I haven’t posted here for a while and was encouraged by my biggest fan :p. Thank you, “Radical Ed”.
So I bring you an excerpt of the next in my series of rejected short stories. I was on top of things at the time, submitting to the contest every quarter. Then… stuff happened and it’s hard to motivate myself to write with a broken heart. Still, my sister always read my stories and was ever encouraging. We used to do little writing sessions together, and of course every year Nanowrimo. This is the last story of mine she read, and she said it was her favorite. Does that mean I should rewrite it in an attempt to get it published? Or leave it as is because it was written exactly the way it needed to be? Still deciding.
Here’s Goldstein & Goldstein, from June 2021.
Goldstein & Goldstein: Another Chinese drama, in 10 parts
May 1-4: Twelve Kingdoms
It had been 12 years since May Goldstein learned how to read the large blackboard menus at coffee shops, but on this particular day, at this particular time, in this particular coffee shop, she gave her comprehensive skills a 4 out of 10. The words—for the 24 items on the menu—made sense: Cappuccino, espresso, macchiato, house blend, caramel vegan latte—even “Red Cap Special” (with a winking smiley face) she understood to be a blended coffee, probably with extra shots. The name of the café was Red Cap (named after the goblin, not the mushroom).
May sucked in her lower lip, a clear sign of her anxiety, which her mother would have called her out on.
Her mother wasn’t here. She dropped May off a few minutes earlier, deciding to make the 3-hour drive back home rather than visit with her sister-in-law while May interviewed for a summer job. That meant May had the entire day to herself in the city, and she’d been looking forward to it. They’d woken drastically early to ensure their arrival an hour before the first interview, at 9am. May checked the clock again. The clock made sense. It was a large analog clock with a smaller digital screen inside that now read 8:04. She rated it 9/10, detracting a point for the glare that made it hard to read the second hand.
May forced her eyes away from the clock and back to the menu. The numbers on the menu were readable. Arabic numerals. The chalk handwriting was playful and clear, a 10/10 for its purpose or a 7/10 based on the little May knew of calligraphy.
What didn’t make sense were the symbols next to the numbers, the symbols that should have marked the currency as being in USD. Instead, they looked a bit like cents (¢), but if that were the case, the numbers failed to convert. The Red Cap Special was 127¢. No matter how May looked at it, that meant it was $127 or $1.27, neither of which were anything close to correct. $12.7 maybe? Still 3.4 times the expected price for a Small.
May shook her head and walked up to the counter. There was only one way to figure this out. “One Red Cap Special, please,” she told the barista. “Small.”
The barista—a happy blonde whose name tag marked her as ‘Ali’—punched in the order. “You got it. Is that all?”
“Yes, that’s all.”
“One hundred and twenty-seven cents, please.”
May blinked. She pulled out two single dollar bills. “Does this work?”
Ali furrowed her eyebrows at the paper currency. “What is that? Pesos? Sorry amigo, I can’t.”
May wasn’t sure if she should be more offended at the implication that she was masculine or Mexican. She decided it didn’t matter, and ran her finger through the wallet slot in her purse. She found two quarters and a dime, and dropped them back in the purse. Instead, she pulled out her phone, popped open the wallet case in the back, and handed Ali her mom’s credit card. Ali barely glanced at the card, swiped it down the reader on the side of the screen, and held it with her pinkie while she waited for the transaction to process.
“It might… not work,” May said, the small knot of anxiety multiplying in her stomach.
The machine dinged. “New card?” Ali asked, passing it back.
“Yes,” May lied.
“I’ll have that out in just a minute!” Ali gave her a practiced smile and turned to her grounds and gadgets. May held her mother’s card in her palm and frowned at it.
The card had worked.
But dollar bills didn’t.
And May had been confused enough to lie for the first time in 223 days, when she’d told her mother her finger ‘felt fine’ (and it was broken).
“I’ll be right back,” May called to Ali, and stepped outside the café into the broiling heat. She walked 20 paces down the sidewalk, counting exactly 13 purple daffodils on the way, went inside the bookstore, and checked the back of a paperback.
May nodded to herself, replaced the book, and went to the counter.
“Can I help you, miss?” asked the clerk, also a teenager, with two snagged threads in his polo. Name tag: Ryan.
“Is Mr. Rodrigos here?”
“Yes, he’s in the back. Maybe I can help you?” The anxiety in his voice spoke more to his want to be willing to help more than his helpfulness.
“Do you know if he’s giving any interviews today?”
Ryan brightened. “Are you here to apply? We have an opening. Right. You must have seen the poster on the door, haha.” He rubbed his head and blushed.
May took a slow breath through her nose, keeping her expression neutral. “I need to confirm whether or not I have an interview with Mr. Rodrigos at 9am or not. Would you please ask him, or point me to him so I can ask myself?”
Ryan’s eyebrows furrowed, but he kept a polite smile on his face. “I… Let me see.” He picked up a corded phone, dialed a single number, and waited. “Yes, sir, I’m sorry to interrupt. There’s a young lady here asking if she has an interview at—well, no but—at 9am. Yes. Yes. Oh. Yes sir.” Ryan hung up the phone and licked his lips. “Um. He said he had nothing scheduled for 9am.”
May’s throat tightened. She opened her mouth to let in more air and ask if maybe she could interview anyway, but Ryan wasn’t finished. “Also… well, he’s interviewing right this minute, and made an offer. I’m sorry.” Ryan was practically wringing his hands, and May realized she’d let her expression slip. She straightened her shoulders and tried to look perky. “Oh, that’s all right. I come here a lot so I thought it would be… fun.”
“I think the Game.FullStop is hiring,” Ryan said, looking to the front door. The game store was across the street. May had never even been inside. “They don’t hire minors,” she noted.
“How old are you?” he blurted. She gave him the ‘I’m not going to answer that’ look that her mother used on her father. “Thank you for your help,” she said, and walked out the door.
She went back to the coffee shop, and Ali waved her to the counter. “Here’s your coffee. And a muffin.”
“On the house. You look a little stressed.” Ali winked at her.
“Thank you….” May blinked fast to dissuade the tears that threatened to spill. She grabbed the coffee and plate and went to sit in the corner, where she could observe the café as she contemplated her situation.
With a point each for the credit card and the muffin, she rated it a 2/10.