IMPORTANT NOTE: Take a Bite Cafe will continue here until 18th October when it will transfer to my new site.
Megan and Jimmy make a discovery
Monday morning Jimmy let me go down to the café. Not, I suspected, because I had magic fingers but to stop me injuring myself trying to find adventures in his flat, which was sweet.
Humming to myself, feeling like a bird that had been let out its cage I went through from the door between the café and Jimmy’s flat to the main room. Opposite us the shop that had been surrounded by white boards hiding workmen had acquired a large sign.
‘Babe,’ I called. ‘I think I know where Rick’s new job is.’
He came out of the kitchen and stopped beside me at the table nearest the counter. ‘Un-fucking-believable.’
The sign had a photograph of coffee beans in the background and in large letters announced, ‘Daily Grind. Grand Opening in Two Weeks’.
‘We’re finished,’ Jimmy murmured. ‘We can’t compete with a chain.’
I squeezed his hand. ‘Their coffee tastes like stewed shit. I can’t even get a sandwich in those places, it’s all mayo and plastic cheese.’
He stared at the sign like he was going to cry. ‘They do avocado toast. People love avocado toast.’
I patted his shoulder. ‘I’ll put avocados on the next stock order.’
‘Who’s going to eat it?’ he asked. ‘I love our regulars but they’re more bacon sandwiches and fry-ups.’
I rubbed his back. ‘You could add it to the vegan breakfast menu.’
‘We tried it once,’ he said. ‘A regular complained it looked like a snot sandwich.’
‘They’re dead now.’
‘Ah.’ That was a problem with a lot of our customers; they either died or got moved to care homes by their families. Another problem, from a business perspective, is they could all nurse a single drink and gossip for a long time so sometimes we ended up like an extension of the care home. I didn’t mind, we were rarely busy enough to be short on tables, but one drink in two hours wouldn’t pay the business rates. I felt a twinge of guilt for thinking like that. Then again, if the café closed where would they all go?
I shook my head to try and dislodge the thoughts and said, ‘Family run places are popular with young people, maybe they’ll come for The Grind then come to us.’
He looked around the faded interior of the café. Maybe it could do with a lick of paint and some updated furniture but it was nice, it was loved, not all shiny and sleek with identical leather chairs that stuck to people in summer and tables too low to eat from a plate at. People didn’t tend to like getting arse sweats and crumb coatings.
Jimmy sat down, rested his chin on his clasped hands, and murmured something I didn’t quite catch but sounded a lot like ‘oh, fuck’. I wanted to give him a big hug but my crutches were holding me up.
‘We need a positive mental attitude,’ I said. ‘Imagine punching him in the balls.’
He chuckled bitterly. ‘I don’t think that’s what they mean.’
‘Really? I find it very positive.’
He caught my waist and pressed his face into my stomach. ‘I want to put my face between your thighs and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.’
I stroked his hair. ‘I’m sure we can spare five minutes.’
‘You’re still sore.’
‘I’ll make that sacrifice.’
He chuckled and nuzzled my stomach. I dug my fingers into his hair and he sighed.
‘Between business rates and a hipster chain eating into our profits, I don’t see how we’ll get through this,’ he murmured.
‘We’ll figure something out, Jimmy.’ I nodded, wondering which of us I was trying to convince. I loved my job but it wasn’t the same for me, this was my job but it was Jimmy’s everything.
He kissed my stomach through my shirt then looked up at me with a faint smile.
There was a thump against the door and I almost jumped out my skin. Mattie cupped her hands against the glass and peered through it at us.
‘Cockblock,’ I whispered.
Jimmy chuckled, shaking his head, then got up and unlocked the door for her.
‘If you’re going to make out with Megan’s crotch don’t do it in front of a window,’ Mattie said around a mouthful of minty gum. ‘Seriously people.’
She went into the backroom and put her rucksack down with a heavy thud. Not for the first time I wondered what she carried in it, it looked big enough to take on an army expedition.
Jimmy leaned down and whispered near my ear in a sad voice, ‘No pussy for me.’
I covered my mouth to smother my laughter. ‘There’s always plenty of pussy for you.’
He kissed my cheek.
‘Staff meeting,’ Mattie shouted. ‘We need to talk about your social media strategy.’ She came back to the door with a packet of alarmingly sized marker pens. ‘You’re old, Uncle Jim, got a whiteboard?’
He frowned. ‘No.’
‘You’ve got paper though, right? You’re not writing little love letters to each other on stone tablets, are you?’ She went back into the room.
‘They last longer than cards,’ I said and followed.
She helped herself to the paper from the printer on top of the cupboard. There was an open card folder on the desk with bits of paper in. She took one out and held it up before we’d even sat down.
‘This is a print-off of one of your posts,’ she said, as if we couldn’t see it blown up to the size of the paper. ‘Put simply, it’s shit.’
Jimmy and I looked at each other.
‘Your nan says you did, like, arty stuff and pictures when you were at uni,’ Mattie said and gestured round the paper with a black marker. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. Where’s the tasty food photos? The menu graphics? The pictures of the cuteness that is you two?’ she jabbed the pen at us.
I decided to let the last bit slide. ‘To be fair, I’ve only just set it up and couldn’t take pictures after being laid up from crashing.’
Mattie just looked at me and shook her head. ‘For a mid-level millennial it’s shocking.’
‘Mid-level?’ Jimmy asked.
‘An older millennial but not as old as you, Uncle Jim.’
I touched his arm and whispered, ‘You’re not old.’
Mattie gestured at Jimmy’s jumper. ‘I present, exhibit A.’
‘I like your jumper,’ I whispered.
He smiled like a kid who’d been up to something and thought no-one suspected.
She took out another piece of paper and held up dramatically to read it. ‘When polled, seventy percent of patrons favoured shirts and open collars. Smart, but a little bit sexy.’ She pulled a grossed out face. ‘But whatever, you need a makeover, Uncle Jim.
Jimmy raised his hand. ‘Did you actually ask anyone or is this part of your continued campaign to make me cooler?’
She sniffed. ‘Research was done with select, valued customers.’
‘My nan and her friends?’ I asked.
She screwed up the paper and threw it into the recycling bin. ‘Alright, no makeovers, we’ll just have to go on your cuteness for staff shots. Next item –‘
‘Do you want to be in charge of the café’s social media?’ I asked without thinking.
Jimmy’s shoulders relaxed in a silent ‘thank you’.
‘Yes.’ She gave us a solid nod. ‘Now, if we’re increasing my responsibilities let’s discuss a raise.’
‘Let’s give it a couple of weeks to see if you can do it first,’ I said.
‘Probationary period, solid business proposition.’ Another sharp nod.
She got out two print-offs and passed them to us. ‘Now, let’s take a look at my propositions.’
Jimmy held the paper to shield his arm and checked his watch. We had time. Unfortunately.
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