Indigo Cat | Teen Ink

Indigo Cat

July 14, 2008
By Nancy Yang, Rochester, MN

Tim lives in the yellow house at the end of something-Woods-Lane, the house with the grass-green shutters and not-so-green lawn. Every morning he wakes at exactly six to put on his blue checkered shoes and walk to the bus stop for a quick ride to the city, always passing children heading to their school bus. He gives them candy wrapped in shiny foil paper in return for innocent grins—no matter that they didn’t really know his name.

The morning bus is white with gray stripes and mud splattered wheels; no matter what the weather, there’s always plenty of mud. Dan the Grouchy, the bus driver, always sits there with a cigarette dangling from his lips, “Get on,” he says to the floor. Dan isn’t his real name, but he does seem like the “Dan” type. Tim never asks. He would just drop the coins into the coin box, always with an extra quarter. Morning buses are usually near empty (or maybe Dan was just too intimidating) with one or two or no other passengers. Very soon Tim reaches his stop at the community mall.

Indigo Cat. That is the name of the coffee shop—his coffee shop in fact—and maybe it’s not as big or fancy as some others in town but always ready with the best, freshest coffee and sweets. Tim unlocks the door, puts his coffee machines to work, and begins making batter for the pastries. At seven thirty he flips on the switch for the flashing neon of an indigo coffee cup (it was more blue, really) with white neon-light steam rising out, the official notice that the shop is opened.

The Indigo Cat is rather dwarfed by a steel gray, sophisticated business office next door—important looking business men in perfectly ironed suits will file in and out with instant coffee because they didn’t having enough time for fresh ones. On the other side was a shopping center with mannequins in the latest fashions staring prettily out of glass cases. Giggling girls often survey the models while chattering on cell phones and balancing shopping bags, then run off to grab the discounts with a wave to boyfriends in the parking lot. No need for coffee there. Tim sighs when he sees the people pass by, his little coffee shop unnoticed. He knows exactly what kind of coffee each one needs, if only they’d stop in.

Twelve o’clock says the indigo cat-shaped clock on the wall. Tim takes a break behind the counter to take out his homemade sandwich, pairs it with a cup of dark coffee and one jelly donut, meanwhile looking at the smiling faces of his few but satisfied customers.

The shop doesn’t close at exactly any time, but it always ends up around six in the evening when the last customer leaves, the last coffee cup is drained, and the last sweet is eaten. The indigo coffee cup stopped its flashing and steaming. Cups are washed, saucers stacked, check, check, check, and Tim locks the doors for the night. He likes to walk all the way home to enjoy the night air. Such is Tim’s life; as long as people have their coffee he’s happy.

It was on an unusually cold morning when Tim woke early, not the regular six o’clock, not donning his usual brown wool sweater but a maroon jacket instead. Walking to the kitchen, he knew that candy would not cheer the children today. Plastic baggies were filled with cocoa powder then an added sprinkle of chocolate chips and marshmallows. The children passed by the usual road, faces—cold and depressed—hidden by scarves, but seeing the old man (and with cocoa powder!), up bounced their spirits and woolly hats. Mitten-wrapped hands reached out eagerly, with “pleases” and “thank-yous” of course, then away they ran with their packets of treats. Tim smiled all the way to the bus stop.

Dan was there as usual, same old grumpy face made worse by the change of weather. Tim put in his coins, this time with a large English toffee—he knew Dan liked English Toffee coffee with cream steaming in an extra large cup but a piece of toffee would have to do.

