“Maxwell’s coming!” hissed Brenda. Maxwell is the big boss, the owner of the café, our Lord. I sneezed. It felt like an appropriate reaction to the news. He had the aura of a giant, an unpredictable one at that.
“Good morning, Maxwell,” I said, grinning, nodding my head ever so slightly.
“Mr Barista,” he said, acknowledging me but showing no emotion. He proceeded to do a few slow laps of the café, seemingly deep in thought. It was like watching a caged panther. But if he was a panther then what did that make us? Feeding mice. Or in Jonathon’s case, a panther-cub. I made a mental note to call Jonathon just that on my next shift with him. He wouldn’t understand but I thought it would probably be better that way.
The café was quiet at that point in time and it was obviously playing on Maxwell’s mind. His brows were furrowed deeper than usual. Had he walked in half an hour earlier he would have found a different scene. There was a backlog of orders, dishes were piling up and I was on the verge of panic. At one point I even snapped at Brenda, “Come on, woman! Time is of the essence!” whilst waiting for her to take out a black coffee. See, her priorities were all wrong. She thought it more important to finish loading the dishwasher tray than tend to my request.
When a black coffee is made it must be taken out immediately. Each second that passes takes its toll on the crema. On so many occasions I have tossed black coffee down the sink in frustration and started again from scratch because it hasn’t been collected in time. “Fallen soldiers,” I call them. I very rarely snap, though. I am known for my calm nature and to this day feel guilt towards Brenda for my meltdown.
“Mister Barista, could you make old Maxwell a latte?” he demanded in the form of a question. Talking in third person was one of his funnier habits.
“You betcha, sir.” You betcha, sir? Was I living in the 1950’s?
I enjoyed making coffee for him, though. I saw it as a chance to make him proud of me, to show him what I’m worth. I followed my routine and produced one of the better lattes I have ever made. I watched him intensely as he sipped it, looking for even just a hint of pleasure. He caught my eye and smirked, nodding in approval. I completed my shift with the confidence of a panther-cub.