THURSDAY: The Coffee Guy

BY LYANNE MATCHAM

Copyright is held by the author.

IT WASN’T so much that Jonah liked getting up at 4:30 each morning; it was just the way it was. In decent weather, he could ride his bicycle. But now, it was the dead of winter and a bit too early for buses to run, so the long walk extended his journey. Thankfully, the solitude of his steps, the crunch of the snow and the sharpness of the cool air gave him quiet enjoyment. He arrived at Maxine’s Neighbourhood Coffee Shop just as the bakers were pulling out the first of many trays of treats, disguised as healthy breakfast food.

The coffee smelled great, almost as great as the first sip tasted. It was a good thing he liked it — nobody had warned him that gallons of the strong, dark brew would be absorbed by his pores, his hair follicles, his clothes and shoes. At first, he was surprised when a fresh waft would hit him when he climbed in the shower or when he changed his shirt. His room-mates had taken to calling him Bean, not entirely based on his lanky stature.

This was his ritual — get up, work the busy morning hours, then head to class, the library, maybe shoot some baskets with the guys, play a video game or two, study, and hit the hay by 11 at the latest. Not much sleep, but enough. And no student loan, which was more than worth a bit of fatigue.

He enjoyed his job. His self-esteem had survived the embarrassment of friends occasionally seeing him in his white uniform. He’d long stopped aspiring to be the coolest guy around, so it made sense he could settle into being “Young Jonah,” that nice lad amongst the sea of older ladies that filled out the staff. He still saw himself as the quiet, slightly invisible boy he had been in high school, even if others now noticed his warm brown eyes, lovely smile and intelligent gaze. He was unaware, as young men often are that those older ladies smiled at him with pride, the way grandmothers take measure of potential new suitors for their granddaughters.

Much like catching a glance into the occasional living room on those early morning walks, Jonah thought his regulars offered him a glimpse into their lives.

Every morning, he could set his clock by the first customers of the day. Edwin and Marion walked their winter-loving Icelandic sheepdog, looped his leash to the rail outside, gave him a treat and headed in. Slight but straight-backed, they pulled off woolly tuques, bought two small white coffees, shared a multigrain bagel with cream cheese and headed home.

Edwin always held the door for Marion; he always held her arm, gently, just by her elbow as they placed their order. She always chose the same table, cut the bagel in quarters, placed two pieces on the spare plate, and handed it to him. Nice couple, Jonah thought, when he met them. At first, it just seemed cute that Edwin watched his wife so attentively. But in time, he began to see more clearly: her growing unsteadiness, occasional confusion about where the ladies’ room was located, the gentle repetition of her questions, and of his answers. Dementia? Alzheimer’s? Somehow, the label wasn’t as important as them having more coffee dates.

Most mornings, he moved between the counter and the drive-through window, two distinct connection points for the local customers.

Did his friends need to know that the mailman took his coffee black with four sugars? Or that every morning, Mrs. Baxter picked up an extra-large double-double in her pyjamas? Or that Mr. Abdul drank decaf and did the crossword while his daughter was at swimming practice? Or that there was a nice couple from Argentina who took turns driving around with their early-rising twins in the back seat, while the other of them caught an extra hour or so of sleep? No.

They certainly didn’t need to know that a 2003 silver Honda Civic was driven by the most captivating girl Jonah had ever seen, and that she liked Earl Grey tea with milk and a fruit-berry muffin before heading to psych class. Of course he’d noticed the text book; it was always on the seat beside her.

On days like this, as his window slid sideways and her window slid down, he enjoyed knowing that the same bracing, fresh wind that filled his lungs, also reached hers. He hoped she also liked winter, and he suspected she did because she always kept her window down while he filled her order.

“Good morning,” he’d say. “What can I get you?”

If he day-dreamed, he’d imagine hearing “The usual please, and maybe a date sometime?” But of course, what he did hear was, “May I please have that muffin warmed up?”

