Elliott lurched to his feet. A brief moment of panic coursed through him, in which he had no idea what to do. He’d been preparing for the zombie apocalypse most of his life, but he hadn’t been, you know, preparing for the zombie apocalypse. He always suspected it might happen, but it wasn’t like he had a flame thrower and a shipping container full of rations in the backyard. The panic remained, but the moment of indecision passed quickly. He took a moment more to feel totally badass about that; he was a real man of action, not some useless lump, sitting around and doing nothing. Then he ran to the front counter, his studly “man of action” persona somewhat tempered by tripping on his own feet in his haste.
Completely disregarding an ingrained respect for the elderly in the face of impending doom, Elliott pushed past several others waiting in line, and bodily shoved an old woman out of the way. Junie, the barista, was pulling a shot of espresso, taking a deep whiff of the grounds as she did so, her blue eyes closed and her pale face rapturous, her love of the job easy to see. Well, maybe not so much her love of the job as her love of the employee discount, but she was clearly enjoying herself. Her long blonde hair was pulled up in a messy ponytail, keeping it out of the way of her coffee infused joy.
“Junie, we have to get out of here,” Elliott cried, without preamble, leaning over the counter. She looked up at him, her blue eyes drifting open, her ritual broke, having apparently forgotten that anything but she and the coffee existed. “Something’s happening!”
She cocked her head, and Elliott’s heart sank; she was clearly in one of her more Zen moods. “You’re going have to be more specific,” she said softly. “Technically, something’s always happening. Like getting a cane to the head for instance.”
A sharp crack and the octogenarian took out years of frustration at the indignity of getting old on Elliott’s head.
“Ow!” Elliott turned to the little lady, who menaced him with the cane once more. “I’m just trying to talk to my friend here, lady. This is important!” Junie calmly handed the woman her drink, and that seemed to work to calm her venerable fury, though she remained close by; obviously she still viewed Elliott as a threat, though to herself, Junie or the coffee was as yet unclear.
Elliott turned back to Junie, who regarded him with a kind of slow, gentle concern, sort of like being contemplated by an empathic cow of slightly above average intelligence. Which was not to say that Junie was stupid; she just had a languidness about her sometimes that made her appear unconcerned.
Elliott was aware of how stupid he sounded, but he couldn’t begin to predict how Junie would react. So he took a deep breath and just came out with it. “Junie, I think the zombie apocalypse has started in San Diego and everything we value but take for granted in our society is in danger.”
Having evidently missed the more dystopic parts of Elliott’s statement, Junie’s eyes brightened. It was like he’d flipped a switch, and the lights came right on. “Do you really think so?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes, I do, but Junie, I think you’re missing-“
“This baby will finally come in handy!” she said, reaching under the counter and pulling out the single most disturbing thing Elliott had ever seen in a coffee shop. It was a mug, but only after careful inspection was he able to identify it as such. It appeared to have a rifle scope and a laser sight attached to the side.
“Junie, what the hell is that?” Elliott asked.
“A tactical mug,” she said, as though it were obvious. “Three mil-spec 1913 rails.” She patted the one empty slot affectionately. “I’m saving this one for an M203 Grenade launcher,” she announced proudly.
The old lady, having reassessed who here was a threat, gaped at Junie, then dropped her eyes and tried to get out of the coffee shop as fast as she could, which was not very. Clearly there was just too much crazy here for her.
Junie, who had come to life, launched herself over the counter Dukes of Hazzard style, except that the Dukes were not recovering drug addicts with high caffeine to blood ratio and a slight neurological disorder that affected their balance. She stumbled slightly, caught herself on a chair, stumbled again and fell on her side. Junie was tall, all leg, and the whole thing looked to Elliott like a dodo trying to land with a baby giraffe on its back; at least until he noticed that she’d done the whole thing with a cup of coffee in her hands and hadn’t spilled a drop. He shook his head in disbelief.
Junie had no regard for her own dignity, and simply got back up and began the process of herding all the existing customers out of the Badger’s Hovel.
Most went indignantly but without a fuss, though one hardcore hipster protested.
“But I have more web surfing to do!” he cried. Junie mercilessly snapped his netbook closed.
“You’ll have to go suffer in the smoothie bar,” she said.
“But I don’t like smoothies!” he whined. “They’re too colorful and my world is dark and full of-“
“No time, zombie apocalypse,” she said, grabbing the scarf around his neck and hauling him out of his chair by it.
“But I haven’t even finished my caramel macchiato!”
“That wasn’t even a macchiato, you idiot, it was a latte with caramel,” she said, pulling his beanie over his eyes and shoving him out the door. She locked it behind him, and leaned against it, looking relieved.
“The nerve of some people,” she said.
“Yeah,” Elliott agreed.
“Can you even imagine, ordering something when you don’t even know what it is?”
“Yeah… that’s a concern, I guess…” Elliott balked. “ But um… Junie?”
“This isn’t really where I was thinking we should hole up for this. I was kind of was thinking that maybe out was better than in in this case,” he said, nodding to the locked door.
Her eyes widened in shock. “What, you mean leave the coffee?”