When one’s dose of juicy painkillers, that warm, I-love-everyone, everything’s-right-with-the-world feeling you have come to cherish like a best mate, begins to wane, you realise that somehow you’ve become surrounded by people (that is if you’ve left your house topped up with love and knowing You, only you, possess the power to save the world from itself). Now, said people could be anyone, for as much as painkillers numb you from all source of infliction, they can also seriously impair one’s judgement (which for some might not be such a bad thing, but, when I called up one of my ex’s only to have his new slag of a lover answer the phone, I advised him that my ex would be better with me because I am the only one who could truly love him and that my willie is far superior than his… oh the message I received from my ex on my answer phone the next day). Basically what I am saying is this, feel free to use painkillers at your leisure, but first unplug the phone and make sure you don’t leave the house (and stock up on Nutella… trust me, you’ll understand soon enough).
The people you have professed your love to for the past few hours, are not really your friends, and no matter how many different ways you convey to them you love them and buy them case after case of lager, they are not going to shag you (I know, sad… and you took the painkillers in the first place for that one guy your best mate is friends with and you know his willie is like a beefed up lorry crammed tightly into those designer jeans and said painkillers would have made it much easier to… well you know where this is going… my advice, rent lesbian porn and purchase a case of cheap lager, you save money and with the porn you can free willie a lot faster – not that I am advocating the molestation of your straight friends… but willies need love too and far be it from me to hinder any sort of love… plus in the digital age that we exist in, you can take pictures to blackmail him, thus making said man your bitch for life – or until he finally comes out of the closet… which inevitably most do).
By the time they returned home from hospital, the painkillers coursing through Theo’s veins had become a whisper… of an ephemeral thought… from an idea that never existed (yes I know, existentially conceptual ideas are rather pompously intellectual, and gay).
“Why do I have the strangest notion that I professed my love to the nurse?” Theo reluctantly asked as Betsy helped him into the flat.
“That and if you could swallow his love.” A sadistic soul Betsy was, and she was succulently enjoying the humiliation flushing onto Theo’s face. “You also stated that he was the one and you were planning to marry him.”
“I didn’t.” If there were a record for how low one could hold their head, Theo would win by a long shot. “How bad did I cock things up?”
“Not too much, I think Hadrian was amused. But if you do decide upon marrying him, I insist on being your wedding planner, best man, flower girl and maid of honour.” She helped Theo onto the couch.
“All I remember, I think… was he Scottish?” Theo asked replaying all that he could remember in his head… like a film with half of the scenes removed.
“Yes he was… and rather witty as well.” Betsy was in the kitchen fixing them some dinner, since they never made it to breakfast.
“Hmm… do I even want to know what happened?” It was starting to feel like the day after a serious pub crawl and you wake up rat-arsed and in bed with your younger brother… did you or didn’t you do things you would never tell your parents?
“Well mate, the best part is,” Betsy brought out two plates with sandwiches and crisps, “you have to see him in a week for a check up, and I’m going with you. I would be a right wally to miss that blessed reunion.”
As Betsy set down the plates, Theo’s mobile rang. Seeing as Theo was incapacitated, Betsy had to answer it.
“It’s your mum. Hello Lady Rabbit… yes he’s right here.” She handed the phone to Theo.
Being left-handed and having a splint on said arm, Theo realised rather quickly how difficult the next week was going to be. “Hello mother.”
“Oh Theo are you ok? What happened?” Madeline Rabbit desperately asked. Why is it with mothers that even a paper cut sends them off their trolleys and the whole world has gone completely pear-shaped.
“Everything’s pukka… it was just a sprain. We were heading out for some nosh and I slipped on the stairs.” Theo said, taking a bit of his sandwich. “Scrummy sandwich beavertron.”
“Do you need anything? Should I come out there?” She anxiously asked.
“Mother, I’m fine. I have Betsy and Aunt Sheila here… plus, I was just informed that I proposed to the posh Scottish nurse that bandaged me up… even Aunt Sheila fancied him.” Theo said still slightly embarrassed.
“You always did have a thing for Scottish men… as long as you’re fine and being looked after. How’s the flat Aunt Sheila gave you?” Madeline Rabbit was calming down now. It’s a difficult position for a mother to be in, what with the desire to protect your children their whole lives coupled with the need to let them run free and make their own mistakes. We know from experience how most things will end, and that alone is half the terror of watching someone else experience them.
