by Mathew Roland
“Ok…So, when could you start?”
Barry, the café manager, was glad for the cake display between him and the potential applicant. Agent Garris needle-eyed Barry and tapped the display rapidly, quick enough, in fact, to irritate the strawberry short cake slice within.
Barry was on the defensive: a façade of droopy eyes and a “whatever-dude” tone. He noted that the man desperate for work was well dressed.
Agent Garris was wearing the bespoke garb of a G-Man. His suit was clean and cool but his eyes said, “givemethisjob,givemethisjob! I damn well better be making a latte in five minutes!” Barry produced a sheet of paper.
“Why don’t you fill out this application?”
Agent Garris swiped the application. They just keep them behind the cake?
“Need a pen?”
“I have a pen!”
Agent Garris raced to fill in false personal information:
Last name – Doe
Sex – No Maybe?
Previous Experience – Hipster shit
Garris stopped to breathe slow. Rushing will make this take longer I need to pace myself. Then he clutched his pen hard enough to make it squeal; Jamison, the target, just entered café, mild mannered in business casual and hoping for coffee. Garris kowtowed over his application, scratching on the ink at high speed. Jamison ordered a medium Americana from Barry.
What qualities can you bring to our café? –
Garris, at a blank, shook in frustration. So open-ended, free and strangely debilitating! The blank field taunted him, and he sweat a bucket’s load under his jacket. He broke his eyes from the application to see Jamison leaving with his coffee.
Agent Garris’s cry crescendo-ed as the glass door swung open and closed.
Audio fizzled in his left ear,“Abort?” said the earpiece.
“No!”, Garris rasped.
“That’s not the last customer y’know?” Barry continued to evaluate Garris; an odd man, but obviously eager to serve customers.
Garris returned to the counter, slamming the application to the counter with an open palm. He addressed the earpiece, “We’re still doing this!”
Barry blinked, “Right.”
Garris excused himself to the café’s restroom. He leaned against the wall across from the sink’s mirror, releasing a long, measured exhale. He fidgeted with his left ear,
“Baby Bird? Take the van downtown. Do you still have the news?”
“I do,” said Fowler, sitting across the street in the Agency van clutched his newspaper. It crinkled a little. Sometimes, members of the agency must do bad things.
“I need you to capture the target, inconspicuously of course. Jamison’s got a coffee, an Americana, I need you to eliminate it.”
Five minutes later, Fowler was dressed in an inconspicuous long coat sitting alone in a bench downtown, the Agency van parked with open doors behind him. He peered over the top of his spread newspaper awaiting Jamison – to intercept him and his coffee. This was Fowler’s first field mission in his two-year career with the Agency. Before this sudden duty to incapacitate city dwellers he was a secretary, archiving the debriefs of agent’s field missions, agents who complete their missions by jumping off prison walls with huge umbrellas and abduct targets by rolling them over with parade floats. Fowler had never read a debrief lacking flourish.
Garris’ failed to poison Jamison’s coffee and the mission moved on to plan B: Force Jamison into the van. Plan B wasn’t as dramatic. Fowler realized Garris may value his original plan higher than the success of the mission; Plan B must be to restore Plan A. Fowler ducked under his paper and tapped his left ear,
“What is it Baby Bird? Caramel mocha? That’s 3.75, thank you,” Garris sounded preoccupied.
“When I return to the café with the target, it’s just to pick you up, right?”
“Karen! A mango shake for Karen? Look, Fowler, when you get back, push Jamison out across the street. Stay incognito. Karen!?”
Fowler gulped. A mosquito landed on his right ear, rattling him to attention. Jamison’s blonde head passed over the rim of the newspaper. With a palpitating heart, Fowler leapt from the bench,
With two quick folds of the paper, Fowler surreptitiously struck the Americana from Jamison’s bewildered person. It exploded against the pavement and splashed across a shop’s wall. A bold brown splotch with a ghastly web pattern thrown up the whitewash. This is the part of the job Fowler can’t tell his family about.
He expanded the sport’s section and inconspicuously smothered Jamison and led him to the van’s double doors against moderate resistance,
“Get in. Get in!”
Once the van was loaded, Fowler stealthily slammed the doors before noticing a camera in the alley. He was too well trained in the art of espionage to be noticed by a simple CCTV.
. . .
Garris stood behind the café’s counter looking out for customers. He wore a brown apron covering his light blue button up, made darker by the stress sweat of the hiring process. A yellow smiley face was pinned to his apron, and when a red-faced Jamison reentered the café, Garris wore a similar long grin. Jamison came to the register downcast and tearful and Garris guessed his order,
Jamison sniffled, saying, “Yes, thank you.”
“Gonna give the day another try, huh?”
Jamison shook his head. Garris reached under the cake display, producing an Americana. The bottom of the paper cup made a bop sound against the counter. Jamison fished four dollars out of his wallet.
“No, no,” Garris said with a sympathetic hand wave, “Half price only.”
The coffee was cool to the touch and Jamison was able to take long draws from it on his way to the blue booth hidden from the café doors. Resting in the booth, Jamison was able to breath, drink and cheer up. After being pushed out of the van, he had been a paella of nerves, a hammering heart, stiff throat and runny nose, but now he considered catching a nap in the booth. Despite drinking half his lukewarm coffee, his eyes and muscles had become heavy from sitting in the booth. The barista’s hawk-eyed stare made him feel safe. No one could try to kidnap him again. He folded his coat into a square pillow and looked to the barista for permission to sleep in the booth. The barista gave him a wink of affirmation and Jamison was asleep before his head landed on his coat.
When Barry returned from taking inventory of marshmallow snacks in the back room he saw the back of a van parked mere feet from the glass double doors, his new barista Garris, and a younger man in a tan coat heaving an unconscious customer into the van. From the counter, Barry pointed accusingly at Garris.
“What did you do to him!? You can’t steal customers, Garris!”
But Jamison was already tucked away in the van. Both agents closed one of the back doors, revealing a sign of passable legitimacy reading, DRUNK CAB. Garris gave it a few pointed pats for Barry, who immediately understood. He appreciated his barista’s initiative to take care of customers under the influence, but as the van sped off and the glass doors slid closed, he inwardly wished Garris wouldn’t come back for his second shift.