Soda Fountain Abuse

“And would you be a love and give me a cup? Not for tea, mind, just some water. Water is good for these old bones, ya know?”

“Right,” said Mickey, the son of Jenny Hailer and therefore the one who got stuck working the after-school shift at her deli. He didn’t mind it much—it was always quiet, so he could get a decent chunk of his homework done—but he did mind Friday afternoons when Declan Potts rolled in for his pre-weekend munch. He knew perfectly well that Declan was going to fill the paper cup with tea as soon as he thought Mickey’s attention was elsewhere. If his mother found out…

Jenny was absolutely convinced that the single greatest threat to her livelihood, her son’s future, and society itself was the abuse of her deli’s soda fountain.

She knew that she had to partially blame herself. She bought the model that dispenses water out of one of the same spigots as the pay drinks, after all. Still, that didn’t give people the right to drink expensive beverages when they only asked for a free water cup. All of those ninety-five cents add up. Particularly when they steal free refills.

She had posted signs warning that this practice amounted to theft and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Some people obeyed, but others took advantage of her good nature and distracting atmosphere to snatch drinks anyhow.

The hippies who came into town were the worst, thinking that all soft drinks should be held communally throughout the universe and therefore that they could imbibe with impunity. And Declan Potts was the worst of them all. One time Jenny had happened to be in the deli on Friday afternoon, showing her accountant some records, and she watched as her son specifically warned Declan that he couldn’t have any beverages that he didn’t pay for. The scoundrel took a cup of iced tea and a refill of lemonade anyway.

“Be sure to watch that Declan today,” Jenny invariably warned Mickey on Friday mornings before school, but they both understood what a charade it was. Mickey didn’t even bother to admonish the man about it today, accepting that the way his insides were turning into an angry sea cucumber was just a regular business hazard. True to form, Declan poured himself some tropical punch today and raised his glass in a silent toast toward the counterboy.

In doing so, Declan became aware for the first time of something written on the cup. “Darkwood Gulchians We Love,” he read. “Oy! Wuzzat, then?”

Mickey thought it was pretty self-explanatory, but he had enough concern for customer service not to let it show. “My mom had some cups made up,” he explained.

“I know that, ye git. What’s on ‘em?”

“Oh. They’re just people around town, you know? People who are interesting, or that she’s pleased to know.”

Declan smiled broadly. “Well, then, miladdo. I’m bettin’ that she’s gonna want one of these before long.” A business card seemed to jump out of Declan’s sleeve and spin its way across the counter.

Mickey picked up the card and regarded it with disdain, for it glittered. He then slid it back to Declan. “I think she’s going to keep it to people she likes,” he said, as kindly as possible, which wasn’t terribly.

Declan’s smile never faded. “She will,” he declared, as he slid the card back across the counter and strutted away.

*****

Lunchtime post time! This scene will show up in The Clean Hippie Murders, which I’m really enjoying writing, even though I haven’t actually started writing it yet. This is another act of so-called hippie rebellion; it’s only recently that I’ve started coming up with scenes involving any of the hippies, but discovering their personalities and what distinguishes them from each other has been a lot of fun.

The scene itself was inspired by Chipotle and their “People we’re Pleased to Know” cups. They should totally put me on one.

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