Jerry looked at his empire and saw that it was good. He adjusted his hat and sighed a sigh of utter content. It had been a long time since he'd been truly happy. His worker bees were busy keeping everything running smoothly, obviously because of his instructions. But it hadn't always been this good.
Jerry had a habit, you see, an addiction. Coffee was his lord and master, and he was its eager slave.
And there had been ups and downs in his relationship with coffee, the latest having been his attempt to get clean. It had been his reflexive response to finding out that his regular coffee supplier had been lying about the quality of their coffee. That it had been supermarket, re-roasted crap.
He had gone through 2 of the 10 steps Coffee Snobs Anonymous said were essential to kick the habit. Before even finishing step 1, he was in heavy withdrawal. The crappy coffee they served there broke his resolve. So he'd rebelled.
And those in his group that had felt the same, which was all of them, had joined him in walking out of their last meeting and went on a weeks-long coffee binge that not all of them came out of alive.
But with those who had come through -- and had come through stronger as a result -- he had formed the best idea they could possibly have come up with. Something to fight against the growing notion that coffee snobbery was a bad thing.
They would start their own coffee house. The best coffee house. Who better to brew your cup of coffee than somebody who vomits into their mouth when they hear the name Starbucks? Who better than someone who can smell a grind and has convinced themselves they can smell that it's got notes of wood and citrus? Who better than someone like Jerry, who knew, deep in his heart, that when it comes to coffee, he holds the universal truth?
And thus, Coffee Snobs Unanimous was born.
Jerry was obviously the Queen bee of this hive of nutritional heaven, being the most outspoken and, according to him at least, most knowledgable. His steady hand would bring the truth of coffee to the masses and they would have to accept that he was right.
And for the past few months, business had been booming. They had opened up shop where Java House used to be, so there was already a customer base. Java House had been here until a fire had burned down the entire building. After a new building had been constructed on the same spot, Java House had already reopened a few blocks down, so after a short while of being empty, CSU had leased the building and opened up shop.
It was a full house at the moment and Jerry was content. It had been a while since he'd felt this calm and collected. It really felt like he'd found a good way to harness his love for coffee into something constructive.
"Kate, clean the counter," he snapped at Kate. She looked up from the boxes of beans she was unpacking, sighed and got up to clean the counter.
"Dave, the sugar's almost out," he snapped at Dave, who was taking an order from a customer. He nodded, finished up with the customer and went into the back room to grab sugar. Jerry didn't like sugar, but he'd found out quickly that the customer base needed to be educated. They had to grow into understanding that coffee needs no help.
That's why his menu contained a list of exclusive blends that customers were forbidden to drink with milk, sugar or any flavor that wasn't already in the brew.
Jerry looked at his empire and saw that it was good. Well, almost. He saw something he didn't like. Someone, actually.
He walked over to the table at the front window, the one in the corner, with the power outlet those nerds always used. They'd order a single cup of coffee and sip it for hours, probably working on an app nobody needed or a screenplay nobody would ever read. He hated them. But this time it wasn't a nerd sitting there.
"Rebecca," Jerry said with a scowl on his face.
"Jerry," she responded with a grin.
"What are you doing here?" he asked her with a voice that could be mistaken for a growl if you didn't listen carefully.
Rebecca had been a barista at Java House. They had gotten along and then they hadn't. He thought she was cool, that she got coffee and had a respect for it. But then she had put sugar and milk into a very exclusive blend of coffee and he had not been able to abide that.
He had gotten rightfully angry, scolded her for her lack of understanding and stormed out.
That's the last time they saw each other. He'd lost his wallet there, but he was too disgusted with her to return to go and get it. He'd simply canceled all the credit cards and moved on. Then he'd had his identity crisis, his rehab and then Coffee Snobs Unanimous.
"Well, I walked past here, heard that a new coffee house had opened here, and figured I'd give it a try. Seeing as how I'm a barista myself."
"Hardly," Jerry muttered in response, rolling his eyes at the same time.
Rebecca simply grinned.
"So imagine my surprise to see you here, donning your fine Coffee Snob hat and your cute apron."
"It's not cute," he said as he looked away.
"Sure. But, Jerry, as I'm the customer now, are you going to take my order?"
"No. I won't," Jerry said as he turned his head, "Kate! Help this person and get her out of here as soon as possible. Only a coffee to-go."
Kate threw her head back and sighed. Halfway through cleaning the counter, she washed her hands quickly and walked over to Rebecca. Jerry had since returned to his station, slightly off to the side of the counter, where he could see everything and everyone, correcting them whenever they did something wrong. Which, in his mind, was constantly.
