Having no real idea where he was heading, Mike drove down the familiar streets of Springdale. He passed dozens of fast food restaurants and though he wasn’t hungry, thought about stopping for a drink. They all looked incredibly busy though, and he didn’t want to have to sit in a crowd. Then he noticed a new coffee shop in the Springdale shopping center. Pulling into the parking lot he marveled that there were so few cars, but then noticed that Starbucks about a hundred yards away was having some kind of promotion that involved a large inflatable mermaid on the roof. He parked and crossed the blisteringly hot parking lot.
TexTee in hand, Mike entered through the front door of Mansfield Perk. The inside was lavishly decorated in faux Regency English style with white table linens and doilies. Behind the counter was a young woman, her hair in a bun, wearing an Empire line dress dotted with little roses, and a young man with curly hair and long sideburns wearing a burgundy waistcoat and knotted white cravat.
“Good day to you, sir,” said the young woman with a curtsey. “It was so lovely you could come visiting on this day.”
“Thanks,” replied Mike, looking up at the menu written in chalk on a black slate board. “Elizabeth Bennet’s Black? Mr. Darcy’s Mochachino? What have you got that’s cool? Iced Tea?”
“Yes, sir. We have the world’s best iced teas. What kind of tea do you prefer?”
“Um, I’m not really sure.”
“Could I try something?” she asked.
Mike waited for several seconds to hear what she wanted to try, but when she didn’t elaborate, he said. “Okay.”
“You’ll like it. I promise.” Then she hurried around the corner to the back room to “try something.”
“Mindless drones,” said the young man behind the counter.
Mike followed his gaze to the Starbucks.
“What do mermaids have to do with coffee anyway?”
“It’s the book,” offered Mike. “Moby Dick. That’s where the name Starbuck comes from.”
“Does Starbuck drink a lot of coffee in Moby Dick?”
“No, I don’t think so—just the usual amount one would drink as a sailor I guess.”
“Well then, it’s a stupid name for a coffee shop.”
Mike thought about mentioning that there were probably at least as many references to coffee in Herman Melville’s work as there were in all of Jane Austen’s, but he held his tongue. Just then the girl returned with a large glass filled with an orange beverage that could in no way have been iced tea, with twenty or so foot long sprigs of mint sticking from the top. Taking the glass, he found a spot in the corner and sat down, leaned his texTee up against a sugar bowl and fished the mint out of his drink.
So far as he could tell, the drink was about ninety percent orange juice. If there was any tea at all in it, it was vastly overpowered by citrus. It was cool though. And sweet. And minty.
“News,” he said and the small screen in front of him came to life, filled mostly with text, but a window in the top right corner was occupied by a broadcast correspondent. “No. No. Text only. Headlines.”
He silently scanned through the headlines. “President Mendoza tours Antarctic factories.” “India and Iran will host the 2038 and 2039 world cups.” “Vice President McPhee questions the sincerity of Democrats regarding cutting the budget.” “Sixty four people killed in Bosnian hotel fire.” “Court rules sex with a child-like robot does not violate pedophilia laws.” “Great white sightings may be a sign that sharks are not extinct.” “Daffodil touts benefits of BioSoft 1.9.3.”