“The flat is brilliant… we even have our own private roof-top terrace. Most the living room is floor-to-ceiling windows, the kitchen is a bit small but we each have our own loo. We are on Kelly Street and the next borough over from The Mince, so it’s rather safe.” Theo relayed as Betsy flipped through the telly stations looking for something a bit more interesting than listening to Theo’s conversation.
“I love The Mince, and if memory serves, Aunt Sheila’s building is just down the street from Kelly Street Park… that’s where your father proposed to me, next to the fountain.” She said reminiscing of days long past.
“Haven’t explored much yet… arrived last night, went to dinner, then IKEA, clubbing, slept in then sprained my arm… not bad for a first day though.” Theo said as he pointed to the telly station Betsy landed on. The show was Spooks (MI5 for you yanks, and the best show on telly), their favourite show. “I hate to cut this short but Betsy needs me to help here with her resume, tomorrow we are going out to find jobs.”
“Alright then, call me if you need anything and tell Aunt Sheila I say hello. I love you Theo.” His mother said, comforted in knowing he was surrounded by family.
“I love you too mum.” Theo said.
“I love you too Lady Rabbit.” Betsy yelled.
Madeline Rabbit giggled. “Tell Betsy I send her love as well. I will call you tomorrow night and see how you’re doing.”
“Cheers mother. Talk to you then.” And with that they both hung up. Theo turned back to the telly. “Is this a re-run?”
“Yea, I think so mate… still a fantastic show though.” Betsy said finishing off her crisps.
“That David Oyelowo is sterling. What I wouldn’t give for him to MI5 me for a few hours.” It has to be said, Theo has exceptional taste when it comes to the male gender.
“I concur… he’s quite fit indeed.” Betsy paused for a second to watch David take someone down. “Hey bunnyman, isn’t your holiday coming up next weekend?”
“Which holiday would that be beavertron?” Theo asked mesmerised by David.
“Easter.” Betsy said.
“Um, that’s not my holiday. That’s the one where zombie Jesus comes back to life in order to eat the brains of the unbelievers and give us chocolate covered kit and stuff.” Theo relayed.
“Oh, riiiight. So we’re not celebrating the fact that you lay eggs like the Cadbury Bunny because you’re a total woman?” Betsy assuredly said.
“Oh you so funny!” Theo said and threw a crisp at her.
“So what are we going to do for work bunny-man?” Betsy asked turning from the telly.
“I don’t know. Haven’t really had much time to ponder that one. We both know how to sling coffee so let’s start there.” Theo said finishing off his sandwich.
“Aunt Sheila made mention of some cafe a few blocks over where she knows the owner. Let’s try that first… I bet dropping Aunt Sheila’s name will better our chances.” Betsy said.
They became engrossed with the show for some time (and rightly so, it’s a smashing programme). The sun began to set, the remaining light refracting off the mirrored windows of the skyscrapers like a prism. It was a Friday night and the noise of the city was beginning to swell; all the nine-to-fiver’s ready to let off a lorry full of steam from their hectic and high- pressured jobs. The hum of cars and music and people began wafting up the building like a familiar goo, coating everything with the weekend frenzy.
“Ok, it’s Friday night and we’re sitting here watching telly.” Betsy said after a quite some time.
“We could go exploring, but I don’t know how much use I will be with only one arm.” Theo said not turning from the telly.
“For most things, you only need one arm.” She said giggling.
“Quite true, but for those things I need my left arm… which is in a cast. So there goes my social life.” Theo looked down at his cast and thought about all the things one normally takes for granted, things that would now be almost impossible… like wiping ones arse.
“We could try to find this cafe and apply for jobs?” Betsy said picking up the plates and taking them back into the kitchen.
“Our first Friday night, on our own, living in the Big City and we went job-hunting.” Theo muttered to himself.
“Well if you have a better idea.” Betsy said from the kitchen.
Theo remembered his inner voice was rarely as ‘inner’ as he thought. “Help me get dressed and let’s away to the hunting of jobs, my bonny lass.”
Kelly Street was a rather popular thoroughfare… boutique shops, cafés, neighbourhood pubs and those brilliant hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve the best food in the city. Though not as robust as say, Fifth Avenue in New York City, but enough to garner Kelly Street as a place to be on the weekends. Their building was tree blocks from Kelly Street Park (more on the park later) and on their block there was a pub, video store and a men’s underwear boutique (of which Theo will frequent quite often… but again, more on that story later).
Theo stopped at the top of the stoop. “We have to do this slowly; I don’t wish to damage my other arm.”
