Morning had gotten off to a fine, dewy start in Central City. The dogwoods were in bloom and pansies nodded to each other in window boxes. Mr. Garfiel tied his frilled hunter green apron around his waist and began to sweep away the leaves that had accumulated since the evening before on the patio of his little coffee house.

With that chore done, he went inside and started brewing coffee, grinding espresso, filling thermoses with skim, two percent, and half-and-half. His preparations complete, he pushed the button on the stereo and waited for his customers to arrive.

The first showed up right on time. A tall, brooding Ishvalan bearing a rather nasty but oddly symmetrical scar on his face and wearing a loose Lawrence of Arabia type of getup took a seat at one of the tables. Garfiel went out to greet him. Over the speaker that hung from the eaves of the café a sultry contralto crooned a Duke Ellington number.

Lordy, Lord of love
God Almighty, God above,
Please look down and see my people through...

"Good morning, dear," Garfiel said with a smile. "Your usual red eye?"

"Yes, thank you," the Ishvalan replied. He opened up his copy of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu and began to read.

Garfiel minced back into his shop to get a shot of espresso going. He poured it into a cup of coffee and brought the concoction out to his customer and set it in front of him. A few moments later, a rather elegant Gentleman with a white fedora and a rather smart three-piece suit stepped in through the little iron gate. A morning breeze wafted by and fluttered his dark ponytail. The loudspeaker began to blare out Wild Cherry:

Play that funky music, white boy!
Play that funky music right!
Play that funky music, white boy!
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die!

The Gentleman paused at the Ishvalan's table and briefly touched his elegantly gloved fingers to the brim of his hat. The Ishvalan gave him a momentary glance and returned to Proust. The Gentleman sat down at a nearby table and Garfiel came to stand attentively at his elbow, armed with a pad and pencil.

"And what will it be today?" he asked.

"Oh, let me see," the Gentleman mused. "Let me have a White Chocolate Cappuccino."

"Hot?" Garfiel asked with a lift of his brow.

"Hot as you please."

Garfiel's nostrils flared. "Whip?"

The Gentleman grinned wolfishly. "Oh, a couple of lashings, at least."

Garfiel chuckled softly. "These are terribly fattening, you know," he remarked. "There was an article on Comcast news just yesterday."

The Gentleman smoothed a hand down the flat exterior of his waistcoat. "Oh, I think I can afford it."

"Mmm…big spender," Garfiel murmured. "I'll have that out in a jiff, dear."

The Gentleman took that morning's newspaper from under his arm and opened it up. He perused the headlines for several moments.

"I don't see much about you in the papers anymore," the Gentleman commented after a time.

The Ishvalan turned a page. "Some of us aren't attention whores."

"So what does that make you? A stealth whore?"

"Bite me, Kimblee," the Ishvalan replied calmly.

The Gentleman turned a few pages of his paper and suddenly perked up. "Ooh! Here's something in the gossip section under 'Yoki's Eyes on the Stars'!" He cleared his throat softly and began to read. "When a chill breeze blowing in from the Northern mountains collides with a heat wave from the Eastern desert, you know there will be heavy weather ahead. Hmm. That sounds rather obscure, I must say."

The Ishvalan gave the Gentleman a narrow sidelong glance and said nothing.

"At a certain local ancestral estate last night," the Gentleman continued, "a post-repair housewarming party of sorts lasted until the wee smalls. The master and the mistress have been traveling abroad, and you know what they say; when the cat's away, the mice will play! A certain member of the household staff with excellent references told this reporter, strictly entre nous, of the two party goers who locked themselves in the great hall with nothing but several bottles of bubbly and a large bearskin rug. If the bear was dead, my source wanted to know, then what was making all those growling noises? Tsk, tsk." The Gentleman shook his head. "Kids these days!"

Garfiel came out with a large white cup brimming with whipped cream. The Gentleman looked up at him. "You know, Mr. Garfiel, I have a sudden hankering for a bear claw. "

"Awesome!" Garfiel said approvingly.

"How about you, Smokey?" he said to the Ishvalan. "Hungry for a blondie?"

"No, thank you," the Ishvalan replied coldly.

The Gentleman shrugged. "Just me, then," he said to Garfiel.

"Coming right u-up!" Garfiel sang.

As the barrista started to go back inside, the speaker gave a little shake and gave forth a Motown rhythm.

She's a
She's mighty mighty, just lettin' it all hang out
She's a
The lady's stacked and that's a fact, ain't holdin' nothin' back...

A Lady wearing a strapless cocktail dress that looked like it had been painted on stepped into the patio, knowing that two pairs of eyes, one red, one blue, were following her every movement. Garfiel humphed sourly. He picked up his broom and whacked the speaker with it. It gave a little screech and changed its tune:

You smile, I smile…

Garfiel let out a horrified shriek and, in the face of a common enemy, all three customers screamed "Change it!"

Another whack of the broom handle (and not a moment too soon, sez I), and the speaker played some Nat King Cole.

The Lady parked herself at a table roughly in between those occupied by the Ishvalan and the Gentleman. Garfiel looked down his nose at her.

"Nice tramp stamp," he commented.

"Nice apron," the Lady replied.

"Late night?" Garfiel asked. "Didn't get a chance to stop off and change into some day wear?"

"I'd like some coffee, if you don't mind," the Lady said, her brows arching.

"Oh. Yes?"

"Yes." She glanced over at the Gentleman and the Ishvalan. "I think I'll go for the Bold Pick of the Day."

"You wish!" Garfiel muttered.

"And lots of sugar," the Lady added, not taking her eyes off the other two customers. "I like coffee the way I like my men. Hot, strong, and sweet."

The Gentleman's paper crinkled in his hands, and the Ishvalan realized he had read the same paragraph three times and he still couldn't remember what it said.

Garfiel rolled his eyes and went to pour a grande Bold for the Lady. He set it in front of her along with a fistful of sugar packets, hoping that her teeth would rot in her head. He stomped back to take refuge behind his counter.

Over the speaker, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks sang:

How can I miss you if you won't go away?
I keep tellin' you day after day,
But you won't listen,
You always stay and stay.
How can I miss you if you won't go away?