Customers stand in line. They wonder what is taking so long.
Come on, they say in low tones, all I want is a simple cup of coffee—or not so simple, depending on how much of a pain in the ass said customer is.
They mumble and mutter and complain loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to cause trouble. They fidget, check their watches, check their phones, check their hair in the mirror. This is Los Angeles—everyone is a pain in the ass, everyone is in a hurry, everyone is more important than the next guy, everyone is posing for a picture no one is taking.
A girl sits on the curb next to her co‑worker. The girl is crying. The co‑worker puts her arm around the girl’s shoulders and speaks in low tones. The girl hears nothing. The throb of traffic, the drone of pedestrians, the co‑worker’s gentle whispers exist outside her comprehension. Her barista apron is wet with tears, her mascara runs lines down her cheeks, her shoulders hunch and heave.
The morning shift prepares for the morning crowd. They hurry to get ready. They are short one barista. Fernando is late, which is not unusual. They should be annoyed but they like him. He is easy to be with, easy with a smile, easy with the customers, easy to forgive. They turn on lights, position tables, clean counters, retrieve milk, arrange tea cakes, adjust their aprons, and practice tolerant smiles as they await the first customers of the day.
Fernando waits outside his apartment building. He wants to be in bed. He has the morning shift. He doesn’t want to be late for work or tired for work, but he knows he will be both. His brother pulls up and motions for him to get in. The car is old and creaky and low to the ground.
When are you going to get a new car? Fernando asks.
Never, his brother says. She’s one of a kind.
This car is disgusting, Fernando says but he doesn’t mean it. He loves his brother, loves his life at the moment, is in love with a girl at work.
Fernando answers the phone. It is his brother, his brother who is always in trouble.
I got to make a run, he says. This is the last time. I can’t do it alone.
Fernando doesn’t want to go, but he won’t let his brother down. Blood comes first.
They are on their way home. Stoplights flash. Streetlamps dim. Fernando is thinking about bed, thinking about the girl at work, wishing she was waiting for him at home.
No more runs, he says to his brother. I can’t do it anymore and neither can you.
His brother nods in agreement. They stop at a light. A car pulls up beside them.
Wood Reede’s work has been featured in(mac)ro(mic), Cobalt Review, Puerto del Sol, Freshwater Literary Journal, Waving Hands Review, Penman Review, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Mount Hope and upcoming in Cardinal Sins. Wood is a backpacker and avid cyclist. She likes nothing better than biking (or hiking) across town in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. Wood lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and Watson, their rescue Schnaupin.