Bookmark here

“JUST SAY THE WORD.” She repeated, slightly quieter. Coco nodded awkwardly behind her. Bookmark here

Genu nodded. Apparently that was him turning down her offer. Bookmark here

“LET ME KNOW IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND.” Bookmark here

Genu graciously took the fat stack of cash. Man… maybe I should break my knee. Whatever’s in that stack could definitely pay off my tuition. Rika and Coco went to sit on the numerous chairs that lined the walls. How many guests were coming?? Bookmark here

Just as I began trying to number how many café regulars knew Genu, someone familiar walked in.Bookmark here

Are you freaking kidding me? Bookmark here

Wabong? He wouldn’t show up to work, but he’s here at the hospital??? Bookmark here

He fist bumped Genu, “Yo man… sorry about your knee, that’s tough.”Bookmark here

“It’s all good.”Bookmark here

Wabong noticed everyone else's gifts scattered around the hospital room. “Oh uh, sorry I didn’t get you anything. Ah, damn...” he rummaged through his bag and pulled out an energy drink, “Yo! Look at that! Happy birthday bro,” he said, handing him the can.Bookmark here

Genu laughed, “Thank you so much. Best gift ever.”Bookmark here

I never noticed it before, but those two were very similar on a … spiritual? Psychological? Whatever… They understood each other on some higher level.Bookmark here

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. DJ McDizzle and Anastasia were both outside. McDizzle jumped a little when he saw Anastasia, but meekly wobbled after her anyways. He weaved his way through the others to stand as far as away from her as possible. They had both brought gifts as well, that they set down along the wall.Bookmark here

Anastasia spoke first, “My condolences about your injury. I swear on my family name that I will find the fiend that did this. You will have justice!” Bookmark here

Genu laughed and shook his head. Bookmark here

“So you mean to say you already know who did it?” she exclaimed. How are they all interpreting his gestures so well? “I see, I see. It makes sense, you were the one who he engaged in the fight. If you say so, young man. I won’t bother going after him.”Bookmark here

Genu nodded. “He’s just a dumb kid. It’ll catch up to him at some point.” Bookmark here

Jessica piped up, “Jimothy is actually the biggest idiot on earth, it’s tragic that you got done in by him of all people.” Maisha nodded in agreement. “Hope you get better soon,” Jessica said, smiling. Bookmark here

“No worries bro. Thanks a lot,” Genu responded. I wonder if she knew that Genu broke his knee protecting her information. The thought was interrupted when more people started filing in, filling up the room. Bookmark here

John Doe came in, and gave Genu a signed copy of his new CD, “Mysterious Intentions”. Lucky and her whole family came too, with an expensive crockery set and a crate of tropical mangoes. Kulsum gave a separate gift - a shiny, polished mud ball, carefully set inside a Biploc bag. Then came Maruto and his mother, with Maruto’s gift of a custom Shadow Master Maruto figurine which he had seemingly made himself with plasticine. Even that suspicious guy I always see loitering around the café came. He gave Genu a scrap of paper with a “secret family recipe” written on it, which was clearly just the recipe written on the back of every Bellog’s Rice Crisper box. Bookmark here

After that, Scanta clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Ahem, ahem...so, you may wonder why I’ve gathered you all here,” No, it was pretty obvious why. And of course it was Scanta’s idea to crowd a patient. Bookmark here

“Genu here has experienced a very tragic event today, so I insisted we all come here together to say a few words of thanks so that Genu knows how much we care for him. An attack against Genu is an attack against all of us!”Bookmark here

Everyone cheered. Bookmark here

“We all gotta stay frosty for Genu,” Wabong announced. “Cuz like, everyone here owes him.”Bookmark here

Everyone cheered again. Scanta snapped, and confetti fell from somewhere. Then, everyone began giving their thank you messages. Bookmark here

“THANKS FOR YOUR HELP IN ENSURING THE MEDIA ‘COOPERATES’ WITH COCO AND I. THOSE RATS HAVE NOTHING ON YOU,” said Rika.Bookmark here

“They have nothing on you, Miss,” Genu grinned. Bookmark here

“Yes, you’ve been such a helpful source for leads on my detective cases. It is shameless of me, but I hope you will continue to help me after you’ve recovered,” Anastasia smiled. Bookmark here

“Ofcourse. Glad I could help.” Bookmark here

“I would also like to express my thanks as well,” DJ McDizzle stepped up, “You are very reliable. I must say I quite appreciate your prolonged cooperation with my search for the artifacts- I mean, the uh...DJ remixes. Yes. I am an excellent DJ. But of course, only with your help.”Bookmark here

“My pleasure, dude.”Bookmark here

“Thanks for all your great advice!” Jessica added. Bookmark here

“Any time, bro.” Bookmark here

One by one, all of the visitors said thank you to Genu. It was pretty nice actually. It kind of...felt like I was part of something. We were all connected to the café and we all owed Genu something. Even me. Whenever Trashlord8 makes his sporadic appearances at the café, I always see Genu appease the tyrant before he snatches another tea set from our stash. For that, I am forever grateful. Bookmark here

After my turn, a few other people went, and then it was time to leave. Bookmark here

“Hope to see you back at the café soon!” Scanta said, and he made his way out. Of course, Wabong and I were tasked with cleaning up the mess that was made because of Scanta basically throwing a party in a hospital room, so we stayed behind. Bookmark here

A few moments later, while we were finishing up, we heard another knock. Someone was late to the party, I guess. Pimmy walked in and the 3 girls I didn’t recognize at the café followed behind her. Bookmark here

She dropped a giant gift bag, walked up to Genu and shook his hand, “This is so unfortunate. I’m sincerely appalled. There’s a get well package in the bag and you can contact my agent if you ever need a favour. I’m definitely indebted to you.” She dropped her voice but I could still vaguely make out what she said, something along the lines of “Thank you for the location tips.”Bookmark here

What does that mean?Bookmark here

Pimmy chatted with Genu for a bit, and then went out to the hallway in search of “souvenirs” after hearing that he (whoever that was) had been here earlier. The three girls I didn’t recognize stayed behind. They also offered their condolences, and gave him a gift. Before they left, the one with dyed blonde hair said, “Thank you for keeping her secret.”Bookmark here

It would be a while longer until I found out what that meant. 
Bookmarked
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