© Gessy Alvarez

Stories No. 56 – Gary Singh

By Gary Singh

She appears behind Green Door Number One and Charlie Baudelaire cracks a peek. There she is: Miss Barista, fairest of the fair she is, with wide-open eyes and flushed hungover cheekbones, trying to fight off the slobbering AXE deodorant commercial that just walked in.

On the coffee menu: Tantalizing Turkish. Ambrosia of God. A slender French Roast in your own mug, sweet and creamy.

Forget the needle, the damage is done. Barista number one is already occupied with the next customer, a guy named Jim Bob Joe Dexter Breckenridge Tyler Samsonite Jugular Neck-Vein Smith, who waltzes in, stands tall, points to the coffee menu, and asks: “Is everything arranged by darkness?”

With a cackle, Charlie Baudelaire occupies an old couch in the corner, bleeding into his word processor, type AB negative poetry emerging from dirty fingernails like a game show host thrilling the pandemonium of customers, like Monty Hall on Let’s Make a Deal.

There she is. Sample some more darkness from her menu as the French Roast begins to flow.

Behind the second green door, barista number two. A brand-new-car-shade of almond, a lizardy-minuscule braid flows through an oceanic chestnut symphony of hair, with eyes like black tea. An appetizer, she is, a bouillabaisse to compliment the menu: Aromatic Arabic. Ethiopian Harrar. Dark French.

The couch, a beige coffee-stained velour monstrosity, bagel crumbs crushed into the cushions, Charlie sinking into the pillows, each one soaked with a different brew: Code 33. Anesthesia to the Upside. Sam’s Pick of the Week.

Behind the third and final green door, the barista moves like air against the earth, manipulating a laundry list of ingredients: filters, Kona beans, honey, mint leaves, anise, almond milk and chamomile flowers while soft reggae quells the chaos of menu options: Silken Splendor. Canopy of Heaven. Greater Alarm.

But wait. There’s a commercial break. A pisser. The malicious landlord doesn’t allow customers to use the bathroom, so the pressure builds. And builds. And builds. Only a matter of time before Charlie pees all over the couch. Relief. Like a fire hose from the gods below. Letting the love flow like a mountain stream. Urine-soaked cushions flavoring the faded beige. Like a damp French consommé. Like a burning flambé.

Here comes the dénouement. It’s déjà vu all over again. The exuberant host announces Baudelaire’s choice. Door number three reveals a barista fluent in the Satanic French Roast Charles knows all so well, a breath of fresh air, a tad bit evil and square, with black ravenous hair and savoir faire.

Together they place an order to go. A nutty, earthy concoction well worth the wait. A trial size for two. A brew with a hint of darkness.


Gary Singh is currently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. As a scribe, he’s published over 1000 works including newspaper features, travel essays, art and music criticism, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry, and short fiction. For nearly 12 years, his columns have appeared in Metro, the alternative weekly newspaper of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

February 8, 2017