"You look a bit ragged today, Frank." This was where the script, at last, left off, and they were allowed to improvise. Pete counted change. Francisco counted on his first sip of coffee, which eked into him like humidity.
"You know, you’re the only person I let call me ‘Frank.’"
“Should…I…consider myself lucky then?” Pete let the lilt grow in his words as he counted the mess of bills and coins Francisco handed him.
Pete looked up from the drawer, then his hands broke a roll of pennies on the black battered rim. “I’ve always considered myself lucky.” He nodded once, then the change in his grip broke through its paper prison and fell against the cheap metal of the cash drawer.
The metallic applause annoyed the hell out of Francisco. He winced according to his perturbance, and his teeth suddenly tasted bitter. “Just don’t…call me Francis.” He pushed the words through his tightened lips. The name, the power of a name, held too much control over him. It was a dangerous dominance, like Lilith in the Garden of Eden. “Enna Gadda da Vida, Baby” started to weave through his mind, when Pete rescued him a moment later.
“Even I know I’m not that lucky. I may be able to call you ‘Frank’, but the Pope couldn’t save me if I called you Francis.” He chuckled, made obvious by his head bobbing grossly over his spastic chest. He quickly recovered from his own joke when he saw Francisco’s eyebrows arch in distaste.
Pete somehow thought the joke was a lot funnier than it was. Usually, his humor was diabolically funny. Everyone has an off day, Francisco rationalized, or else I’m just not getting it.
“So, anyway back to the question,” Pete looked especially inquisitive, “why do you look so ragged?”
“Because it’s a good day.”
“Frank, I think I know you pretty well, but sometimes you make no sense.”
“Not a good day to me, a good day to them,” he spat and swept his hand melodramatically across the room. “Sunshine. No, not only sunshine, but rain, then sunshine. The worst kind of sunshine. There’s just too much fucking newness everywhere. I’m stuck in a goddamn Disney cartoon.”
Pete almost dropped the cappuccino he was working on, “Hey, hey, Frank, take it easy on the profanities.” Francisco retreated, then Pete gentled his darting eyes. He leaned over to Frank and said, “Look, this is a family establishment, and these Disney-type days are great for business. Besides, even you could use an occasional good day.”
“I want nothing to do with ‘em,” and Frank slouched up even more, as if to take advantage of his own shadow.
“No, no, no. You don’t really mean that,” Pete said with dismissal.
“Yes.” Pause. “Really.” Francisco looked at him earnestly.
Pete looked around; he hesitated, then said, “Well.” Another hesitation. “I guess that can be arranged.” Frank let go of a puzzled look, then Pete slopped another cappuccino in front of him. “Here, this one’s on me.”
Frank lifted the wide-brimmed cup weirdly to his lips, and as the froth left him with a thick mustache he tasted the faint sense of…dried egg yolks? At least, that’s what it tasted like.
“What kind of flavor shot is this?” he questioned.
Francisco looked up and found…