Flight Recordings

Tales of the Starbuck Avenger!!! (3)

Jeffrey Channing Wells

Learning to Fly

Tales of the Starbuck Avenger!!! (3)

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Starbuck Avenger
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* * *
Part One
Part Two
* * *



"But," added the man, "there are things that are falling apart. All the time. Even on calm winter mornings like this."

Pause. Breath.

"And I'm trying to stop them," he said.

We stood there looking at each other for maybe twenty seconds. If this was a movie there would be crickets chirping, but since this is winter in Wisconsin they're all dead or something. Or maybe they hibernate. Who the hell knows? Some guy who spends all his time studying bugs, that's who. But that person isn't me.

I sat down in a chair. I couldn't help it, really.

"Guy," I said, "you are totally intense."

He gave me a little smile. It was so tiny it might have been, like, an involuntary facial tremor or something, but I think it was there. Then he went back to hunching over his radio, leaving me just sitting there doing the staring thing at him.

"Okayokayokay," he muttered into the radio speaker after a sec, busying his hands in a constant fidget on the tuner knob trying to keep the station clear. "Fire department on the scene. Good. Responsive local authorities. Excellent."

"Hey, Guy?" I said.

"Local live radio news reporting," he continued muttering. "Stellar. Rare, these days."

"Guy?"

"This could work. This very well just might--"

"HEY, GUY!" I said. Guy looked up at me.

"Yes?" he said, the dickweediness creeping back into his voice.

I wrung my hands a little. "Listen, is there anything I can--"

"COFFEE!!!" he shouted at me. "SWEET APOLLO! HOW... MANY... TIMES... MUST I--"

"COFFEE IS ON, OKAY?" I said. "It's totally, totally on! Listen, I'll show you!" I turned toward the back. "JUSTIN!!!"

"WhaAAa!" Justin cried out from the back, in tones of anguished dismay.

"Is the Sulawesi totally on or is it not totally on?"

"IT IS SO ON!!!" screamed Justin. "MOTHER OF CHRIST!!!" he added. There came the noise of steamer cuffs being pissily knocked around.

"See?" I said, smiling sweetly at him.

Guy threw himself back into his chair. "Well, it's certainly taking him long enough," he muttered. "At this rate, they'll all be rescued via conventional means before I'm even able to make an appearance." He sighed, then removed his glasses, held them up to the light, examined them, and then began polishing them on his muffler. "Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. I'm a firm believer in matching force to task. If the authorities can handle it, so much the better. That's what I always say."

I just kept staring at him.

He looked at his watch. "Listen, do you know if there are any other Starbucks franchises nearby? I ask because--"

"There's King Street," I said.

"No," he said. "No no no. No good. They don't even make Sulawesi there. Found THAT out the hard way." He put his glasses back on and stared out the big plate window for a moment. "I can't help but thinking that that, too, was Mister Thousand's doing. The lack of Sulawesi in this city is truly distressing."

"Dude," I managed, at last. "What are you about?"

He blinked at me. "Pardon?"

"You're freaking me out, here," I said. "First you come in here and--"

Guy quirked at something on the radio, his eyes narrowing. He held up his index finger in my direction.

"Gu--"

"EH EH EH!" he said, waving his finger around. "EH!" he finished. Then he kept listening.

After a moment, he killed the radio and leaned back in his chair again. "It's okay," he said. "They're all okay. No thanks from this sector, of course."

"I assure you, sir," I said, "that despite his limited capacity, my disabled companion is brewing as fast as he possibly can brew."

"Well, there's no point now," he said. "You may as well just forget it and get me a regular half-caf. Do you have Splenda here?"

This time, even The Bitch was speechless.

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