Megan deals with a troublesome customer


The guy was wearing a grey suit he thought looked good, any suit where I could see someone’s socks when they were standing up was a no from me. This thought wouldn’t have occurred to me if he wasn’t eyeing me like he was thinking I looked good too.

I put his takeout coffee down on the counter. ‘That’ll be £2.50. There’s a fifty pence discount if you bring a reusable cup.’

Without looking away from their chess game Vincent and Devon raised their bamboo cups printed with cartoon animals and topped by brightly coloured rubber. Not what you’d expect from two ex-ironworkers with wrinkled, calloused hands and a sense of bulk about them, although the bulk had long since gone.

The man ignored them and gave me the money then leaned in and rested his elbows on the counter. ‘You’d be really pretty if you dressed like a girl.’

I rested my arms on the counter and met his gaze. ‘You’d be really smart if you kept your mouth shut.’ I tapped the tip jar.

‘Bitch.’ He snatched his coffee and paused at the door. ‘And I won’t be back.’

‘We won’t miss you.’

Vincent and Devon tittered. The man shot me a murderous look and tried to slam the door behind him but the button operated system disagreed with the prospect and shut in slow motion. He left it half open and stomped down the street. Sometimes I regretted we hadn’t gone fully automated, just not right at that moment.

Jimmy stuck his head through the hatch. ‘Are you alright?’

‘I’ve just seen a forty-something white dude lose and argument with a door.’ I straightened and brushed stray coffee grounds off my arms. ‘I’m good.’

‘Who needs television?’ Vincent said to Davon who nodded in reply.

Jimmy grinned. ‘As long as you’re alright.’

I smiled at him.

‘What did I do?’ he asked.

I stepped closer to the hatch. ‘We’re supposed to be trying to get more customers and you didn’t tell me I should’ve put up with it.’

‘You shouldn’t have to.’

Vincent and Devon appeared to be absorbed in their game and we were in the lull between breakfast and lunch so the café was empty. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. ‘You’re the best boss.’

He touched his cheek and made a flustered noise.

I was sure most people would’ve fired me for my attitude to customer service. Polite customers got polite service, arseholes got arseholery.

‘Get a room, kids,’ Vincent said, and Devon nodded with an exasperated expression.

          I put my hand on my hip and shook my head. ‘Ah, gerr’or.’

They chuckled together like schoolboys, their enjoyment of being together was infectious and I had to concentrate to keep my expression disapproving.

Jimmy’s fingers brushed my back and he retreated to the kitchen to work on his upcoming specials menus and order lists. He always tested the meat free stuff on me so I hoped I didn’t have to smile through a mouth full of avocado.

I shook my head again and got the tablet back out, while I had no orders to take it was time to get started on a website, graphics, and set up some social media accounts. We’d come up with a basic list of things to try but even they seemed like an insurmountable mountain of work ahead of us. Nobody ever climbed Everest without taking a first step though.

So I told myself, I’d never been into mountaineering.

Devon came over and put their cups on the counter. ‘Are you alright, Meg?’ he asked in his forever soft voice.

I forced a smile. ‘I’m fine. Everything’s fine.’

He gave me a look that seemed to imply he knew people always said that when everything wasn’t fine but he was too shy to say so.

I raised the cups before he could change his mind about asking more questions. ‘More coffee?’

He gave me a genuine, warm smile that always made me feel at ease with him, a rare talent. ‘Please.’

I considered him then turned around to rinse the cups and make them fresh coffees. It wasn’t for me to go blabbing.


Feature image by Hamza Bounaim on Unsplash

For more episodes of Take a Bite Cafe click here.

Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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