Price Negotiable


Between my front door and the subway stop, there are four coffee shops. They all know me by name.

I go where the wind takes me on any given morning. Sometimes it has more to do with my bank account balance. Sometimes it is because of the shortage of cash in my wallet. Sometimes it is simply because I have walked the ten blocks in a haze of early morning confusion and forgot to get coffee until the last possible second.

The relationships I have cultivated over the last nine months living in this neighborhood are some of my nearest and dearest. If I don’t appear for more than a week at a time, they ask where I have been, what has been going on, and how my job is going. I know their names, their regular schedules behind the counter, and who has the wickedest sense of humor.

This morning, still licking my fingers free of apple mush thanks to my breakfast, I was reminded that relationships I sometimes take for granted – being a known quantity to a small business own

There is no bell at the coffee shop in question. I can’t even tell you the name of it. The lintels are bright red. The barista and cook are a husband-wife team about my age with more tattoos than you usually see in a spot with arty decor and bistro foods. They smile a lot. They know all their regulars by name. They serve cookies with cayenne pepper that are, I mean – can be the difference between getting my morning jolt and being denied.

I entered this morning already brandishing my wallet and refillable coffee cup. I’m not going to lie: I chose this particular one because I had bought it in this store. I approached the counter somewhat hesitantly and somewhat avoiding eye contact.

“What can I get for $3?” I asked, rubbing the crumpled bills between my fingers.

“What do you want?” he asked with a laugh.

“Well I want a latte but I think it’s more than that. Will $3 get me ice coffee?”

“A latte it is,” he smiled. “The price is negotiable.”


About bookoisseur
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