“Then I guess pushing you is out of the question… bugger.” Betsy said passing him up. “Get a move on slow coach. The city awaits.”
“That’s what you said last night and look where that got us.” Holding the hand rail, Theo, with great apprehension, slowly walked down the stoop. “There, safe and sound.”
“Blimey, you nancy-boy. How are we ever going to have our great adventure with you suffering from collywobbles?” Betsy said rolling her eyes.
It was near the end of May and the weather in late spring was always perfect. Sunny with sparse clouds during the days, the evenings still warm from the day, giving way to the mild chill of spring nights… where one could still wear shorts, but with a track jacket on top. It was around ten PM and Kelly Street was becoming rather packed with weekend revellers, like drug sniffing Bobbie dogs, they were in search of a smashing time which usually entailed getting trolleyed.
“Well Columbus, which direction should we sail?” Betsy said as she tied her jacket around her waist.
“Through my great powers of reduction, since Aunt Sheila is gay, she would most likely patronise a gay business, so are most likely direction would be east, to The Mince.” Theo said with his finger up in the air as if the wind were going to answer his conundrum.
“Now that we’ve got that sorted… and Theo… it’s deduction… not reduction. A reduction is a process one utilises in the kitchen, while deduction is the process used to eliminate certain parameters or conclusions that distract from the true outcome. And to think we both went to the same school… what were you doing, getting your end away with Brad Bunny when you should have been studying?” Betsy said as they began to walk down Kelly Street.
“We both graduated with honours mind you, and that’s all you need to know.” Theo knew she was taking the piss but the general idea behind taking the piss had a lot less bite attached to it.
“Um, I’m your best mate, there’s a lot I know about you that you don’t think I know.” Betsy retorted with flare.
“Oh, like what, you nosey parker?” Theo knew there were no secrets between Betsy and himself, that said, Betsy always knew how to bate him.
“That you named your wanker, Lord Colin Ashworth. More like Lord Colon Assworthy is you ask me.” Betsy couldn’t contain her laughing and let loose the loudest guffaw.
“I knew you had been reading my diary.” Theo said giggling through indignity.
“Well if you didn’t leave it sitting out on your bed all the time I wouldn’t have the opportunity to peruse such a fine tome of intimacy.” She said as she nudged him as if to say that everything should be forgiven.
“You, my friend, are a very naughty beaver.” Theo said smiling. There wasn’t much that hasn’t passed between the two of them.
“So are we going to save some time and ask someone or just wander aimlessly for hours?” Betsy asked.
“You’re the one who wished to explore, if memory serves.” Theo said peering into the windows of an underwear shop. “Remind me that I need to venture in this shop during the day when it’s open.”
“You gays and your underwear. Yes I was, but I would also like some coffee. Look there at the end of the next block… that looks like a cafe that’s open.” Betsy pointed to a well lit cafe up the street where the outside tables were full of said revellers but more of the intellectual type.
Theo tore himself, painfully though it were, away from the underwear store (he could always just wander the Interweb since there are many sites completely devoted to underwear – obsession with, to purchase, pictures of guys in it, videos of it being shot from a potato gun into a neighbours garden). Arm in arm the wandered up the block giggling amongst themselves.
As they approached the cafe, Betsy and Theo heard acoustic music flowing out of the open windows and main door (it had a Melisa Etheridge/Radio Head fusion sound). The cafe was wall-to-wall with customers and for a moment Betsy reconsidered her desire for coffee.
They walked up to the door which a gopher in an apron was leaning against. “Question, is there a cover to get in? We’re just after some coffee.” Betsy asked.
“No cover. Let me finish this fag and I will be right in to help you.” The hipster gopher replied.
Betsy and Theo weaved their way in through the crowd and made it to the main bar… completely missing the sign above their heads.
“This place is brilliant… look, they even have a full upstairs section.” Theo said as his eyes took in the eclectic surroundings.
“This music rocks, whomever’s playing I want one of their CD’s.” Betsy’s foot was tapping along with the song currently being performed.
Appearing out of nowhere, the hipster gopher sprang up behind the bar. “So, what can I do you for this evening?” He said excitedly.
“First off, I would love a double, soy mocha, no whip and the bunny here would like the same. Second, and this may be rather uncouth, but we are trying to find a certain café… Arnie Alligators café. Have you ever heard of it?” Betsy asked, slightly embarrassed.
The gopher smiled. “My friends, you’re standing in it!” He raised his arms as if presenting the entire café to Theo and Betsy.
