“You missed Elliott,“ Junie said, never minding very well. “He came through with the last shift.”
“Was he trying to gather supplies and support for another escape from camp Absolute Boredom?”
She crossed her arms and looked about as cross as a Junie could look. “They are going to lock him up if he doesn’t stop it.”
“I’m shocked they haven’t done it already.”
“Because I used coffee, from my private reserves. It made me cry having to use it.”
Roger was going to take another drink but paused and lowered his cup. “You’re the reason the bloke isn’t lashed to the wall in some prison?”
“You’d think he’d show a little gratitude,” she huffed. “To prove a point, I didn’t even serve him any coffee today.” Junie scanned the bar looking for anything that she could clean. Her hands almost hovering of their own accord over the controls to make another mocha.
“There is this funny thing you have to do, Junie. You have to tell someone what you are doing for them to become aware of it.” Roger shook his head.
“I don’t see how he couldn’t know. He’s smart enough to know they are looking for excuses to lock us all up.”
Roger took note to never doubt how observant the barista was again. He wondered if there was something she noticed that he’d missed but he didn’t know what he should ask to get a direct answer.
“Can you and Fipps come by my room tonight?”
“So you can show us your HAM radio, internet thing you have been working on?”
He almost jumped out of his pants.
“How in the…” he cleared his throat and tried to compose himself. Was she psychic as well as crazy? “Yes, it’s time we start doing something, even if the rest of these people don’t trust us.”
She looked over Roger’s shoulder and saw a man walking onto the mess hall. Her photo-caffeinated memory took over and she started making the drink she knew he’d order. “It’s not that hard to figure out. The inventory manager, Mocha With Extra Foam, was talking about the parts you’d ordered. I was talking about the parts with the radio operator, Double Espresso. And he said you could use them to send data over the radio.”
“That’s absolutely right,” he said, praising her. “Come by my room and I’ll show it to you both.”
“Show me what?” She’d finished the drink and moved to the other side to place it on the bar.
“Never mind,” he sighed.
She continued to watch him like she didn’t want miss the reveal of his magical trick.
He watched her in return and when she didn’t look away he felt compelled to say, “I’ll show you what I’ve been using the radio for.”
Junie looked thoroughly relived. “Oh good, because I thought you were going to talk about the other thing and I’m really not ready to talk about that.” Roger almost asked, but thought better of continuing this crazed cycle of questioning.
“If you would like to come now, I could show you.”
She didn’t seem so sure about that, looking over the espresso station as if she was abandoning baby seals to orcas.
“Junie, you have at least an hour before the next shift comes in.” He wondered who ran the coffee bar when she wasn’t here. Also, when was the last time that Junie had been asleep?
She placed her dishtowel down on the counter. “Well as long as it won’t be more than half hour. The next group is my favorite, they tell all the best stories from their missions.”
They made their way through the hall silently at first but after they left the main block Junie asked, “How do you think we’ll ever be able to restart our society again? Can we even call this a country anymore? I heard the President was turned into a zombie.”
He was completely taken aback. Rarely did Junie make sense, let alone say anything halfway intelligent. “I don’t know,” he said scratching the back of his neck. “I mean, I believe I’m still an American.”
Junie started to hum “Proud to be an American” and he was sure their serious conversation was over as quickly as it came. He decided, if you can’t understand them, join them and started to sing the lyrics, loudly and off-key People that passed cheered and clapped and laughed. This was just a small glimpse into what it was like to be Junie the professionally unstable barista.
When he’d at last exhausted his lyrical knowledge he started to hum along with Junie.
“You know Roger,” she said with all seriousness. “That song sounds kind of funny when you sing it with a Scottish accent.”
“Maybe, lass. Maybe.”
They turned the corner and the ever-slight frame of Aubrey rebounded off him. Even with the incredible weight difference he still had to take a step back to not fall over.
Aubrey pushed her hair back from her face and looked up at Roger with something between fear and excitement.
Fipps was jogging after her. “Oh my god, Roger,” she said grabbing for his arm, any evidence they had been fighting just an hour ago gone.
“What in the ruddy hell is going on, Aubrey?” he blustered.
“Is it Elliott?” Junie asked and looked stern. “Has he tried to escape again instead of going to his meeting? I don’t have the coffee for cover him again.”
“What? No.” She shook her head with vigor. Whatever was going on Fipps shared her excitement even if it wasn’t at the same volume.
“I can’t tell exactly what she’s trying to say but it sounds like you’ve got a call.”
Aubrey took up both of Roger’s hands and smiled at him in that way that melted his knees. “Roger, your radio… someone’s responded.”