Just giving it a trial run. Let me know what you think in the comments, 3.5.
February 27, 2019 – Moonbeam Coffee, Store #11,041 – Portland, Oregon
Heather Laramie’s wokeness wasn’t a hobby – it was a passion. Her frame was thin, the result of many a hunger strike in the name of whatever the latest social cause was trending on Lifebox. She owned multiple Che Guevara shirts, allowing her to wear the image of the Communist revolutionary daily. In her defense, her grasp on history was tenuous and she was unaware of Guevara’s bloodthirsty actions. She just viewed him as a man who wanted people to get free stuff, an economic system that in Heather’s eyes, was totally doable, seeing as how her parents gave her free stuff all the time, so surely the government had a money tree lurking about somewhere that could be shook until the leaves fell off into perpetuity.
Yes, Heather talked the talk. She regaled anyone who would listen of her love of Senator Murray Leibowitz, the upstart, self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” who gave former Homeland Security Secretary Emily Wannadingle a run for her money during the 2016 Democratic primaries.
More importantly to her, she walked the walk. She drove a Yarikazi Elf, which was literally the smallest car on the market, virtually one step above being a glorified golf cart. Sure, it was cramped, she was never able to invite a friend to come along for a ride, and motorists regularly slammed into it because they typically failed to see it and assumed the parking space it was in was available, but it got great gas mileage and was good for the environment, assuming that energy coming out of a wall socket was somehow produced in a cleaner manner than gas harvested from the bowels of the earth but…hey, you know what? That’s not the point. The point is, the car made her happy.
And many things made Heather happy. There was the “Resist” tattoo she got permanently etched on her right forearm the day Vinny Stugotz was sworn in as the forty-fifth president of the United States. There was her pink pussy hat, which she, in addition to Che’s grim visage, also wore daily. She even decorated it with a pin that read, “Keep your laws off my vagina.” Heather was, in fact, such a proponent of anti-vaginal legislation that she regularly posted on her blog about her support for a controversial law that would allow women to have an abortion up until the 24th trimester, known throughout the media as the “Whack ‘Em with a Baseball Bat Until Their Sixth Birthday Bill.” Murray Leibowitz was the bill’s chief sponsor, and once Emily Wannadingle’s people determined through a series of polls that the bill was popular, she vocalized her support for it to.
Yes, Heather was proud of her lifestyle and yearned for the day when the revolution would come, bathing the streets red with the blood of capitalist pigs, seizing any and all businesses and putting them under government control, and putting all labor at the new Communist government’s disposal. Like many young comrades, Heather always pictured herself as some kind of commissar, someone who would be paid handsomely to vocally support Communism and punish those who criticized it. Most millennial pinkos typically fantasized about becoming high-ranking officials in the apparatchik. None ever envisioned themselves as ditch digging peasants who would work for 12 hours a day, then spend the other 12 hours waiting in line for government issued toilet paper and moldy blocks of cheese.
Also, somehow in this fantasy vision of utopia, Schmuck Phones, Lifebox, superhero movies, boy wizard books, video games and continued access to Mom and Dad’s backyard pool and tricked out basement still existed, though no one ever offered an explanation as to how, in a world where a workforce would be whipped into submission and aspirations of wealth would be quashed under an iron boot, all these luxuries would continue to exist.
Back to the main point. Heather was woke – exceedingly, ridiculously, absurdly woke, and out of all her expressions of wokeness, there were none that the pink haired, bespectacled college student majoring in 17th century lesbian folklore was more proud of than her position as a barista at Moonbeam Coffee.
Yes, Moonbeam Coffee, the wokest provider of caffeine fixes on the planet! Come for the triple half caf, skinny foam, mocha whipped honeysuckle cold brew with trace hints of ginger and turmeric. Leave when you ask for a large coffee with sugar and cream and the staff looks at you funny. Come for the recycled cups featuring tips on how to save the environment like “Compost daily” and “Get rid of your lamps and sit in the dark.” Come for the giftshop, where you can buy a bumper sticker that reads, “Live Locally, Frolic Globally” or “My Other Car Doesn’t Exist Because I Don’t Hate Mother Nature So Much that I’d Own Two.”
