Black Coffee

By , Aptos, CA
The back room was dark and dank. It was always that way. Skuzzy dishes sat in murky water, and each of the crestfallen employees assumed the others would clean it up. And so it went, day by day, watching the coffee grinder and pretending to clean. The manager was no positive influence either. He danced around barking orders. One employee, just trying to raise enough money for 2 years college tuition, was utterly convinced this bumbling oaf had not a clue what he was doing. He probably hasn’t ever even had coffee, she idly thought one day as she stared at the clock, occasionally glancing at the dishes. I should do them. But each day she would not and each day she felt guiltier.

“’Ey, you there. No not you – get back to work. Yes you! Get o’er ‘ere. There’s a customer at table four. Make yourself useful for once,” the manager snarled as he wiped the sweat off his brow, after all, it was toasty in the back room. Once he finished his spluttering, he found it meet to readjust his toupée. I wish he’d learn my name. Renee. My name’s Renee.

Renee went into the seating area. She scanned around. It’s not as ugly in the front. Would people still come if they saw the inside? It was a tacky room, unfriendly brick floor, old and creaky chairs that looked like they were ready to snap, wobbly tables. At table four, there was a rather rotund individual with a receding hairline. He was reading the newspaper. Renee walked over to take his order and she saw the article he was reading. “20% EMPLOYEES CUT. REPLACED BY MIGRANT WORKERS.” I’m one of those. What does he think of me? She did not think it was a deliberate slight, but it stung all the same.

“May I take your order, sir?” The sir she added grudgingly. This man had done her no wrong and yet she already did not like him.

He turned in his chair and gave her a long, bordering on hostile, look. “Here’s what you can get me,” he began, slowly accentuating each word. Does he think my English is bad? “Coffee; black. Pronto. Do you understand that?”

“Your order will arrive shortly.” She ignored his intentional jab. It’s not worth my time. She went to the back again. “Black coffee,” she told her coworkers. I can’t take this job anymore. This can’t be the American dream I was promised.

Renee took off her apron and hung it on the ochre coat hanger. She tossed her name tag in the trash. It makes me feel like a five year old. And she walked out. The manager traipsed along after her, cherry faced from overexertion. He tried yelling a few incoherent sentences to make her come back, but she did not. The sun was falling, and her silhouette walked off.





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