bethbethbeth: Turtle with 4 elephants on its back - and on their back is Pratchett's Discworld (Discworld Disc (perkele pixeljoint))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] disc_fest
Author: brutti_ma_buoni/bruttimabuoni
Title: A Sinister Dairy Diary
Rating: PG
Character(s)/Pairing(s): original character, with cameos from various Ankh types
Word Count: 1300
Includes spoilers for the following books (or All): none
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): * "None." *.
Summary: A day in the life of a barrista at a coffee shop in Ankh.

The Milk was happening again.

Dex cast it a suspicious look. She had a whole range of suspicious looks, appropriate to a young girl making a life for herself in the big city, where life can be so vibrant and full of opportunity.* This was the suspicious look of a woman who knows perfectly well something is happening each time she turns her back, but hasn't yet found a way to face both ways simultaneously without splitting her head in half and pouring boiling coffee down her front.

It was quite a specialised look. But Dex had some special uses for it.

She was pretty sure that the milk was just ordinary milk when it arrived each morning as she unlocked the coffee shop. Ronnie was very reliable, and none of the neighbours had ever mentioned to Dex that the milk he supplied them was ever so slightly sentient. She was pretty sure it would have come up in conversation. Snorri Snorrinson, for one, wouldn't have let self-steaming milk slide. He was pretty sharp about an extra shake of powdered rat when she didn't get his order exactly right.

But there it was. The milk was becoming The Milk again. Just when Dex needed it, frothing perfectly into a proto-latte, just ready to be added to the double espresso shots Dex was lining up as her first customers entered.

It was helpful, to be sure, which was why Dex hadn't yet run screaming from the coffee shop and awaited a kindly exorcist from one of the cheaper temples down towards Small Gods. It wasn't particularly straightforward being a sole barista on the early shift in a city where the drink orders varied not only by strength, amount of milk and size of cup, but also by species of customer. It had never been like this in Nether Princep. (Which was one of the main reasons Dex had left, of course, the very second she was old enough and had enough put by to cover a week in the big city.** Being a barista in Nether Princep, if such a thing had ever been heard of, would have involved no more than putting the kettle on every half hour or so, and listening to her mother's friends discuss blister ointments.)

Coffee was cool. It was hip. It was suddenly where it was at. Apparently. Or so the Dean of Unseen University had told Dex only the previous week. Dex cautiously understood that coffee was a popular novelty in Ankh Morpork. It certainly seemed to be true, judging by the queues stretching out of the shop and the range of customers willing to pay a good 1$AM for a cup of milk and hot water. Oddly, coffee had been around for ages, in Klatchian restaurants and chip shops selling crispy things covered in hot grease. Apparently, there had been a brief vogue for frothy coffee during the Music with Rocks In phase, but that had been a long time ago and forgotten by common consent. So exactly why or when coffee had become cool again nobody knew.

If Dex had been an old Ankh Morpork hand she would have put that fact together with the Milk and have made hurried arrangements to sublet her flat and get home to Nether Prinsep for a nice week of boredom until It had passed. Whatever It was. Those were very definite signs of It.

However, in blissful unknowingness, Dex just got on with her first orders. Your basic coffee plus milk combination not being quite adequate to the nutritional requirements of a good half of her clientele, this required quite a bit of sleight of hand. Some silicone here, a good slug of blood there or an infusion of rat du jour. The early shift didn't require a lot of chitchat and customer relationship management,*** just service, and quick about it. Watchmen coming off a night shift, slaughterhouse workers in need of a stiffener before a hard day's knocking-on-the-head, dwarves with a bad post beer/gold/song hangover, trolls on the downswing from a hard night's clubbing... They all wanted frothy milk with a dash of strong coffee and the additions of their species-specific requirements, and they wanted it exactly the way they wanted it. Now. So the self-frothing Milk seemed to be on Dex's side.

