This Friday, we have a short story set in a Starbucks. The author, Annalia Fiore, has a blog about appreciating the joys of writing, so if you enjoy this story, you may want to drop by her blog.
Regarding feedback, Annalia seems open to any comments on her story and even asks that we “destroy it entirely” (though I am willing to bet that she does not want complete annihilation!) So please feel free to give constructive criticism, and remember that even short comments can be very helpful!
Open Pen is a critique opportunity on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.
Struggles at Starbucks by Annalia Fiore
Thumbing for my phone beside me, I looked through the windshield of my car at the looming Starbucks coffee shop. Inside the christmas-light framed windows, sat an elderly woman wearing skinny jeans and hoop earrings. She was typing furiously on a laptop covered with brightly colored stickers saying: “Save the whales.” Across from her sat a middle-aged man with a balding scalp. He stared back at me through the frosted window.
I opened my car door and put a booted foot out into the slushy snow.
The warmth of the coffee shop greeted my cold body. A soft murmur of voices spread about the room. I got in line behind a short man wearing a fluffy gray sweatshirt. He peered at me behind oval glasses.
“C-cold out,” he stuttered.
I gave a short nod. Instinctively, I pulled out my phone and began to attend to it seriously.
“I’ve been coming to this Starbucks for eleven years. I always get the same thing. Do you know what I get?”
“What?” I said, not looking up. He hardly looks twenty-three.
“A hot, white chocolate mocha. Grande.”
I looked up from my phone. The small man was grinning at me. I gave another quick nod and returned to my screen.
“I sit in that chair, over there, by the old lady with earrings.”
“Someone is sitting in your spot.”
“Yes! It’s so funny how you know that without looking up.”
I had no interest in explaining to him that I had been coming to this Starbucks for thirteen years and that I sat in that particular chair.
A tall, blond lady from behind the counter handed a plastic cup to the small man.
“White chocolate mocha, sir? Grande?”
“Thank you!” said the small man to her. He then turned to me.
“Excuse me?” he said. I ignored him.
“Excuse me?!” he said again, this time tapping me on the shoulder with one finger.
“What?” I said, finally.
“Oh…hello! You must have not heard me. Anyway, will you please come with me?”
Where are the mental institutions when you need them?
“Oh, but you see I am so attached to that chair. I want you to come and help me get it back. You see?”
“No, I do not. I’m very sorry but I have a lot of work to do.”
I went up to the counter and slammed a five dollar bill onto the counter.
“White chocolate mocha,” I whispered, hoping the small man would not hear, “Grande.”
“That’ll be five dollars and eighty cents, sir,” drawled the blond lady. I looked at the five dollar bill and then to her.
I reached into my back pocket, feeling a few smooth quarters. I pulled them out with two fingers, fumbled, and the coins fell onto the hard ground. I whirled around to pick them up but banged into something in the process.
“Darn! I’ve spilled my tea.”
I looked up to see a huge man wearing a black leather jacket over a shirt that said: “Snake Charmer.” He had enormous black rubber boots on and bushy gray eyebrows.
“I’ve spilled my tea,” the man repeated.
“I’m very sorry, sir. If you’ll just excuse me for a-.”
The man bent down and picked up my lost quarters.
“Here ya go,” he said.
“Thank you,” I muttered. I turned back to the blond lady and gave her my coins.
“Five dollars and eighty cents,” I said.
She glanced down at the quarters that lay in the palm of my hand and then back up at me.
“You’re missing five cents, sir. You gave me three-quarters.” A faint flutter of amusement went across her made up face.
I felt my back pocket. Nothing there. I felt my front pockets. There was nothing. I turned back to the lady.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t have five cents on me.”
The blond lady raised one well-groomed eyebrow.
“No cash? Credit cards? We take casino cards,” she said, smirking, “If that’s all you have.”
“I don’t gamble. Your manager won’t mind if you let go on a nickel, right?”