Seven thirty sharp, sharper than the crisp morning air, Tim turns on the neon. The jingle of the doorbell rang in today’s first customers, and the bitter wind that mingled into the thick coffee scents wafted into the streets. The business men in thin suits stopped, hands holding cups that were already frozen, and turned to look. For the first time they see the paint-peeled wind-battered sign that read Indigo Cat and that tiny indigo cup in the window. In they came to hide from the chill and bland business matters, to taste the coffee and maybe grab a donut too.
Amongst the busy people there came a young man with dark saggy eyes and rumpled hair, slouching to the table; he looked so tired. Tim knew just what to do. A cup of black coffee, piping hot, no sugar, on a saucer with a warm cinnamon bun, and it slid to a stop right before the lad’s lowered head.
“But I don’t have money sir, I don’t have a job.”
“No worry,” the local paper flipped to the Help Wanted section and landed right next to the saucer.
“Get yourself a job, nothing boring, it’s gotta be something you love. It’ll be pay enough.”
Tim smiled and gave him a pat on the back. The boy bit into his bun, took a sip, and suddenly saw the exact ad he was looking for. Cup and saucer were cleared in five seconds and with a bright “thank you” he was gone.
Even the shopping girls decided to take a trip into the remote little shop. They scanned the menu.
“You got decaf?”
“What’s decaf?” Tim asked, so they tried the regular and thought they should have it more often. The boyfriends came too, and grabbed so many of the cookies, donuts, and cakes that Tim had to make another batch.
Right around now, Dan took his lunch break and emptied his money box to find, ho! A toffee! He was so happy that he even gave that homeless old lady on the street a free ride. Of course, Tim knew all about it.
It was near one in the afternoon, after lunch, when a pair of turtledoves walked hand-in-hand into the store, eyes glued to each other, cheeks red from maybe more than just the cold; they strolled to the window seat for two, and Tim knew the perfect brew. One cup of chocolate-vanilla swirl with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and two straws, paired with two slices of heart-shaped coffee cake.
“We haven’t ordered yet...” they said
“Oh you’ll like this best, try it,” Tim replies.
They both took a sip and fell more madly in love with each other—and with coffee—than ever. That whole afternoon they sat by the window chatting about whatever lovers chat about these days over many refills of warm coffee. Then just like that, they disappeared. When Tim came to clear the cups he found a jumble of coins on the saucers and a note that read “Thank you for making our day so perfect,” signed Mina and Rob. Tim chuckled. Young love was sweeter than coffee with extra sugar.
The walk home was filled with cold evening wind but Tim never felt it. For dinner he made himself a near-feast: fried chicken, whipped potatoes, green beans, and a pot dark coffee and leftover muffins. He even felt nearly good enough to call his son whom he hadn’t spoken to in twenty years. But maybe later.
That night, Tim’s joy made him forget to take his pills and his heart ran a-flutter. He reached for the phone, eyes opened just long enough to call the number he had so often dialed but always hanged up upon, to whisper to the answering machine on the other end “I miss you.”
At six the next morning—it was warm again—the children skipped past the yellow house with the grass-green shutters, but there was no old man with his bag of treats. Dan stopped at the end of the road and called “get on” out of habit, not noticing that no passenger boarded. At half past seven, the neon did not flash and behind it the shop was quiet. Customers, some whom had just discovered the Indigo Cat and others who came by everyday, glanced at their watches nervously, wondering why the door would not open. The young man with his new uniform almost ran into the door, excited as he was to tell the coffee shop owner about his new job. The door wouldn’t budge when he tried to open it. Dan at his lunch break realized that his money box felt twenty-five cents lighter. Mina, dragging Rob, ran excitedly to that place between the mall and the business office to show the coffee man their engagement ring, but stopped short to stare at the dimmed windows. Strange, no coffee to warm cold hands, no sweet dreamy scent to fill nostrils.
In the local paper that weekend, squeezed between births and an ad for cell phones, third under the obituaries, the neat newspaper print said “Timothy Wedborne, age 63, died of a heart attack last Thursday.” No funeral, no relatives visits or neighbors who camed to say “I’m sorry,” they didn’t know so they couldn’t be blamed. The school children and their dogs woke up early to fetch that paper for their dads drinking instant coffee at the breakfast table. The boy with the new job looked right to the Help Wanted page—maybe he could take another shift or two. Mina and Rob got matching cell phones as pre-wedding presents, the same one advertised beneath the obituaries. Dan, well, he doesn’t even read the paper.
Over in the local cemetery, a crow landed on a small smooth stone engraved with Timothy Wedburne.

This will certify that the above work is completely original--Nancy Yang

The author's comments:
Partly inspired by a book, partly by a love of coffee, this short story is interwoven with many layers of my emotions. It is the result of much hard work, and major peer editing from my friends. I hope means to you all that I intended for it to be.

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