If she'd talked to Ronnie Soak (espresso, just a sharpener for the morning round), of course, she'd probably have got some good advice. If she'd happened to mention the Milk to the Dean, or the Lecturer in Recent Runes (double venti hazelnut latte and a small filter coffee, respectively), she would have been privy to the sight of two respectable wizards in late middle age performing the Get Out Of Town Skedaddle in a way which might have given her a clue. If she'd slipped her worries into polite conversation with Moist von Lipwig (never the same order twice, thanks, and don't tell anyone what that is), or His Grace the Duke of Ankh ("Strongest you've got, and call me Vimes. I won't tell you again."), or Mrs Cake (something sweet, pay for it after you drink it), Dex would have received the proper help and attention from tricksters and responsible adults and those in touch with the occult.****

But Ankh Morpork's premier coffee bar is a busy place, and Dex is only one barista, so she soldiers on.

This will turn out to have been a mistake. Nine hours later, His-Grace-the-Duke-of-Ankh-Call-Me-Vimes will be standing in the approximate location of Dex's bar, up to his knees in slightly-sentient milk products and saved only from parboiling by a pair of his wife's dragon-keeping boots. Sergeant Detritus will be laconically redirecting traffic away from the hot milk geyser. The High Priestess of Lactatia, Goddess of Dairy Products, will be perched upon the counter attempting to calm the flood with pious song. A battalion of research wizards from Unseen University will be cautiously advancing from the street, sampling the edges of the foaming torrent and attempting some preliminary spellcasting (which will have no effect except to produce some unfortunate curdling). Behind them, the faint figure of Rincewind will be seen receding into the distance, correctly predicting the imminent appearance of Things from the Dungeon Dimensions. Fortunately, the combination of watchmen, priests and wizards, together with the famous Vimes stoneface, will see the Things off before more than a few shopfronts are demolished. After the Things leave, the Milk will retire, cowed, and Ankh Morpork's brief flirtation with steamed milk products will once again be cut off.

And Dex? Dex will be contemplating a bright new future in the waffle and deep-fried batter industry. But she will never turn her back on a dairy product again.

*Not always friendly opportunity, of course. Quite often an opportunity for life not to continue. Suspicion is only item one in the arsenal of the girl about town, and should be backed up with some more weapony components in the arsenal. Particularly when the town is Ankh-Morpork.

** The fact that it had turned out to be barely sufficient for one night's lodging had come as a nasty surprise, and had given Dex a swift tutorial in some of those opportunities Ankh Morpork afforded. She'd considered them, especially the rather flattering terms of the Seamstresses' Guild offer, which had seemed like a good business opportunity. But the HELP WANTED, NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED sign had caught her eye before she'd really got to talking terms with Mrs Palm.

*** Dex had been on a course before they would let her run the coffee shop on her own. It had been run by the CMOTD School of Retail Management, and had been surprisingly unhelpful in almost all regards. But she had learned some new phrases, which she enjoyed using to the bafflement of less well-educated mortals.

**** Some of these categories overlap.

Date: 2012-08-04 04:52 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small grass plant pushes up between cracks of parched ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
Love the description of the orders. :D

Date: 2012-08-10 09:31 pm (UTC)
bruttimabuoni: (keep calm)
From: [personal profile] bruttimabuoni
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2012-08-04 05:37 pm (UTC)
primeideal: Multicolored sideways eight (infinity sign) (Default)
From: [personal profile] primeideal
Excellent use of capitalization!

Date: 2012-08-10 09:32 pm (UTC)
bruttimabuoni: (Glory)
From: [personal profile] bruttimabuoni

Date: 2012-08-05 11:08 am (UTC)
meridian_rose: pen on letter background  with text  saying 'writer' (Default)
From: [personal profile] meridian_rose
Fantstic, footnotes and all :D

Date: 2012-08-10 09:32 pm (UTC)
bruttimabuoni: (wreak my revenge)
From: [personal profile] bruttimabuoni
Thanks! Lots of fun to write this one.

Date: 2012-08-05 01:40 pm (UTC)
musyc: Coffee cup, captioned "if it ain't caffeinated, it ain't coffee" (Coffee: Ain't coffee)
From: [personal profile] musyc
Wonderfully done! Very Pratchett-esque. XD

Date: 2012-08-10 09:32 pm (UTC)
bruttimabuoni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bruttimabuoni
Thank you!


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