“Wow,” said the short, bald man standing in the middle of our automatic sliding doors, “This place stinks!” It was the owner of the café across the street. He wasn’t that short, but our owner was also a bald man and he was very very tall, so Mr. Scanta was short to me by association.
“What a PUGH-trid stench!’ Mr. Scanta slapped his knee. Paired with the territorial look on his face, it was quite jarring. Also, our café literally just smelled like aromatic coffee.
“Mr. Scanta, you are disrupting our business,” I said flatly.
He stared at me, as if only noticing me now. Then, without a word, he left.
You see, the owner of our café was named Bartholomew Pugh. Yes, Mr. Scanta came into our café JUST to make that bad pun, and then leave.
He does this every week.
Listen… I just needed a job. I’m a regular student, and I needed some sort of income to fit my lifestyle.
When I applied to Café Moonbucks, I didn’t think I’d be roped into this crap.
Everything about the café is pretty normal. Regular customers (for the most part), regular drinks, regular orders… But of course my luck runs out at a certain point.
See, I’m stuck working with this absolute nutjob of a coworker. His name is freaking Benj, yes, Ben with a J at the end. Who voluntarily names their child that? If it’s a crazy person, then I guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Benj is a weird guy. He has some sort of vendetta against the café across the street, saying “they spelled my name wrong on purpose when I worked there!” He claimed to be a ‘great’ employee that got bullied by the owner, but in reality I don’t think this guy could hold a job even if he tried.
Somehow though, he’s still working with me. For some reason, everyone in this café (workers and customers alike) have some sort of hatred for Café Eris. Rumor has it, even the boss hates the café across the street. I don’t blame him, it’s competition after all.
Benj always ropes me into his antics when it comes to Café Eris. He says he needs to act out his revenge, whatever that means. It’s honestly pathetic and kind of sad to see how invested he is in the rivalry, so for the most part I play along with his games.
One time, we tried to sabotage the Halloween event at Café Eris, but that ended terribly. I don’t know how the owner hired an actor to play as an actual transparent ghost, but in hindsight, it was pretty impressive. My boss heard about what happened, and we almost got into big trouble if it weren’t for one weird regular at our café. His name is Greg, and he was at the Halloween event as a participant. He came into our café and told every single person about his ‘horrifying experience at Café Eris.’ He told our boss that it was ‘actually haunted,’ and he already called an exorcist to cleanse the café. Our boss was so amused by our matching ghost stories, he gave us a stern talk instead of firing us.
Speaking of which, today was one of Greg’s regular visit days. He came in and placed his bag on his chair (he doesn’t own it, but he acts like he does) before walking right up to the counter. I took a deep breath before giving him my happiest-fake smile.
“Hello there, Greg. The usual, iced flat white with extra ice?” I prayed my tone was happy enough. Greg was what you considered a Karen… The term ‘Karen’ basically refers to a very entitled customer who needs everything to be perfect or else they’ll throw an actual tantrum, like a child.
“Katie…” He eyed me up and down, as if he was waiting for me to crack. Waiting for something to yell at me for. I stayed as still as possible.
“Yes, I’ll have my usual. Take it to my table, thanks.” He turned around and walked away.
Oh thank god, I felt like I just dodged a bullet.
I started to make his drink, and I could feel his eyes watching my every move. Waiting for me to mess something up. Luckily (I guess) I’ve done this many times before, I could probably do it with my eyes closed. When I was new at the café, he used to berate me for using “a dash too much ice.” I still don’t know what that means, but he doesn’t yell at me anymore, so that’s pretty cool.
I walked to his table and placed the drink down. He gave me no thanks and he took a big swig. He does this because I once made his drink too hot, it almost “burned him.” It's an iced drink for God's sake. Ever since then, he takes a big first sip so in case anything happens, he has a reason to sue me.
Once Greg shot me some serious side-eye, I took my que to leave. I walked back to the counters and began to wipe them down. As I cleaned, my boss came out of the back to do his hourly inspection.
Our boss, full name Bartholomew Pugh, is rigid. He runs the café like it's a bootcamp, sometimes I wish I could go to an actual boot camp. It would probably be easier than this.
Pugh walked beside me and stared. I pretended not to notice him, and continued to wipe down the counter area. This was not the right thing to do.
“Katie. You spend your time wiping the counter, and yet the napkins are out of arrangement? Fix this now.”
Ah dammit. “Yes, Pugh.” I avoided eye contact as I replied.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk to him, though. He’s bald and his head reflects a lot of light. It’s distracting to say the least.
Before I could begin to fix the napkins, Greg called Benj over to his table.
“I’d like to speak to the manager.”
It seemed like he had another bullshit story to spread around, and honestly I was bored enough to listen in.
Benj rolled his eyes then disappeared. A few minutes later Pugh dragged his feet over to where Greg was seated.
I shooted a little closer to their table, pretending to clean the counter there.
“Bartholomew, so nice to see you!”
My boss grunted in return. He really does not like Greg.
“Anyways Bartholomew, I’m sure you remember the ghost I’ve been telling you about, you know, the one in the wretched Café Eris?”
My boss grunted again, clearly uninterested.
“So I hired an exorcist and I’m happy to say, I might get the place shut down for good! How great is that?” Greg exclaimed excitedly, waiting for Pugh’s response.
Pugh continued to look incredibly uninterested. “You will not shut them down.”
Greg looked taken aback, “Excuse me?”
Pugh began to stand up. “You will not shut them down. You cannot.”
Greg looked incredulous, “And how are you so sure of that, Mr. Owner? I thought I was doing something good for you and yet here you are, being rude to one of your most valued customers!”
Oh great, the attitude is back. At least it’s directed to Pugh.
Pugh looked down at Greg. “I appreciate the gesture, but they cannot shut down.” He gave Greg a crooked smile, it was clearly fake but it seemed to work for Greg.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I can’t put it into words, but a part of me knows that they will never shut down. I don’t know why I think this, but I can feel it.” His face softened as he talked, almost reflexively. He seemed to notice though, and quickly straightened his face.
What was that all about? Greg looked just as surprised as I felt.
“Well if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.” Pugh turned away and walked directly into his office.
Greg looked at me questioningly, and all I could do was shrug back.
My boss may be a jerk, but he sure has some odd soft spots.