Heather had loved her job for three years, ever since her un-woke, patriarchal father insisted that if she was going to waste his money on lesbian folklore classes, that she’d better at least get a job to pay for her personal expenses. At first, she despised the cis-male scum who raised her, decrying his name for failing to see the abundant job opportunities that were available to students of lesbian folklore that hailed from the 1600s, but she soon came to enjoy making octuple caf, tall foam marzipan swirls with rosemary shots. She loved it so much that she was sure she’d just keep working there after college, opting to forego the abundant job opportunities in her field of study, of which she remained unwaveringly sure that they did, in fact, exist.
Alas, on the day in question, Heather began to have grave concerns as to whether or not her job would remain enjoyable in the future. A line of smelly, unkempt, unhygienic homeless people of all ages, races, sexes and creeds waiting to use the one toilet in the store’s small bathroom extended out of the store and down the block. This had been happening daily for months, ever since a vagrant had sued Moonbeam Coffee and won three million dollars after being refused to use the bathroom at a San Francisco store. The court ruled that the company’s policy against allowing bathroom access to paying customers only was discriminatory against the poor, and Moonbeam Coffee could no longer make arbitrary rules that unfairly affected the economically challenged.
For Heather, the result was that she hadn’t been allowed to serve a brew since the Fall of 2018. She was now on bathroom clean-up detail, standing outside the perpetually stinky restroom with a plunger and a mop at the ready. As she looked up at a television monitor that was playing her favorite news channel, Heather began to question everything she had ever believed.
Lydia Estevez von Straffsbourg-Kightlinger-Tiparoo, the most popular reporter on the Woke News Network, had been recently named the host of The Lesbian Slam Poet News Hour, the only show in which militant feminists updated the public on the latest stories in rhyme.
On screen, Lydia wore her usual outfit, a black beret and matching turtleneck sweater, a look completed with a pair of thick glasses. She was surrounded by a diverse array of poets. In the background, one poet pounded a pair of bongos.
“Moonbeam Coffee,” Lydia said. “It’s been eight months since this vile, capitalist, profit motivated criminal organization perpetrated by the one percent dared to commit the unspeakable, unforgivable hate crime of telling a man that he could not use the bathroom unless he bought a locally sourced, farm to table, gluten free scone, half the proceeds of which would have gone to creating communes for transgender watercolor artists in impoverished nations. What do we think about this, ladies?”
Vocal pundit Maura Heffernan-Augustus-Peabody-Benjamin brushed a piece of lint off of her “Fuck Stugotz” t-shirt and looked directly at the camera. “I don’t care how long it’s been, Lydia. I admit that this is a tricky situation, given the fact that I do support locally sourced, farm to table, gluten free scones and the building of communes for transgendered watercolor artists in impoverished nations, but…”
Maura was interrupted by Jessica Melman-Walters-Duffy-Boombalay-Bensonhurst, a contributor with a shaved bald head and a t-shirt that depicted President Stugotz swinging from the end of a noose. “Can I just say that President Stugotz is not doing enough to help start communes for transgender watercolor artists in third world nations? This is the defining issue of our time and that pig, that pretender, that usurper of Emily Wannadingle’s birthright couldn’t be bothered to do a thing about this.”
“I agree,” Maura said. “And I can’t wait to hear the slam poem you wrote about that, sister, but first, I would like to read my poem about Moonbeam Coffee’s despicable reign of tyranny.”
“Go on, sister,” Lydia said. “Hit us with your truth.”
Maura sipped some water. She cleared her throat, then stood up and read from a piece of paper. “Beans of hate! Beans of hate! What is the fate of those who would stand by and sell the beans of hate? Unwoke baristas, chasing the mighty buck, but about those less fortunate, they could hardly give a…”
At that precise moment, poor Heather suffered a mental break. Her eyes welled with tears, and not just the ones that were inspired by the stench emanating from the bathroom. Heather had lived and breathed the teachings of the Woke News Network for as long as she could remember. She had long adored The Lesbian Slam Poet News Hour and had bought all of the books written by its contributors, from Free Stuff Works to Down with Penile Rule. She was even a fierce supporter of homeless rights, having spent many a weekend protesting against income inequality.
