Randy Florence brought the milk-filled tin pitcher up to the thin steaming wand of the espresso machine and pulled the activating lever. The milk hissed and gurgled as he moved the wand in and out of the ivory liquid until he heard a dull groan. With his free hand, he cued the espresso and listened as it poured into two shot glasses. Once done, he dumped them into a cup and carefully poured in the steamed milk. The foamy white liquid turned a sweet brown as it filled to the top. Randy caped the cup and placed it out on the bar.
“Medium latte for Mark,” he called.
A short black man with thin glasses and a red polo tucked into his pressed slacks approached.
“Thanks,” he said.
“You’re welcome. Hey, I saw you drove your Hellcat today. That’s a sweet car, man.”
Mark took a short sip of his drink and smiled.
“Yeah, she’s a beauty. 717 horsepower and enough torque to make you feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon.”
They both looked out the large windowed entrance of the coffee shop. The cherry red Hellcat glistened in the sun. Mark took another sip and shook his head.
“She’s a thirsty girl though.”
“You’re a lucky man.”
“Work hard enough and you just might own one too.”
BREAKING NEWS: Experts say gas-guzzling cars are to blame for high temperatures. Change is irreversible unless we all go electric.
Comment #486: Randy Florence, 7:38 am: Sucks that we live in a world full of selfish people that want nothing more than to trash the environment. All these gas-guzzling rich people need to realize they are killing us all!
Around noon, just as Randy was finishing up cleaning his workstation, a family of seven walked in. Without looking, he said, “Well if it isn’t the Anderson’s.”
Two of the younger kids ran up to the bar, dressed in their Sunday best.
“Michelle, John, how ya doin’?”
“We just came from church,” exclaimed John.
“Randy, can you make us that secret drink again?” asked Michelle.
It was a recipe he developed using vanilla, cinnamon, and soy milk. Blended the right way, it tasted just like horchata and the kids loved it.
“I dunno,” he said with a sly smile, “You gotta tell me what you learned at church first.”
John perked up.
“Oh. Oh. We talked about Proverbs today,” he said, “There was this one really cool quote: As the water reflects the..the..”
“As the water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart,” said Randy, “That’s a good one.”
Mrs. Anderson smiled.
“There is a lot of good that can be learned from reading the Bible,” said Randy.
SENATOR ENRAGED AS “EDUCATE THE KIDS” BILL GETS SHOT DOWN! “There should be a clear separation of church and state!”
Comment #287: Randy Florence, 1:24 pm: These damned religious nuts are standing in the way of real progress. To hell with them. We don’t need them!
Mario Grant walked in as he always did at 2 pm, wearing a sharp black suit and slick sunglasses. He walked over to the bar, talking on the phone through his white wireless earbuds. During a break in the conversation, he leaned over to Randy and mouthed, “the usual”. Randy nodded and rung him up for a medium cappuccino with two Splendas, milk steamed to 170 degrees, extra foam, and the espresso shots on top. After the transaction was complete, Mario placed a twenty-dollar bill in the tip jar and sat down in the lobby on his favorite leather chair. Randy made the drink and set it on the bar without calling it out.
A few minutes later, Mario walked up.
“Thanks for that, Randy,” he said, “Today has been a busy one.”
“Oh yeah? Whatcha workin’ on this time? Another drone to clean up the ocean?”
Mario smiled but shook his head.
“No, no. Though that product is doing very good, I’m working on a new product that will be much better. ”
He picked up his drink and sighed.
“But like all my ideas, convincing skittish investors is always my biggest hurdle.”
“Didn’t you make millions on your last deal?”
“My company made millions.”
“Yeah, my company made millions, but a lot of that money goes to operational costs, acquiring materials, and paying my employees.”
“Huh, I never saw it that way.”
“Many people who don’t own a business never do.”
Anthony Rivers, 2:34 pm: The rich never pay their fair share! It's abhorrent that in this country, there are people that own private jets and also those that can’t afford a plane ticket. Tax the rich and give to those that need it!
Randy Florence, 2:45 pm: Totally agree, man! The rich in this country are greedy and do nothing to benefit the average person. Tax them until they are paying their fair share.
3:15 pm. Randy took the last break of his shift. During this time, he always enjoyed catching up with customers and listening to their stories. Today, however, the lobby was empty. Instead of the usual chats, he sat down and hopped on his phone; Jumping from app to app.
3:17 pm, BREAKING NEWS: 54% of those surveyed think that civil war is coming. Here’s what you can do to prepare.
He gripped the phone a little tighter.
3:18 pm, MICHAEL SHARP booted from TWITTER after controversial TWEET. Right OUTRAGED, claims violation of free speech.
His face flushed and became hot.
EXPERTS SAY THAT MANY PEOPLE DON’T EVEN REALIZE THEY HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS. HERE’S WHY.
A nervous feeling knotted in his stomach.
JENIFER ANISTON ENGAGED TO BRAD PITT AGAIN. SAYS SHE TRUSTS HIM.
Randy stormed outside and sat out on the patio, hoping the light breeze would cool his hot head.
“What’s the matter?”
Randy turned. Jim sat in the back corner, smoking a cigarette and sipping his coffee. He was one of the few customers the baristas never took the time to get to know. He rarely talked and when he did, his gruff voice never warranted a follow-on conversation. Also, his rugged posture and sharp eyes had a way of making people feel as if they were backed into a corner.
“Oh, nothing,” said Randy.
Jim stared as he took a long drag of his cigarette, the end of it flaring up like a hot coal.
“Obviously, it's somethin’,” he said, wisps of smoke trailing out his mouth, “I know the look.”
I stared at him, but then looked down at the ground.
“I just feel like we live in such a terrible place. Everything I read online, it’s always pointing out something bad going on in the world. People are so indecent and crude. Every place that’s not here is so chaotic.”
“Well lemme ask you this,” asked Jim, “These people you’re complaining about; You ever met ‘em? Have you ever sat down, listened, and had a decent conversation with ‘em?”
“These places you readin’ about; You ever been?”
“And these articles you readin’, you actually read em’ and think about what it’s sellin’ ya, or do you just scan over the headline?”
Randy stared at him, blankly.
“I just scan over the headline.”
“Hmm, I see.”
Jim took another drag of his cigarette, drawing it down to its last bit.
“Seems to me like you’re chasing the wrong reality.”
“I see you every day interacting with customers with the widest smile on your face and then see you scowl every time you look at your phone. Seems to me like you’re livin’ parallel lives.”
Randy opened his mouth to protest but found he had nothing to say. Jim smirked and sipped his coffee.
“Makes me wonder which one is the real Randy.”
“But these things that are happening…”
“Ain’t nothin’ that hasn’t happened before. You’re a fool if you think history doesn’t rhyme.”
Jim finished his cigarette and flicked it into a nearby trashcan. Randy’s watch buzzed twice in rapid succession, indicating another “Breaking News” article.
“You gotta ask yourself, Randy, which one is more important? Which one is better for your health? Which one is more enjoyable?”
A single buzz. A new post.
“How will you use your time? What memories will you make?”
Jim stood up and walked away without another word, leaving Randy silently staring down at the ground. His watch buzzed five times. Break time was over.