The (Not So) Fantastic Four

This week’s challenge…well, there isn’t one. But we can share the beginning of our Nano-novels. So here’s the unedited, rough, unpolished (except spell checked) first 1,667 words of mine. Eventually it’ll be about super heroes.

It was a Tuesday just like last Tuesday and the one before ad nauseam. Except today it was raining. Jonah Miller’s alarm clock, the claymation figures of an English cheese loving man with a goofy grin and his sidekick dog, went off, repeating irritatingly that it was time for walkies. Jonah shoved a hand out of the jumble of covers and waved his hand around futilely until it found its target and shut off the offending racket.

He groaned, ran a hand through messy brown hair and swung his legs out of bed. It was only eight AM but he could already here the clanging of pans  and opening and closing of cupboards from downstairs.

“You better have the coffee on, El!” he shouted as he shuffled to the bathroom. He was still too asleep to even add the other initial to Samuel’s acronym of LJ. Sam didn’t like his name, so went by El, the last part of his first name, and Jay, the first letter of his last name.

“Don’t you get enough of the stuff at work?” His roommates voice floated up the stairs.

Jonah rubbed a hand over his face as he entered the kitchen, making a bee-line for the large pot filled with hot, brown, delicious liquid.

His friend turned to him with spatula in hand, a dish towel slung over his shoulder in some 1950’s parody of a housewife.

“I made scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast!” Samuel Johnstone beamed at his friend, turning back towards the stove and shoving an orange fluffy mass onto a plate.

Jonah grunted, adding a generous splash of milk to his coffee A plate piled high with eggs, bacon and triangles of toast slid in front of him.

Samuel watched, shaking his head as Jonah emptied three packets of sugar into his coffee. He tsked. “You know that’s not good for you,” Samuel said, turning back to the frying pan and adding a large amount of egg whites and chopped vegetables to the pan.

Jonah shook his head at his friend the health freak. “I need it, to help me get through the day,” he grimaced as he took a bite of bacon. “Hey! This isn’t even real bacon!” He pushed the offending meat away with his fork. “It’s your gross turkey bacon.”

Sam laughed. “It’s not gross. It’s still meat, just better for you. At least it’s not fake bacon, the vegetarian stuff!” He made a face. “Even I won’t go that far!”

Jonah’s cell phone rang, vibrating and moving around on the kitchen table. He saw the name on it. Sebastian. He shoved another forkful of egg in his mouth and picked it up. “Hey Seb,” he said. “We’ll be there on time today. Promise.”

In the background Jonah could hear the familiar hiss of the espresso machine as someone was cleaning the milk frother. The almost comforting noise of the coffee machine was shattered by the high-pitched whine of who could only be one person. “Can you believe that?” Liberty almost yelled above the noise of the machine. Seconds later, her disbelief was destroyed. “Eewww!” she yelled again, her voice rising another decibel. “I just got icing under my nails from those new cinnamon buns!”

He could hear Sebastian sigh loudly, and his voice lowered as he had turned away from the phone. “Go wash your hands then,” he said, “instead of whining about it.”

Jonah smiled. Seb was a few years older than the three of them, and was almost like the father of the group. He was always telling Liberty to man up, which always earned him a scowl and pursed glossed lips of disapproval.

“Don’t forget your man bag, Lj” Jonah mocked as they ran out the door in a bid to get to work on time as he promised. Sam didn’t even have time to give him a look. He grabbed his bag, flung it in the back seat and slid behind the wheel. The car started reluctantly in the cool fall morning. “It’s a satchel,” Sam explained as they tore down the road toward the coffee shop they both worked at.

Sam tossed his bag on the small table in the back of the coffee shop. A handful of comics and graphic novels tried to escape unsuccessfully from under the flap.

Jonah pulled on the nondescript black shirt with his name tag already pinned on.

Sebastian almost broke the door as he rushed into what was the staff room by default.  “You need to straighten your tag Jonah,” he said pointing to the offending thing that was bent at an angle. Jonah gave a tight-lipped smile, glancing at Seb’s perfectly straight Managers name tag just above the blue of his managers apron. Everyone else, his peons, LJ always joked, wore vivid orange aprons, as if it were Halloween every day.