The door to the bathroom swung open, causing the air to become borderline unbreathable. Out from the squalid conditions emerged a hobo known around the community as “Dumpster Dave,” for his penchant for sleeping in large trash receptacles. He’d come close to being crushed in the trash compactors of three separate trucks, but he was still ticking. His tattered clothing reeked of bourbon and feces and as he looked at Heather, he wiped the snots that had formed in his mustache onto his coat sleeve.
“Damnation!” Dave said. “You got your work cut out for you today, Heather!”
Heather sighed. “Did you at least put your needle in the sharp container this time, Dave?”
Dave appeared aghast. “Un-woke bitch! Ain’t you been watchin’ the television-o-mo-bobber? I gots a to shit where I pleases and it’s a hate crime to ask me that!”
In her heart, Heather knew what she was about to say violated ever belief she’d ever held dear. Alas, her brain and heart had been in a running battle ever since Moonbeam Coffee had been forced to let any and all comers to use the bathroom, no questions asked, no purchase required. “So, you’re telling me I should have to risk contracting a deadly, incurable disease because you’re too lazy to put your needle in a safe container that my company provided to you for free!”
The hobo got flustered. “Buh..fah…gah…hate criminal! Damnation, you one of them Stugotz voters, ain’t you? Where’s your MAFFA hat, bitch?”
“Oh come on,” Heather said. “Like I would be caught dead in a ‘Make America Funky Fresh Again,’ hat.”
“Where’s your manager?” Dave asked. “I want to speak to your manager.”
Heather sighed. At the counter, Heather’s manager, Janice Schaeffer, was busily preparing a septuple caf frappucino with extra goat leche and a sprig of oak root. Heather’s stomach turned at the idea that she was about to disappoint her boss. Although Janice was twenty years old, Heather felt a special kinship to her employer. Between the faded hammer and sickle tattoo on the upper half of her left bosom and the green hair, Heather had a hunch that she was going to be a lot like Janice when she reached middle age.
The boss noticed the commotion and came over. “What seems to be the problem here?”
As the fracas ensued, a skinny woman with a protruding baby bump entered the bathroom and closed the door.
“This no-good, dirty rotten, conservative bitch just implied that I should exercise personality responsibility for myself!” Dave shouted.
Janice gasped. “Heather! How could you?”
A low moan emanated from inside the bathroom.
“All I did was suggest that if Dave is going to use our bathroom to shoot heroin…”
“I gots to shoot heroin, bitch!” Dave said. “It’s not my fault that I got an addiction due to the fact that I ain’t been able to find a job in seventeen years.”
Heather cocked her head to the side. “You haven’t found one single job in seventeen years?”
Dave threw his hands in the hair. “Bitch! I been holdin’ out for a CEO position!”
Janice shuddered. “I…I can’t even right now. First, Dave, I know the unjust capitalist system has been cruel to you, but you can’t just call women the b word…”
“Thank you,” Heather said.
The boss finished her thought. “…unless she’s using unjustifiable hate speech and then it’s ok.”
Dave stuck his tongue out at Heather. “How do ya like me now, bitch?!”
Heather’s lower lip quivered. “But…buh buh…but…Janice!”
“We all attended the sensitivity training, Heather,” Janice said. “Remember when the stockholders were livid when every Moonbeam Coffee store in the nation shut down for three weeks so employees could be flogged while being taught how to become sufficiently woke. You’re displaying a very insufficient level of wokeness right now.”
Bloodcurdling screams poured out of the bathroom. “Gah..ahhh…oh God….ohh….argh….ARGH!”
The baristas ignored it. They had grown accustomed to such noises.
“Janice,” Heather said. “You know I think the world of you. You taught me everything I know and even invited me to my first protest but I’ll have you know that I’m very woke. I’m so woke I write anti-Stugotz screed on my Lifebox daily. I’m so woke I donated to Murray Leibowitz. I’m so woke I own one and only one cloth tampon that I wash in the sink daily. I am woke.”
“You’re not acting like it,” Janice said. “Apologize to this man.”