As luck would have it, they walked right under the large, hand-carved sign over the front doors that read – Arnie Alligator’s Coffee Emporium and Café. Theo and Betsy stood there gobsmacked for a second then screamed with delight.
“This may be presumptuous, but Arnie knows my aunt… is he here?” Betsy asked looking around and the future place she was hoping to have the privilege of employment.
“Of course he’s here, he never misses a show. When I finish your drinks I will find him for you. Are you guys new in town? I only ask, because everyone who’s anyone knows this café.” The gopher said steaming the soy milk as the espresso strained into cups underneath.
“We just moved here from Blue Hollow the other day. My aunt said this would be smashing place to work.” Betsy had to raise her voice a little from the din of the lairy crowd.
“Indeed it is. I have been here about three years. A champion boss, Arnie is.” He served them their drinks. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.” And with that the gopher dashed away.
Theo turned to Betsy, “could we possibly be any jammier?”
“I know, right!” Betsy knew they just had to get jobs here. “How random is it I desire coffee and on the off-chance we wander into the cafe that we are looking for?”
“Providence, my dear beaver.” Theo said savouring his mocha and admiring the shop.
They thought it was providence but in all actuality I was getting a bit antsy and was trying to pass over some boring bits of information. Not much happened – they wandered around, flirted with drag giraffes (RuPaul is brilliant and with heels on, is over seven feet tall… two-story drag queens is a site entirely something else, and something to behold), nipped into a chippy for some nosh and purchased some clothes at H&M. I would be more than happy to go over every detail with you but you would eventually fall asleep. Yes even Theo and Betsy can get a bit dull sometimes.
Arnie appears from the crowd with the hipster gopher. “I’m Arnie, what can I do for you?” He said in a rather gruff Big City manner.
“I’m Betsy, this is Theo and apparently you know my aunt Sheila. We just moved here from Blue Hollow and desperately in need of employment.” Betsy, being a Sagittarius, rarely had an issue with getting straight to the point.
“You’re Sheila’s niece. She told me you were moving out here. How is she?” Arnie asked glancing around the café like an attentive mother.
“She’s fantastic. She blagged us a brilliant flat from another potential renter just up the street. So, do you need any extra help around here?” Betsy pressed the issue ever so slighty.
“Funny you should walk on the one night two of my employees didn’t show up. Gregg here has been doing most of the work around here. What experience do you have?” He asked.
“We both worked at Blue Café in the Hollow while attending LOADS… four years of slinging espresso part-time. How’s that for experience?” Betsy shoots and scores.
I know you’re thinking, why hasn’t Theo said much of anything? Over the years he realised best to let her do most of the talking. Yes he would invariably end up in trouble or having a fantastic adventure and decided just to play along. Theo has a softer demeanour than Betsy… but then again, beavers are always itching to gnaw on every aspect of what life has to offer. Bunnies on the other hand are quite happy from hopping through the forest. Although, there is a stain upon bunny kind from that horrific incident with Little Bunny FooFoo and some innocent field mice… many CSI agents quit the service after being witness to such atrocities… those poor field mice, being bopped on the head in such a gruesome manner. Bunnies, though generally mild can go spectacularly mad.
“Well, my little eager beaver, I’ve known Sheila for years and if she can vouch for you, that’s all I need. When can you start?” Arnie was relieved and chuffed at his luck tonight. The show has pulled in more people than he has seen in a long time, two kids wander in to help… what more good luck is in store, he thought to himself.
“How about right now?” Betsy said. “Though Theo here just sprained his wrist from excessive wanking so he’s probably only useful cleaning or working the till.”
“I know the feeling mate.” Gregg said through a chuckle.
“You know full well that I tripped on the stairs beavertron.” Theo said rather embarrassed.
“You tripped on the stairs?” Gregg asked. “I would’ve stuck with the wanking accident… at least that made you a bit more interesting instead of a klutz.”
“I think this is all going to work out. Gregg will fetch you each an apron and give you the rundown of the place. I, on the other hand, should attend to the concert. I will be up in the booth if you need anything. Welcome aboard.” And with that Arnie shook each of their hands and went back to his stage-manager persona.
“Now you’re mine!” Gregg the hipster gopher said with a mischievous grin.
“I quite like the sound of that.” Betsy enticingly replied.