“Absolutely,” he’d answer.

These insights seemed sacred — like they should be respected in the way he hoped doctors and nurses protected the privacy of those they treated. They were also gifts; little reminders that sometimes, small connections aren’t really small at all.

Someday, he would be something more than Young Jonah, something different, and he knew that. But for now, he was content to get up at 4:30, make the cold, crunchy walk and pour out morning greetings, one cup at a time.

18 comments

  1. Brian Connelly

    Congratulations. Where did you say the coffee shop was?
    Sounds like a place I’d like to go to.

  2. JAZZ

    Lyanne,
    You have talent; there’s no doubt about that. I thoroughly enjoyed this little story and the fact that you created fully fleshed out characters with but a few clicks. Good luck with your novel.
    JAZZ

  3. Margaret Alexander

    I fell into the story and didn’t leave it until the end. Loved the just right amount of details and the fact that I somehow knew the characters with just a few strokes of your keyboard and brain. Keep the stories coming.

  4. Nydia

    Lyanne, a great story — I’m in the coffee shop watching Jonah watching the customers and rooting for him.

  5. Mary Steer

    I’ve been looking forward to this story all week and can’t believe I didn’t get a minute to sit down and read it before this! Love your work, Lyanne. I’m with Brian — would love to go to Jonah’s coffee shop. My favourite part: the paragraph beginning, “Did his friends need to know…” Pure gold.

  6. Erna May Millar

    Peter, Michelle and I are laying on a mattress just before the movers come, taking a moment to visit with young Jonah and the gang. OK, enough lingering. Off on our day like the rest of the world. Thanks for your gift Lyanne. Thanks for the fun!

  7. Karen

    The creative sensibility that describes a window sliding sideways with one sliding down hooked me. I want more Lyanne — more of this story and more stories!

  8. Frank T. Sikora

    While the flow of the words kept the reader swimming nice along, I still have to say: “Plot please. Conflict please. Tension please.” Yes, I enjoy a slice of life as well as anyone. (I also enjoy a nice slice of chocolate pie or cake), but even in a short piece of fiction I need a sense of wonder or danger or insight. Kick me in the stomach (or lower). Excite me. A gentle kiss is fine, but I want more….

  9. JAZZ

    Frank,
    God knows you’re entitled to your opinion, but in this case I think you are over reacting. Lyanne’s story Is a beautiful vignette of life as seen through the eyes of an innocent youth who observes the goodness and uniqueness in the people he meets.
    The sense of “wonder and insight” that you say is missing is there — you just have to look. As for ‘danger and plot’ — we can read about that any old time.

  10. Georgia Dayley

    I’m with Frank on this one. What’s there is lovely, but it’s not enough for me.

  11. Deborah Sinnott

    You pulled me right in Lyanne. Your sensitivity to the human condition is so connecting. As I always remember you to be too. Reminding us of the youthful mind and how the perception of some moments seem much longer and more intricate. Having more boxes open to be filled with the bloom of life just opening up. I’d love to hear more of the continuation of Jonah. You are gifted you know…..

  12. Ariffa

    What a lovely story! Your style flows well and the pacing is wonderful. Although there is not a lot of action, I don’t necessarily think there needs to be. The focus is on the character and a functional position in our society that we often take for granted but rarely seem to value. Until now. Great job!

  13. Suzanne Burchell

    Thank you for such a remarkable glimpse into the heart of a wonderful young man. Your story has set my course for this day in a better direction. I will slow down and see people with a clearer lens, smell my coffee and roses of life that are there right close to me and hope that one day the young woman will not drive through but come into the shop dot dot dot 🙂 your writing is brilliant in that he opens the heart to the goodness that can exist in a person living life on life’s terms doing the beat he can with virtues of compassion, hard work and responsibility. This young man is a quiet hero. Thank you again for the reminder of greatness in simple virtues.

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