“Yeah,” the toothless loser said. “Apologize to me right now, bitch.”
Heather looked at Janice’s disapproving face, then at Dave’s grinning, scabby face. “I will not.”
All activities in the store ceased. The plucky young baristas, the hipsters on laptops writing their screenplays, even the homeless folk in line waiting to use the crapper, all grew silent as they took in the spectacle.
Soon, the silence was cut by the screams of the woman inside the bathroom. “Ugh…get out of me you little fucker! Goddamn you, Johnny! Why did I let you do this to me?! Goddamn you to hell!”
Heather pointed at the long line of poor folk. “Janice, this is ridiculous.”
“I beg your pardon?” Janice asked.
Heather gulped and mustered up her inner strength. “Only paying customers should be allowed to use a business’ bathroom. There, I said it, and I’m glad I said.”
Everyone gasped. “Take that back!” Janice said.
Heather raised her voice. “I won’t! Look, it’s simple. Businesses need to make money in order to provide goods and services and whenever an employee is taken away from providing those goods and services, that translates into the company making less money, which means there’s less money for employees to get raises, and less tax dollars going into the system to promote much needed social welfare programs!”
The woman in the bathroom cried out in pain. “Barrrrrgh! I want this to be over so bad!”
Janice pointed to a glass box attached to the wall. It contained a medieval cat-o-nine-tails behind a glass plate. Underneath it was a brass plaque with the words, “Break in Case of Insufficient Wokeness” printed on it.
“Don’t make me break that glass, Heather,” Janice said.
“Janice,” Heather said. “I love you, but listen to reason. Things were so much better when only paying customers were allowed to use the bathroom. People who actually like our store and want to see it succeed because they enjoy our products would treat the bathroom with special care, being sure to not make too much of a mess because they knew if they did so regularly, they’d be too embarrassed to come to their favorite hangout anymore. And if they did make a mess, then at least they contributed to the store’s bottom line, so that the company could afford to hire a designated janitor and baristas like me wouldn’t have to be taken off the counter, away from all the delicious designer coffees and forced to clean up shit and piss and hypodermic needles and…”
The door to the bathroom swung open. The young woman, looking like a pale zombie, walked out. Her body was drenched in blood and she carried a baby wrapped in toilet baby. The infant cried loudly.
“Excuse me,” the woman said as she pushed her way past the baristas. “I have to go find a dumpster.”
“Don’t you put dare put that thing in my house,” Dave said.
“Hey,” Heather said as the woman walked away. “You know, there’s a police station that’s just down the street. There’s a law that you can drop off a baby, no questions asked.”
“Get your laws off my body,” the woman said as she pushed the front door of the store open, leaving a bloody palm print on the glass.
Janice pointed at Heather’s “Keep Your Laws Off My Vagina” pin. “You don’t deserve to wear that. What happened to your support of the ‘Whack ‘Em in the Head Until Their Sixth Birthday’ law?”
“I’ve been rethinking that,” Heather said.
Janice gasped. “I think you need to leave, Heather.”
Heather ignored her boss. She stepped onto an empty, chair, then stepped onto a table, breaking up a hipster writing session. “I’ve been rethinking a lot of things lately.”
“Whatever you’re thinking, young lady, your thoughts aren’t welcome here,” Janice said.
“I used to love this job,” Heather said. “Back when it was fun. Back when I could make coffee and talk about all the free stuff that people should be given for free but now…now I realize, nothing good in life is free.”
A dirt bearded, man-bun sporting drifter wearing a sleeveless shirt to show off his prolific arm tattoos entered the bathroom. “Holy shit!” he cried. “It looks like somebody had a baby in here! Oh well, fuck it, beats shitting at the shelter.”
Heather became lost in her tirade. “When I started working here, it was a happier time, a simpler time, an easier time, a better time. I could make coffee all day and sell it at an absurdly marked up price but posers didn’t care as long as they could post selfies of themselves holding a trendy cup. I was able to watch WNN on the monitor for free and at most, on any given day, I rarely had to spend more than five minutes cleaning the bathroom and I just want to return to that simpler time…”
“Hey,” came the voice of the drifter from inside the bathroom. “Someone should really scrub all the blood off the walls. It’s unsanitary.”
