Mitch is a continuation of the short story ‘Love Story No 1’ which can be found here.
Mitch is the man of mystery. He had worked at the ‘Genuine Coffee Shop’ since its opening three years ago. He was tall; he was one of the first to adopt the new hipster style. An immaculate dark beard, which was trimmed and oiled, to ornamental perfection. Shaped and shaved in all the right places. He would never take off his flat cap, and to that end, his hair was, even more of a mystery than he was. His ears were pierced with those small wooden plates that looked like the tiny dishes you would get in a Japanese restaurant, the ones they give you for oils and dipping sauce. If he took the plates out, a bee could fly through the holes. His jeans, always tight, led down to black boots partially laced with a lazy tongue bent over the laces. His shirts were smart, his sleeves perfectly rolled up to just below his elbow. Most days, this ensemble would be accompanied by a waistcoat, a dark one, its only feature would be the chain of his pocket watch. His arms were tattooed, his left arm bore a collection of stars, starting small at the wrist and increasing in size up to his shoulder. His right arm was a full sleeve, it was a piece of art that resembled an airbrushed masterpiece like those you would see on the sides of those monstrous American trucks.
Mitch was a perfectionist. However, most people just thought that he was anti-social. He was so focused on his work that he rarely spoke to customers or colleagues. Mitch was the Arch Deacon of Barista. He took this skill, this art form, to another level. Every cup of coffee Mitch created was serious, and it was perfect. The guys who worked with him got used to it once they understood that he didn’t see himself as just a bloke who had a job in a coffee shop. He saw himself as an artisan, a professional and he took the gig seriously. Once they understood that, they got on fine.
Nobody knew anything about him. Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Music? Alcohol? Drugs? Books? Films? Politics? Nada, nil, zero, zip. He just turned, made beverages that were as aesthetically as pleasing as the ink on his arms. Cleaned up, maybe, just maybe, he served a customer. But, there was never eye contact, never chit chat, no small talk. Just coffee, for Mitch there was only for coffee.
Stacey slapped the snooze button on the alarm clock. Stayed still, wrapped in a soft ivory duvet for a minute or two then emerged to begin the routine that rarely changed. She showered, she did her make up, put on her clothes, threw some food that looked like cereal into a bowl for her cat, popped on her heels and left for work. Stacey had a little sports car. It was an Audi TT with a soft top. She loved it, but she looked funny trying to get out of it. So, on work days she caught the bus into town. Her business was a makeup shop that had a beauty parlour attached. It was the kind of place you could get your nails done, get a wax and one of the girls would put your makeup straight. The makeup was brought from there too, the idea is simple, but no one had done it before, it was like one of those sections in a department store, mixed with the back end of any hair dressers. The shop was also smack bang in the middle of town.
Stacey didn’t open until 9.30 am, except Saturdays when she would open at eight. It’s the weddings. They want to be in and out early. But Stacey left home at 7 or as near as dammit. She didn’t like to be rushed. Stacey liked to go to her favourite coffee shop. She would order a bacon roll, a pastry (for dessert), and a flat white or a cappuccino. Some days Stacey would treat herself and have all three. Stacey had been going there at least 18 months, and the counter staff knew her. They’d always say hi, and sometimes they wouldn’t ask what she wanted. They would read her face, give her a smile and get on with it. Stacey loved that. That feeling of someone knowing her, someone caring, that, made her day.
Once she had ordered Stacey would pour herself a glass of water, it was available near the counter. She would sit down and do her social media, check FaceBook, and make some calls. Stacey talked loud on the phone. It was as if she was telling the entire shop that she was ok, she had a life, and that she was happy. Most days she was happy. Her sonorous blather would annoy the hell out of Mitch. He would be hidden behind the chrome structure of the barista machine, only his flat cap visible. Now and then he would peep from behind his reflective shield to investigate the boisterous jibber jabber. He was never surprised to see that it was always Stacey.
Stacey’s uniform was a scarlet two-piece skirt suit. She wore the same colour cami top beneath the jacket. She’d had this look a while. The skirt was beginning to stress under the pressure of the ever-expanding thighs. Stacey dreamed of thigh gap. And every time she ate one of those rolls, a bag of crisps, a cake or a bar of chocolate she vowed that the diet would start on Monday. She bought herself a new skirt, a size 14 and hung it in her bedroom for motivation. But it was always Monday. Most Mondays would always start well. Stacey would have a banana, then two minutes after sitting down in the coffee shop she’d get back up and order that bacon roll. It was automatic, it was subliminal, she never even realised she was doing it. That was until she had chewed up and swallowed the last mouthful. Then she would curse herself. There would always be next Monday. This routine was as repetitive as the soaps on TV and the bland pop music on commercial radio. Stacey went around and around on a merry go round that never differed, never stopped and the promise of life being perfect was always just a Monday away.
It was a Wednesday. The rain was torrential and fast flowing streams of water rushed down the gutters outside of the Original Coffee Shop. Stacey was in and sat in her usual place waiting for her order. The rain had brought in customers in their droves, refugees seeking a temporary sanctuary against the elements. And why the hell not? Have coffee, get dry and stay out of this bullshit weather. It was June for God’s sake. Screw the boss, you can be late, just once.
Stacey watched them queuing for their drinks while making her calls. No one was answering. Mitch prepared Stacey’s flat white and slid it onto the counter for one of the others to deliver. This band of refugees was not regulars. They didn’t know what they wanted, so the beautifully drawn menu that hung like the centerpiece to an altar behind the counter was being heavily scrutinised. The girl on service gave Mitch the nod. That nod, the nod he dreaded. The nod that said, ‘serve that coffee will you?’ Mitch seldom ventured from the comfort of his workstation. He would, if he had to, but that was rare. He looked over at his colleague, raised both eyebrows and went to serve the flat white. Stacey was studying her phone. Fiercely scrolling through the news, catching up on the last 24 hours of banality and babble. Mitch slid the coffee in front of her, “Thanks, babes,” Stacey said looking up at him. Mitch looked at her, and for the first time, he actually noticed her. The azure eyes, so bright and so perfect. Mitch saw through the painted skin and shocking blonde locks. He saw how beautiful she was beneath the carefully crafted, war painted facade. Her body had increased in mass, but her face had not, it was still a neat almond shape, and under the veneer of foundation and blush, her skin looked flawless. “No worries,” Mitch replied and then returned to the safety of his barista station.
A couple of days later Mitch, served Stacey her coffee again, then again, and again, until after a while Mitch simply made the flat white and delivered it to Stacey as a matter of course. During this brief snap in time, every weekday and Saturday morning the pair would have the smallest exchange. It was almost always the same exchange, “Thanks, babes,” “’salright,” or “no worries,” never more than that. Stacey, always bright, always polite, didn’t really pay as much attention to Mitch as she did her phone. She didn’t really understand the privilege she was being shown. She just smiled, drank the coffee, ate the roll, probed her phone and made her calls. But deep down both of them had a swish of feelings in their guts. Somehow, in a way that neither had actually registered, they both looked forward to that little quiet spell, first thing in the morning a bit more than they ever had before.
To be continued
This is a short story by Nick Mann, if you liked it, you can find more of the buggers here. Otherwise, if you have enjoyed it please consider sharing it – Karma and my badself will thank you for it. The buttons are on the right, thank you kindly.