"Sorry about that, ma'am, what'll it be?" Kate said as pleasantly as she could. She felt ashamed by Jerry, but knew she had to be professional.
"I see that you guys have a part of the menu that's very exclusive?"
"Yes, these blends are hand-picked by Jerry, our manager, for their quality and unique flavors."
"And it says you're only allowed to drink them black?"
Kate looked away awkwardly.
"Yeah, that's management's rule. These blends are intended to be enjoyed pure, without, err, 'adulterating' it with sugar or milk."
Rebecca grinned widely. She could hardly contain a chuckle.
"I'll take, yeah, I'll take the Himalayan blend," she said with a slightly malevolent tone in her voice.
"Alrighty, I'll be right back with your order," Kate said, not really understanding what was going on here.
When Kate walked away, Rebecca waited to see if Jerry talked to her. They did, and when they did, nobody was looking at her. She grabbed some sugar and milk from the table next to her, where another customer had just left. She put it somewhere it wasn't visible from the counter.
Jerry seemed upset and shot Rebecca an angry glance.
"That bitch," he said to Kate through clenched teeth.
"What's the deal between you guys, anyway?" Kate asked, knowing she probably shouldn't have.
"That's personal. Just make her coffee and get her out of here," he snapped back.
Kate brewed the coffee as she'd been taught by Jerry, something he was creepily peculiar about. The Himalayan was his favorite. It was the only exclusive blend he would always keep on the menu, even if most of them switched every month. She and Dave didn't think it was all that special, but there's no accounting for taste, they thought. Also, it wasn't worth getting into a confrontation about.
When the coffee was ready, Jerry made hand motions to signal to Kate that she should hurry. She hurried over to Rebecca.
"Here you go, one Himalayan. Enjoy," Kate said as she put the paper cup down.
"Oh, I will."
Rebecca waited until Kate had returned to the counter to continue cleaning, when she pulled out the sugar and milk.
"Hey, Jerry," she shouted, "this smells great!"
Then she poured in the milk and sugar and stirred. All while looking Jerry straight in the eye. There was the throbbing vein on his forehead she remembered from back in Java House, the eye twitch and the reddening face.
Then she got up, slung her bag around her shoulder and walked towards the exit. She had a really big smile on her face and just before disappearing through the door, she looked back at Jerry, held up her cup of adulterated exclusive Himalayan and winked at him.
Jerry slammed the counter with his fist and yelped as a small crack could be heard. Customers looked up in concern, Dave looked at Kate and shook his head, and Jerry held his probably broken hand in his other hand, trying to calm down by drawing in deep breaths.
Some customers left without finishing their drink, looking at Jerry disapprovingly. He grabbed a towel, filled it with ice from the ice machine and wrapped it around his now pulsating hand.
"It'll be fine," he mumbled to Kate, who didn't particularly care anymore.
The end of the work day was nearing anyway, and after the rest of the customers had left, Dave flipped the sign on the door to say "closed" and took off his apron. He sighed.
"Jerry, I quit," he said.
"Yeah, me too," Kate immediately joined in.
"What? Why?" Jerry said, obviously annoyed.
This day was not going as well as he thought it would. His empire was good, and now it was crumbling. His worker bees were rebelling and he didn't like it one bit.
"You're insane, man. And a bit of a tyrant, to be honest," Kate said, taking off her CSU hat and throwing it in the sink.
"No, Jerry, you're an asshole. We followed you out of that meeting and into this shithole because you were right -- coffee matters. And we should get to enjoy it. But this isn't about coffee anymore. This is about you and your ego."
Dave had grown visibly frustrated by now, raising his voice and making hand gestures.
Jerry's mind raced. Right into a wall, which cracked. He laughed loudly, slightly more melodic than a laugh should normally sound.
"Fine! I don't need you! I can replace you with ease!"
Dave and Kate looked at each other and it was their turn to laugh.
"Good luck with that!" Kate said, walking towards the exit. "Of the 7 people who left that meeting at the Coffee Snobs Anonymous, only us two are still around! The rest left because of you!"
"And of the people we managed to convince to work here after that, none of them stayed longer than a week. You're screwed, Jerry. Best to accept that now," Dave added.
Jerry lowered his face and looked at them angrily.
"I don't need you," he growled, "Get out."
Kate and Dave simply nodded and left.
Jerry looked at his empire and saw that it was not good. He walked over to a table and sat down. He took his hat off and looked at it. What a great logo.
"Other people are impossible," he said to himself as he closed his eyes and massaged his temples.
Author's note: This is part 4 of the Jerry Saga.
Part 1: Coffee
Part 2: Something about Coffee
Part 3: There he goes again
Part 4: Coffee Snobs Unanimous