“Junie,” he stopped just inside the door, letting it close, as he slightly tilted forward and gave a single, concise wave of his left hand, leaving his arm erect like a crane until she responded. Junie looked up, “oh heyyy Howie, g’morning, how are you feelin.” He let his hand drop and walked towards his seat, two away from the store’s front window. “Junie, I’m very well this morning, very well. All that rain last night, who could believe it.” “I know right, and it’s so beautiful today, who can figure it.” “You know Junie, you’re absolutely right.” He grabbed the paper from his back pocket and unfolded it onto the table so that the sports page showed. He took his seat. .
Howie had to wash his clothes, his father’s washer machine wasn’t working. It hadn’t been working properly for some time, but it seemed disrespectful to get a new one, and he wasn’t sure how to fix it. He searched online and after much deliberation decided on a laundromat, one that also had a cafe attached to it. He let out a “hmmmmmm” in approving curiosity upon reading about this feature.
After 5 or so minutes of getting situated- taking his jacket and hat off, adjusting his glasses, counting his change- Howie approached the counter. Junie smiled, “usual Howie?” Howie smiled in his serious manner, no teeth showing, “you know what I say Junie, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Junie smiled again, “had a feeling, I just like to make sure all the same.” “You know Junie, that’s customer service, that’s customer service at it’s finest, that’s what keeps people coming back here.” “That’s why they pay me the big bucks.” Howie belted out a single, “HA. You’re a riot Junie, I’ll give you that.” She placed 3 paper cups on the counter, one 7/8 filled with black coffee, one 1/4 filled with whole milk, and one to-go espresso cup with 3-1/2 tablespoons of sugar in it. Howie was counting his change again, “you know Junie, I think I’ll have one of those mini blueberry muffins.” “Not the corn muffin, Howie?” “No I’ll have one of those mini blueberry muffins.” “You got it, no laundry today Howie?” “No, no. I washed a few items yesterday, Randall was working, nice young man.” “Yea, Randy can be nice when he feels like it.” Howie belted another single, “HA. You know Junie, I can see what you mean. Randall’s a very nice young man, but he can have an edge at times.” “He sure can, they can’t all be as nice as me Howie.” “You know Junie, you’re absolutely right, you’re always a delight.” “Well thank you Howie, so are you, that’s gonna be $2.50.” Before she finished saying the number, Howie was placing 2 stacks of 10 dimes each on the counter and 1 stack of 10 nickels in a neat line. “Thank you, Howie.” “Thank you, Junie.” Howie made two trips to his seat, first taking the milk and sugar cups, then the coffee and muffin, silently cheersing to Junie, his arm acting as a crane again before going back to his seat.
Randy walked in a few minutes before his shift started, “hey hey heyyy,” he greeted Junie. “Hello Randall.” He laughed, “Randall? Who are you my grandmother or Howie.” Junie smiled, “Howie, he was commenting on what a nice young man you are earlier.” “Hmm, that’s surprising.” Junie walked over to where Randy was putting his things away, “well just because you’re a cynical jerk doesn’t mean everyone else is.” Randy slowly walked around her, “I’ll take being a cynical jerk over being Howie.” Junie’s eyes and mouth widened momentarily, “you’re horrible. He’s a sweet, lonely guy.” Randy slowly began his beginning of shift routine, checking the levels of coffee, cups, lids, and sugar, “he’s a crazy person.” “He’s just peculiar.” He started to make a fresh pot of drip coffee, “either way I’m tired of having the same conversations with him everyday.” Junie grinned, “I hope people aren’t this mean to you when you’re a lonely middle aged man.” “I’m not mean to him, I’m just increasingly short with him.” “That’s mean.” “He doesn’t know what’s going on, he’s in his own, lonely world,” Randy laughed, Junie’s eyes and mouth were even further agaped than before, “oh my god, you’re truly horrible.” Randy wiped down the steam wand on the espresso machine, “I’m a very nice young man.”
Howie had been going to the laundromat/cafe 3-4 times a week for about a month, sometimes when didn’t even have clothes to wash. He couldn’t get over what a great concept it was, enjoy a cup of coffee and a treat while you run an otherwise boring errand. Hell, bring the paper if you want, make a morning of it. He decided to leave a review on the website where he discovered it. They only had 4.5 stars, and he felt it was easily a 5 star establishment. He clicked 5 stars and began to think of something to write. Short, sweet, and to the point, he thought. He went with his first draft, “it’s a great place to have a cup of tea or coffee while you wash your clothes.”
