Leo Cawley hadn’t slept much. The flight from France had been pleasant enough but it always took him a few days to adjust to the time change, and perhaps the altitude as well. The sky still dark, he descends the stairs from his flat to the shop below, retrieving the newspapers The Seattle Times, The New York Times, Le Monde, and, The International Herald Tribune from the door mat. They were wrapped in recycled plastic and tucked up against the door, under the awning, kept dry in the cool light rain.
He boils water for tea and warms his favorite mug. Flipping through the local paper he finds the ‘Arts & Entertainment’ section. Opera. Ballet. Musical theater. Here’s one, he thinks. A limited engagement, classic rock music performance by the Symphony Orchestra. He opens his laptop and searches for the Symphony’s website. Locating the performance at the Recital Hall, he sees that additional dates were added including two for that evening. What luck, he thinks as he selects three tickets, Row 1 and clicks ‘Buy Now’. Before confirming his purchase, he goes back and changes Row 1 to Row 2 instead.
Mingan opens the back door as Leo is pouring himself a second cup of tea. “Oh, hey, Mr. C.,” Mingan says. “How was your trip?” He grabs a smoothie from the icebox, pulls out a chair across from him, and finds The New York Times’ ‘Op-Ed’ section among the papers piled in the middle of the table. He used to urge Leo to read the news online but now appreciates the paper formats almost as much as he does.
They’re both jolted from their thoughts on the news and world events when the back door slams and Trudy tosses a loaf of fresh sourdough from Ginette’s bakery onto the heavy wooden counter. Leo had already filled the shop’s German designed machine to brew separate carafes of coffee and tea for the day’s customers, and rises to pour her a cup of fresh coffee.
“Eggs in the basket?” Mingan asks and turns the dials on the range’s open flame burners without waiting for their answers.
“We’re going out tonight,” Leo says. “To the symphony!”
“It’s mandatory,” Leo smiles. “We have a lot to celebrate!”
“What’s that?” Mingan asks, breaking eggs into a sizzling cast iron skillet and turning down the flame.
“First, congratulations on the open house!” Leo says. “A stroke of genius.”
“About a hundred people came by,” Mingan says. “Trudy and Ned made it a success.”
“Well done all of you,” Leo says. “How’s Ned?”
“Good,” Mingan says. “But there’s a headache about a permit.” He lays slices of sourdough in another two sizzling skillets.
“A permit for…?” Leo asks.
“The shelter’s bus, and food.”
“Should I call him later today?” Leo asks.
“Wouldn’t hurt,” Mingan shrugs. “Thanks.”
“Second,” Leo continues. “You two have fantastic educational opportunities!”
“Oh yeah?” Mingan asks.
Trudy groans again and sinks lower in her chair.
“Mingan, there’s an ‘Introduction to Business’ class that would complement your work here at the shop,” Leo says.
Mingan looks pleased as he turns over the sourdough slices to more sizzling.
“And Trudy.” Leo beams at her. “There’s a ‘Gain Loyal Customers’ class that would complement your work at the fulfillment center.”
Trudy stares into her coffee, her brow furrowed.
“I’ve taken the liberty of registering you both for the upcoming Spring semester. The classes fill quickly,” Leo says. “You’ll also find that you can learn from each other, as these classes cover different facets of the same stone.”
Mingan cuts holes through the centers of the sourdough slices, inserts the soft-yolked eggs, sprinkles them with pink Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper, and brings them to the table.
“Third.” Leo presents them with the thick envelopes he’d brought back from Andorra.
Mingan dunks a piece of sourdough in egg yolk. After what seems like careful consideration, he slowly opens the envelope bearing his name in a bold black script.
When he’s done reading, Trudy, who has already pushed away her plate, rips open her envelope. Leo smiles to himself, anticipating their excitement.
An absolute silence descends on the room.
Leo realizes he’s made a mistake.
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