She practices Starbucks etiquette as well as she slings coffee. She’s never asked my name—as a drive thru patron, there’s no need—but she lights up every time we roll through because she knows us. She even peeps behind my husband and I to spread a little morning sunshine with her bright smile to our girls in the back seat.
After she had learned that I taught across the street at the school on the corner, it didn’t take long for some random Starbucks treats to start showing up in our staff room every now and then—pastries, coffee boxes, prepackaged foods, and even 50+ full-sized cartons of their chilled lattes once. I would like to believe it’s all because of her.
When I asked her one day what her name was, she was genuinely surprised, and her smile grew even brighter. She had scribbled countless names on cups day after day, but I doubt, by the twinkle in her eyes when I did inquire, that it’s likely no one receiving the honor of having their name f*cked up on purpose would ever bother to ask what her name was in return.
She doesn’t know it yet, and may not ever know, but I’ve begun to build a protagonist around her for a novel that I had started structuring back in December set in a coffee house. Although the character I will create is going to be unique and suited for the story I am penning, she will most definitely embody my favorite barista’s characteristics—buttery, brown eyes, dark strawberry blonde hair, a smile stretched from East to West with contagious joy, and, of course, her name will be Jessica.
WP Prompt: A Character Study–Write about someone intriguing that you’ve met in the last year.
…You ripe, ol’ bastard, creeping in on my day like this when I’d just like to let any chaos drift by me in a hurried mess, sweeping with it the tornado-esque madness of youth. I have too much to do to hold myself accountable to you with every passing moment of my day. I know I didn’t deserve to be called a bitch under his breath even if he thought my expectations of his writing quality were too high because of you. It’s all your fault. You seeded in me a sense of self-respect as a teacher to want a student’s personal best when he or she turns in work to me. It’s the end of April, after all, he’s lucky I told him he had to revise it instead of mark it an F and carry on. But damn you for putting me in that awkward position to decide if I should honor you in my profession and send him up on a referral, or just let him squirm with guilt and sit there, staring me down, shredding his half-ass work into tiny pieces of paper while I deliberately ignored him. Okay, so maybe that might have made me an even bigger bitch, but, sorry dignity, you lost that battle to my stubbornness. At least he threw the confetti that he had made away, and, wouldn’t you know, he even waited and held the door open for me when class was over. He didn’t say a word when I thanked him as I walked by. He didn’t have to.
PS. After lunch, he came by and told me he was going to write another draft, but I already knew that he would.
My twist on the writing challenge, Size Matters prompt, includes the passage in quotes below–a perfect illustration of monotonous cadence in writing due to a lack of varied sentence lengths. The prompt had asked that we write about the house we lived in when we were twelve. I started messing around with the passage instead and decided to make it my response to the writing task.
“The man rode hard through the woods. The black horse’s effort lay in lather. The sun beat down from high overhead. Dark birds circled, drifted, and then returned. The land baked, and dust hung suspended.”
My revision of the passage:
Naked branches tore at the man’s shirt, gnarled and twisted, bending their claws in desperation, as he broke free from the parched woods. They were closing in. A merciless heat beat down on the wasteland. Desolate. Wrought with lifeless wreckage caused by the blistering sun. His black horse, never faltering once, pressed forward upon the scorched riverbed. Hot breath burst from the beast’s flaring nostrils. Closer still. Men’s cries rang out. Their gunshots shattered dark birds against the stark white sky, once drifting in aimless circles. His freedom neared. He could see the border just over the horizon. Sensing the man’s adrenaline, his horse bore down, and dust hung suspended in the wake of their escape.