“Hi!” A heart shaped face smiles warmly at me as I pull my car up to the window. Led Zeppelin vibrates the walls of the small drive through. “What can I get for you today?”
“May I trouble you for an iced Americano, please?”
“Of course! No trouble at all! Room for cream?”
“No, thanks. But would you please put some honey in it for me?”
The string bean of a barista flips the grinder and fills the portafilter, tamps the grinds down and twists it into the espresso machine. She mouths the lyrics of the song and punches the button to start the water with her knuckle. Wiping her hands on her apron, she reaches for the bottle of honey on top of the machine and furrows her brow as she squeezes a three-count into a tall metal mixing cup.
“How’s your day?”
“Oh, fine, thanks. And yours?”
“Oh, you know. I’m here.” She tosses the bottle of honey back onto the espresso machine.
“So caffeinated and erratic?”
“You got it.” She smiles and pours the finished shot into the mixing cup. “Anything fun planned for the day?” She takes a tall spoon from a nearby jug and clacks it around as Robert Plant shouts lustily about giving someone every inch of his love.
“Playing?” She adds ice to the mixing cup and reaches for the plastic cup she’ll send me off with.
“What age?” She pours the concoction between the two cups in rhythm and adds water.
“Cute,” and she draws out the vowel sound long enough to get her point across without being condescending. She slaps on a lid, wiping the cup with her apron. “$2.73, please.”
I hand her a five and look in the rear view mirror. My dog, as is his way, is sitting contentedly in the back seat and grinning that big stupid grin of his, looking around at everything and nothing, happy just to come along for the ride. The register dings and she uses her hip to close it again.
“$2.27 back,” she sets the bills and coins in my open palm. “And here’s your Americano.”
“Thank you,” I put a dollar in the tip jar and the drink in the cup holder.
“Would you care for a dog treat?”
“I wouldn’t, but I’m sure he’d like one,” and my eyes go wide as I realize what has just come out of my mouth.
The world stops turning for a moment. Woody looks at me from the back seat, his grin gone and replaced by a glare that is very clearly calling me an idiot.
“Well, I’ve never heard that one before,” she chuckles once and then laughs outright. I hang my head and stick an open palm out the window. She puts a few dog treats in my hand. She laughs again and my cheeks get warm. “Have a good game.”