“I’m afraid he will,” she said, pushing my cash and coins to the edge of the counter. “Sorry, sir.”
A hot wave rippled through my body. My neck was wet with sweat.
“Ma’am,” I began with a desperate patience, “Starbucks is the only coffee shop that sells white chocolate mochas. I’ve been coming here for thirteen years. And I live in Plainville! We have two coffee shops on Main Street, two minutes away from my apartment. Why do you think I drove thirty-four minutes to Starbucks Coffee shop?”
I looked down at the ground. A rusted penny lay beside my foot. I stooped and picked it up.
“Here! Five dollars and seventy-six cents! No! I’m not an insane! I don’t gamble. I just left my credit cards in my apartment. Will you take the money? Deal?”
The blond lady flipped her head behind her. She gave a deep sigh.
“I’ll check with my boss, sir. Just a minute.”
She retreated slowly away and disappeared. Behind me, I heard many sighs of frustration.
It felt much longer than a few minutes when the blond lady returned.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said with pathological patience, “But it’s against the rules.” She looked beyond my shock ridden figure to the next customer.
“I’ll take your order, sir.”
“Just a minute,” said a familiar voice. The huge man with the black jacket came up behind me.
“I have a nickel.” He put the coin on the counter.
The blond lady stared at him. I stared at him.
“T-thank you,” I said at last.
Handing me my penny, the blond lady said: “The pickup counter is to your left, sir.”
She must have forgotten that I had been coming here for thirteen years.
“Thank you,” I said, with effort.
I glanced towards the window. The small man was sitting in my favorite seat. He saw me and grinned. I went over to him.
“Hello,” I said, in a very nice voice.
“Hello! You had some trouble, didn’t you?” said the small man.
“Yes,” I said. I lowered my voice. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Marley. What’s yours?”
“Marley…” I said, ignoring his question, “Can you…Marley, do something for me?”
“Well, you see… I hope it won’t be too much trouble.”
“Not at all!” interrupted the small man with glee.
I tried not to show my annoyance.
“Well, really, it’s just…” I leaned closer to him and whispered: “Have you heard of Anguliphobia?”
“No. I don’t think I have.”
“Well, anyway, it means a fear of corners or angles. You see?”
“And you have it…this Angu-Angi-.”
“But you came through the door! There are corners and angles there!”
Perhaps this man’s isn’t so mentally ill.
“Well you see, I have a very special case. I don’t like marble. Marble gives me the creeps. It’s hard and shiny. But by itself, like at the order counter, I can stand it. But marble corners! Oh! Those are the worst!”
“Ah! I see,” said the small man, “What is it you want me to do?”
“Will you go and wait for my coffee?”
“Certainly! What did you order?”
“Well, it’s a White Chocolate Mocha. It’s a Grande.”
“Really! You know, I’ve been ordering that very same thing for the past eleven years! We must be soul mates! Do you know what-.”
“That’s very nice! I think my coffee is about ready.”
Without further words, the short man hopped up and went to the counter.
Stealthily, I put the small man’s coat onto a nearby vacant chair. I sank into his seat and pulled out my laptop. I plugged in my headphones and waited for the man to return. The sun streamed into the coffee shop. Across from the same old lady kept typing. Her iced tea, that sat beside her had not been drunk.
“You are in my seat.”
I looked up. The small man was now towering over me in my seat. He had a puzzled look on his face.
“My coffee!” I said, taking the cup from the man, “Thank you so much.”
I turned back to my computer.
“Yes, of course. But you are in my seat,” repeated the man.
I slipped my headphones on.
“You don’t understand,” continued the small man, “That’s my seat. I’ve been coming here foreleven years. I always sit there.”
I signed into my laptop. I clicked wifi settings.
The small man tapped his finger on my shoulder.
“Excuse me? Excuse me!”
I was completely tired of this irritating man. I selected a hard rock song to blast in my ears. Then a white tab came up in the middle of my computer. It read: We’re sorry, but Starbucks Internet is currently down.