Heather continued. “…now all I want to do is return to that better time, that wonderful time, that…”
Janice punched the glass and, without a care for the blood dripping from her knuckles, seized the cat-o-nine-tails. “Don’t you say it.”
“…a funkier time…a fresher time…”
Janice’s nostrils flared. “If you say it, you’re….”
Heather ripped off her pink pussy hat and tossed it to the ground. She pulled off her Che Guevara shirt to reveal a star-spangled, red-white-and blue Vinny Stugotz campaign shirt, emblazoned with the forty-fifth president’s catchphrase, “Make America Funky Fresh Again!”
“MAFFA!” Heather shouted at the top of her lungs. “MAFFA, motherfuckers! MAFFA forever!”
All the hipsters, baristas, and homeless folk averted their eyes, as if Heather’s new shirt contained the retina burning light rumored to pour out of the ark of the covenant itself.
“I never wanted this!” Heather shouted. “You all made me this way! This is been brewing in my gut for months and finally, I have to let it out! If you want stuff, you should buy it! If you can’t afford to buy it, you should get a job! If you can’t find a job, you should seek the skills needed for one! If your physically or mentally impaired, then you should seek out government services instead of just lying around on the street all day but at any rate, if you want a better life, then that better life comes from you, not from the government.”
Janice broke out into tears. “I’m going to need to rent all the therapy puppies to get over this. How could you, Heather?! How could you?!”
Heather looked at her mentor and felt internal anguish. She hopped off the table and attempted to hug the older woman, only to be pushed away. “Get away from me, monster! You support that criminal! That animal! That beast who wants to lock all minorities in concentration camps!”
The young lady sighed. “Janice, he’s been president for two years and he hasn’t locked up any minorities in concentration camps.”
The boss wiped a tear from her cheek. “He will. They’re coming. Any day now. Camps for gay people. Camps for women. Camps for brown people. The blog-o-sphere told me so.”
The drifter inside the bathroom broke the tension. “You’d you people would stock up on more toilet paper. Is free toilet paper too much to ask?”
Heather walked over to the counter, grabbed the remote control, then returned to Janice. She put her arm around her boss, then pointed the remote at the TV.
“No,” Janice said. “Please don’t.”
“They’re not that bad,” Heather said. “You’ll see.”
Heather turned off WNN and turned on Network News One, the only network dedicated to bring the latest in conservative news and also, titties. Big titties attached to jaw droppingly beautiful female reporters. At the moment, those lovely ladies were taking a powder so that conservative blowhard Jim Clayton, a white-haired old fogie with a buzz cut, could bark at the camera.
“Welcome back to Jim Clayton’s America. Today on the show, are feminazi activists trying to chop the pee-pees off your three-year-old sons and turn them into little girls? The answer is a most resounding yes, but first, taxes. Fuck taxes. Fuck ‘em right in the butt. I hate taxes and I don’t care who knows it. If you want my money, eat a dick. Come at me and take my money out of my cold, dead hand if you want it so bad but until then, get a job. What the fake news media won’t tell you is that thanks to the booming Stugotz economy, companies are flush with cash and they’re churning out jobs out the wazoo, so get a job hippies and stop trying to raise taxes so you can give all my hard-earned money to shiftless flat-backers, no good, degenerate lay-abouts, and dirty rotten deadbeats.”
Heather took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Preach, my brother, preach!”
All hope fell out of Janice’s eyes. “You’re fired, Heather.”
“I know,” Heather said with a smile. “And that’s ok. I’ll find another job because I’m switching my major to venture capitalism.”
“Please go away,” Janice said.
“And I’m going to get married,” Heather said. “To a man.”
“Stop,” Janice said.
“I don’t know what he’ll be,” Heather said. “Maybe a police officer or a fracking rig operator…”
“No more,” Janice said. “Please, no more.”
“We’ll have three children,” Heather said. “And I’ll take a few years off of work to raise them because seeing their adorable little faces will be the greatest pleasure of my life.”
Janice pointed at the door. “Get out! Your words cut through the depths of my soul like a flaming hot knife through butter!”