Howie finished his coffee and muffin, then brought his 3 cups and napkins over to the garbage can near the counter. “So how are you today Randall, it was pretty busy earlier.” “Yea Howie, you know, morning rush.” “You handle it very well Randall, you’re very fast.” Randy grinned, “well you know, been doing it long enough.” “That’s right, that’s right, you know what I say, practice always makes perfect.” “Yep, pretty much.” “How long have you been here Randall?” “I try not to think about it.” Howie belted out a single, “HA. There’s that Randall edge that me and Junie we’re discussing the other day.” “That’s what they call me, Randall Edge.” “Do they now?” Randy paused for a moment, “yea.” He began creating work for himself, recleaing counters and the espresso machine, picking things up and putting them down somewhere else, then putting them back, trying to show Howie how busy he was. “So how long has it been Randall, because I remember when you first started, you didn’t have any of those big tattoos that you have now.” Randall stopped working, succumbing to the conversation, “yea I guess this place kinda paid for them… 4 years I’ve been here.” “They’re very nice, nice and colorful. 4 years, excellent, that’s shows commitment… A fella who worked with my father had some from his days serving in the navy, not quite as colorful or as nice as yours though.” “Yea, the artist’s have come a long way.” “I think Jack was the fellas name, worked doing roofing and painting with my father for years, he was also very committed.” “Is that right.” “It is, it is… but my father passed away some years ago,” “heart attack, right?” “That’s right, that’s right, so I’ve told you. I’m like a broken record player,” Howie grinned. Randy grinned, “yea I remember you mentioning it, sorry to hear it.” “He was a good man, Randall, raised me by himself after my mother passed when I was very young.” “Wow, that’s rough… he left you the house right?” “Thats right, that’s right, you have quite the memory,” Howie grinned as Randy began to reclean things, “I’m like a broken record player.”
Howie maintained the garden in his backyard that his father kept for years. Howie always had a green thumb, and his father passed down whatever soil, pruning, and pest knowledge that he had to Howie with ease. Howie grew various greens such as arugula, spinach, and lettuces. As well as tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and carrots, along with several varieties of windowsill herbs. Howie’s neighbors could expect a bounty of fresh vegetables from April-October in exchange for some light conversation. Howie was out back one July afternoon, pruning the suckers off his prized heirloom tomatoes. He knew there was rain in the forecast, but thought he could get the pruning done before the storm clouds rolled in. The sky darkened earlier than forecasted, and the downpour muddied up Howie in less than a minute. Howie went back inside, drenched and dirtied. He figured he’d better shower and get this outfit to the cafe once the storm passed. He could bring them some tomatoes too, he smiled, “blessing in disguise.”
Randy walked into work a few minutes before his shift started. Junie was talking to a guy at the counter, “yo yo,” Randy said as he passed behind them. “Heyyy Rand,” Junie replied, this is my boyfriend Gerry.” Randy resisted the urge to stop in his tracks, he continued to walk over to the shelf where the staff’s jackets and bags were kept, “hey man,” he put his bookbag down then walked back over towards them, extending his hand, “Randy.” They shook hands, “good to meet you, I’ve heard all about you.” Randy grinned, “don’t believe Junie, I’m not as big of an asshole as she thinks.” Gerry laughed, “it wasn’t all bad.” Randy shot Junie a quick look, “I bet,” and he quickly started his beginning of shift routine; checking levels of coffee, cups, lids, and sugar. Less than a minute later Howie walked through the door, stopping just inside the doorway, letting the door close, “full House this afternoon,” he enthusiastically said. He would’ve given his signature wave, but his hands were full, one with a bag of dirty clothes, one with a bag of tomatoes. “Hey Howie,” Junie replied. Howie walked over to his seat, two away from the front window, set down his laundry on the floor, and took off his jacket and hat. Adjusting his glasses, then counting his change. They were silent at the counter, aside from Randy’s busying around, as Howie went through his routine. He approached the counter, smiling very seriously. “You’re back, Howie,” Junie said. “You know Junie, I was pruning my tomatoes,” he said lifting the tomatoes like a dumbbell, “and the news said I had until 2 before the storm rolled in,” “oh no,” “long story short, I have some very muddy clothes.” Gerry pointed to the bag of tomatoes, “at least it looks like you got a pretty good harvest.” “Thats right, that’s right, the rain in certainly good for that.” “Howie, this is my boyfriend Gerry.” Howie looked back over to Gerry, “you don’t say, very nice to meet you Gerry.” “Good to meet you, Howie.” “You know, Junie is a delightful, delightful young lady.” “She sure is,” Gerry responded, Randy continued to reclean and recheck levels. “Everyone here is delightful; Junie, Randall, everyone.” Junie smiled, “hear that Randall, you’re delightful,” he didn’t look up, “that’s what I hear.” Howie responded, “it’s true, Randall’s just got an edge, like me and Junie discussed the other day.” Gerry replied, “is that so?” They all looked over at Randy, he shot them a fake smile as if to say, “you know me, Randall Edge.” Gerry looked back towards Howie, “so, you come here a lot then, Howie?” “You know, just about every morning for at least 5 or 6 years, it’s like I say, another home away from home.” “Is that so.” “It is, it is,” Howie became very serious in that moment, “it’s a great place to have a cup of tea or coffee while you wash your clothes.” Gerry grinned, nodded his head and looked at Junie then back to Howie, “yea, I can see that.” Howie smiled, even showing some teeth, “well,” he said after a moment, “these tomatoes are for all of you here, enjoy, they’re heirlooms. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, very good.” Junie beemed, “wow, thank you Howie, that’s so nice. Isn’t that nice Randall,” she jokingly looked over at Randy who was going through his bag on the shelf, without looking up he said, “yea, thanks Howie.” “Don’t ever mention it,” he smiled seriously again, “ok, so I think I’ll put those muddy clothes in the wash, then come get some hot coffee.” Junie grinned, “usual Howie?” “You know what I say, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Howie, Junie, and Gerry grinned.
Howie walked over towards his seat.