Samuel was already dressed and had gone out front to help stock the pastry cases and make sure there was enough milk for customers who wanted lattes or cappuccinos. Fancy froo froo drinks, as Jonah called them.

When Jonah finally appeared from the cramped staff room, a line had already started to form down the length of the cafe. Jonah sighed and took his place at one of the two tills, next to Liberty who was examining her nails from underneath blond bangs that almost covered her eyes.  She glanced up, a bored, already glazed look on her face. “Yes?” She asked with a tone that sounded like she was confused as to why a tall woman with bright blue hair and trendy glasses was standing in front of her. The customer smiled brightly and rattled off a long list of words that resolved themselves into something resembling a coffee drink by the end. Liberty went into auto pilot, like they all did, dutifully pressing buttons. “That’ll be five sixty.” She replied with faux cheerfulness.

The woman paused, brushing aqua hair out of her eyes, and scrunched up her face, thoughtful. “Can I get one of those bun things with seeds and raisins too?”

Liberty sighed loudly, grabbing a cinnamon raisin bagel with sunflower seeds. When the customer moved to the other end of the counter to wait for her drink, liberty spun to face Jonah. “Even *I* know that’s a bagel!” She cried in frustration. “What is wrong with people these days?”  Jonah tried to tune her out. Some days she really showed her age. She was the youngest of the four of them, at 23.

“That’ll be twelve fifteenth,” Jonah said to a young boy who didn’t even look old enough to drink coffee let alone a extra large caramel macciato. He handed the boy a paper bag with a slice of chocolate chip banana bread. “That kid’ll be bouncing off the walls for hour, ” he said, shaking his head in awe and disbelief.  “and how can someone his age spend $12 bucks just on a coffee?” He said with wonder.

“Easy,” said Samuel, who had convinced Sebastian to let him put L J on his name tag instead of his actual name, which he hated. “did you see how the kid was dressed?”

Jonah shook his head. He hadn’t. He never really paid that much attention to people. Pretty girls were a different story of course.

“He’s wearing a private school outfit.” Sam explained. “His parents are obviously loaded.” Sam was the observant one of their group.

Beside him Liberty plucked at her neon orange apron which clashed with her bright freshly manicured nails, which this week were a bright lilac tipped with a darker violet. “Unlike us,” she said, the familiar whine in her voice.

A smile curled up Jonah’s lips as he tried to focus on the next customer in the seemingly never-ending line of people that had started to go out the door. The morning stampede, Sebastian called it. But like clockwork, after  9:15 every morning, the number of people drastically died down. And like clockwork, LJ snuck into the break room to read a few pages of one of his comic books – or, if he was feeling brave and Sebastian was away from the factory floor – Liberty’s term – he’d sneak one of his comics up to behind the counter so he could read a panel or two here and there as he poured syrups, ice and coffee into one of the industrial blenders to make the popular slushy like beverages that were more dessert than coffee. Sam  made a face every time he poured the chemical mix of flavoured sugar into the blender to make the treats, and especially when he drizzled liquid sugar topping on top mounds of whipped cream. “Look at all these unnecessary calories,” he said under his breath, his face sour.

“You sound like Richard Simmons or something,” Jonah said with a laugh. “Or Jack Lalane!”

“Who’s Richard Simmons? And Jack Lane?” Liberty asked, garnering incredulous looks from Jonah and one or two nearby customers. She had moved to the espresso maker and was pouring steamed milk carefully into a large cup before ladling creamy foamed milk on top and dusting it with powdered cocoa. “Large mocha latte!” she said in another fake cheerful voice, gliding the beverage across the counter to a large gentleman whose bald head was gleaming under the shop lights. She looked over her shoulder, past Sam who hadn’t noticed the blender had stopped blending, too engrossed in a page that featured some woman in a skin-tight lime green outfit, hurling boulders at a man who looked more like a wrestler from the 70s.

“LJ! Warrick is coming!” Jonah whispered sharply to Sam who shoved the comic under the counter next to a stack of paper cups, and tore the lid off the blender of creamy iced drink and poured it into a large clear plastic cup. “Chocolate coffee with skim milk and caramel crunch sprinkles!” Sam said, nervously thrusting the drink into the air. A hand took it.

Seb came back behind the counter, his face dark.

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