“I’ll take care of myself,” Heather said. “And I’ll urge my friends and family to take personal responsibility. And if I ever do fall on hard times, the support system I’ve created by starting a family will be there for me, so I won’t have to depend on the incompetent, bureaucratic machinations of big government…”
The baristas stared at the TV. Jim Clayton was working himself into a foamy lather.
“Look, I’m not saying that women’s reproductive rights should be regulated by the government, I’m just saying that their vaginas should be packed full of cement, only to be chipped away when they enter the bonds of holy matrimony. That’s right. We’re going to build walls inside women’s vaginas and we’re going to make them pay for it.”
Janice dabbed her moist eyes with a handkerchief. “That’s disgusting.”
“Actually,” Heather said. “It makes sense when you think about…”
A scream came out of the bathroom. It was louder than usual.
“What the?! Argh! What’s…what’s happening to me?!”
Janice knocked on the door. “Hello! Sir, assuming that’s your preferred pronoun, and forgive me if it isn’t, are you OK in there?”
“Damn it,” Heather said. “Another crackhead overdosing because the liberal-political-media industrial complex convinced this guy that he should live on the dole, avoiding any and all personal responsibility, never finding any direction that would make him a better person and…”
The drifter’s cries grew deafening. “SOMEBODY HELP ME! HELP ME, PLEASE….ARRGGHHH!”
“You’ve been helped enough, sir,” Heather said. “Lazy sponges like you are the reason why Stugotz won!”
Janice grabbed the knob. “I think he actually needs help.”
“Oh,” Heather said. “Right.”
The boss opened the door. She and Heather looked inside to find that the drifter had been burnt to a crisp. His body had the texture of a charred, blackened marshmallow, gooey yet crusty. His mouth was agape, his teeth the only part left that hadn’t been fried.
Heather’s immediate response? “Why the hell is there a black guy in here?”
All the screenwriting hipsters snapped their heads toward Heather in disgust. “No, wait,” Heather said. “That came around wrong. I love black people. All my best friends are black. I marched for black rights all the time. I’m just saying, this guy was white but now he was somehow turned black and…”
“Stop digging the hole, fascist,” Janice said as she surveyed the room. The walls were already covered with the blood and feces of over a hundred non-paying bathroom users, but the smoking husk of a man was a sight that no barista had ever seen before.
“Clean this up, Heather,” Janice said.
“Uh…hello?” Heather asked. “You just fired me.”
“Oh, right,” Janice said. “Damn it.”
Well… I think you’re a bit too heavy-handed. I mean, it’s funny but too much of a good thing.
I’d recommend a subtle approach, like… her dressing in a Che Guerva shirt and maybe even thinking or saying things that indicate political leanings.
Heavy handed with politics? I was trying to point out both sides can be a bit extreme. Basically, she’s a liberal turned conservative after 6 months of cleaning up after homeless people and it’s a parody of Starbucks. More or less, I just keep trying to find humorous ways in which people can die on the toilet. I do worry about political backlash, though I do try to be fair and dump on everyone equally.
Oh, I’m not worried about you lambasting one side or the other. I was suggesting your writing itself was too heavy-handed -too many words in too obvious a delivery. Does that make sense?
I gave you the example of her shirt thing: you TOLD us she had all political shirts and you TOLD us she thought and acted and always was the way she was.
I suggest outlining situations, engaging her in dialogue, and describing small aspects of her choices or behaviors to help the reader (us) form our own opinion about her instead of telling us exactly what that character is.
Yeah…I think if it were a movie, Heather just standing by the door to a bathroom, mop and plunger in hand, aghast at the long line of vagrants, yearning to return to the coffee counter…getting increasingly agitated till she whips out the MAGA shirt and goes from drinking one side’s kool aid to another would do it…I’m sort of writing this all quick and will have to go over it again. Oh well, would love to hear what you think about the next chapters if you have time.
I’m way behind on everything in life right now. Doing a whole lot more showing than telling is pretty much my only advice.
I mean if you want to fall behind on your reading of a series of books about killer toilet animals to take care of life stuff, fine, but I’d readjust my priorities…