Written by Justin Eulalio
Dear [Cafe Owner],
This is not an easy letter for me to write. For years, I have loved eating at your cafe and have spent many of my days here. I love the staff, the food, and the ambience—in that order. As you may know, I am the groundskeeper at the church down the street. With that being said, I take scripture very seriously. Without wanting to impose my beliefs on you, I want to call your attention to a passage from Sirach 34: 21-22:
21. The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood.
22. He that taketh away his neighbour’s living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a bloodshedder.
I have recently learned that employees at your cafe have, on multiple occasions, had their paychecks bounce. This is unacceptable and you must put an end to this absurdity! Please, do the right thing. Your employees need to be YOUR priority.
“Where is that son of a bitch? I need my money!” This is a phrase that echoes regularly throughout the cafe in the mornings. Put an extra emphasis on morning because, for some universal reason, no bill-collectors ever come past 09:00. Today is Thursday though, which means that this phrase is being hurled through a closed front door, until the body yelling is close enough to open it with the sheer power of his roar—a startling encounter, but only to those not expecting it.
“Where is your boss? I’m not leaving him the bread unless he pays me. Today.”
“Uhh, he’s not in at the moment…” A blatant lie considering the owner lives upstairs and it is only 07:23. 07:15 to 07:45 is morning yoga time. But every employee knows, you NEVER interrupt morning yoga. “But you can talk to my manager. I’m sure she’d be happy to help ya. Hey, Hemly! Can you come here real quick? I forgot my password again.”
"I wrote it on a sticky note. It should be on the register screen.” As mentioned before, it is the owner’s yoga time. Meaning that this is the only time Hemly can sit outside on the back stairs, smoke, and read the paper. The horde of city rats are in the headlines again.
“I don’t see it. Can you please just come here and show me?”
“No. You deal with Bread Guy. I dealt with Juice Guy yesterday.” Hemly very much enjoys the updates on The City Rat Horde. “How are they in Wicker now? Fuck,” she whispers softly as she exhales her cigarette.
“No, there is a huge line of customers and I can’t access the register!” Not true. “I’m being serious! Can you please just come here?”
“Are you at the register right now?”
“Do you see a yellow piece of paper, sticking to the screen, with numbers on it?”
“Hemly, come on!!”
“Is someone going to give me my money?!”
At this point, there actually is a customer waiting in line. But it’s the same customer that is always waiting.
It’s important to note that Erin and Hemly are calling to one another louder than the Bread Guy has ever roared. Their back and forth is imposed on everyone throughout the building, even the kitchen staff located in the basement. But not the owner upstairs. Nothing phases him during yoga. NOTHING.
“Fuck, what’s with all the yelling upstairs?”
“Oh shit, it’s Thursday! Hey Alex, you wouldn’t mind if I left at noon. Would you?”
Alex enjoys cutting fruit, beating eggs, and smoking cigarettes. He does not enjoy spring weather, belts, or working with Frank every Thursday morning.
“Yeah, just like—go slice the tomatoes, over there. Please.”
“Tight. Yeah, I’m supposed to meet up with my wife. She wants to get some lunch together.”
“Frank, you’re not fucking married.”
Frank is, in fact, not fucking married.
“Dude, yes I am! I make my own decisions now. Everyone can’t keep telling me what to do anymore. You know, it’s pretty fucked up that you’re always trying to boss me around. You know that…?”
Please note, Alex is Frank’s manager.
“Jesus, okay. Fine. Can you please just slice the tomatoes and then prep a few other things? Then you can leave.”
“Okay, dope.” There is a moment of silence in the kitchen, but the peace is intruded on by the yelling upstairs. “But I am married though, okay?”
The battle over who has to deal with the Bread Guy is in full swing. Erin is losing.
“I don’t care who I talk to. I want my money!”
“Okay, listen dude. If you keep dropping off the bread, he’s not going to pay you. You’re giving him free bread! Take your bread back and go. I don’t have money in the register to give you.”
“No! Someone is going to pay me right now.”
“Dude, I DON’T have enough money in the register to pay you!”
There is a brief pause. The yelling stops.
“How much do you have?”
“Umm…” Erin fumbles through the cash drawer. “I can give you $60. If I give you more than that I won’t be able to give people change.
“Okay. I’ll take $60. Subtract it from what he owes me. But if I don’t get paid in-full next week, no bread!”
“Ha, yeah! I’m sure, dude… I don’t understand why you don't just come later when…”
The Bread Guy is already out the door, waiting to reappear next Thursday.
“Fuck off, Hemly. Jesus… Hey, Stew. What can I get for ya?
“Man, I didn’t realize it was Thursday already. Umm, can I get a 12oz latte?”
“Yeah, will that be all for ya?”
“Yup. That should do it!”
“Cool, that’ll beeeee… Free 99.”
“Oh, thanks Erin! You sure?”
“Of course! Don’t worry about it. I’ll have that up in just a sec.”
Hemly steps in from the back with a half-smoked cigarette tucked behind her ear. She tosses the newspaper underneath her arm as she refills her coffee cup.
“Oh, well good morning, Hemly.”
“Hey, Stew. Yo! Did you hear? The City Rat Horde made it all the way to Wicker.”
Contact Justin by email at email@example.com. Illustration by Emmy Brown.