Since they both had experience, it came down to figuring out where this café stored all their accoutrement, cups, lids, coffee beans, and even merchandise – travel mugs, t-shirts, and underwear (my idea). After about an hour, all three of them were goofing off behind the counter as if they had been friends for ages, whipping each other with wet dirty rags, restocking the shelves in assembly-line fashion… it was as if they knew each other’s thoughts before they attempted any action. By the end of the night, both Betsy and Theo felt they had always worked here.
With the concert long since finished, Arnie had just finished putting all the mics, wires and speakers away in the back when Theo walked in precariously holding a rather large bag of coffee beans with his right arm.
“Here, let me help you with that.” Arnie took the bag from Theo and placed on the shelf next to the other bags of coffee beans. “How did your first night go?”
“Brilliant mate! Blue Cafe back in the Hollow was never this busy, even on weekend. You’re machines are a bit more posh than ours so that took some getting used to but overall, bang on.” Theo excitedly answered hoping he passed the test.
“I suppose Betsy and yourself would like to work the same shifts?” Arnie asked coiling up some wire.
“I don’t wish to overstep my boundaries seeing as it’s my first night and all… but yes, if that’s ok. We grew up next door to each other and even through school we did everything together.” Theo felt nervous pressing his luck. He thought he should just be happy with having a job.
“The owner of the building we are in and I have the same relationship. We met years ago and realised we were platonic soul mates. He even bought the building, urged the previous owners to leave and let me build the cafe that I dreamt about. Lu and I, that’s his name, he’s a posh Persian, hang out everyday when he is in town. So I completely understand not wanting to be apart from one’s soul mate. Let me look at the schedule and see what I can shift around. Mornings or evenings are better for you?” Arnie had finished putting all the wires away and they left the back room.
“From growing up in the Hollow and my mother being a gardener, I ended up being a morning person. Betsy on the other hand is not, I think having a job would impel her to get up.” Theo said through a small chuckle as they made their way upstairs to the office.
Arnie’s office was in the back, upstairs, at the end of a long hallway and had the feeling of walking into a mafia don’s office. Theo was still amazed at how large this cafe was. Arnie sat down at his desk and open up the schedule on his laptop.
“Let’s see… since you worked tonight… looks like this week it will have to remain nights. I will talk to the staff this week and see if anyone wants to change shifts, mornings are always the easiest to full since most people don’t want to work them. I can give you next weekend off and the following Monday you can open. You’ll be working with Gregg most evenings this week, so he can train you up on opening and closing procedure…” Arnie looked up from his laptop.
Theo was starting to cry.
“What’s up?” Arnie asked
“I don’t know. This is all happening so fast. It was Betsy’s idea to move to the Big City right after we graduated and seeing as she is my best friend I always go along with most anything she thinks up. And here I am, with a job, in the Big City, in an awesome flat… I guess I never thought I would find that sense of family or home outside my own. Where I grew in the Hollow, there were acres of meadows and forests and a river running between Betsy’s house and mine… this idyllic country setting where neither of us locked our doors and we were always welcome in each other’s homes. Her family was my family and vice-versa. And now, here I am living in a building owned by her Aunt and working at a place I could call home… I guess what I am trying to say is that I found a home away from home and it’s not that I wasn’t thinking it existed, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting to find it so quickly.” Theo said smiling.
“When Lu bought the building, I told him we could’ve just found another spot for the café, but he insisted… said there is something that will cross our paths in the future and we needed to remain here. So I went along with his barmy plans, built the cafe and over time it became the go-to place for concerts and hanging out. During the show tonight, what Lu said kept coming up in my mind… that little voice in everyone’s head… I had an instinctual inkling about you two and I was watching you three over the night getting a long like… well… family. I believe that Betsy and you are the ‘something special’ Lu was talking about. I have had many applicants and none felt quite right, until you two.” Arnie arose from his desk and walked over to Theo and hugged him. “I pride myself on having this place feel like a family. I know you have a week before you get your cast off and so I will work with you. There’s just something about you. Now dry your tears and let’s join the other downstairs. If you’re up for it, there’s this smashing twenty-four hour diner next door that has the best French toast.”
As they walked down the main staircase, they saw that Gregg and Betsy had rearranged the cafe tables as barricades and were playing war as they pegged each other with pastry bits.
“Family indeed!” Arnie said as they reached the last step. “I’m putting paid to this. Oi, you two, clean this up. We’re going to next door for some late night nosh.”
“Hey, don’t slag my plans for café domination!” Betsy yelled as she hit Gregg right between the eyes.
“Ow! I thought we declared no face hits.” Gregg retorted.
Arnie put his arm around Theo. “I think you two will fit here perfectly!”