Starbucks, 11 a.m. A cold wind is blowing.

I hope you can hear me. I have to whisper; I don’t want them coming to the car, forcing me to put on my mask.

There’s just three of them now. They’ve been coming two or three at a time in the past hour.

One of them presses his face against the window. Another keeps jerking on the door handle, as if it’s merely stuck.

They look at one another — shocked, confused, angry. Then they shrug and drift away.

When I arrived an hour ago, I fully expected my Starbucks to be open. (Yeah, I know, we all refer to our local Starbucks as though we own them, like cars or puppies.)

There was a line from street to store as addicts sat in their cars, Priuses of all colors, a mud-smeared Land Rover, two red trucks and others were in the line before me that stretched to the street.

I was surprised to see how fast the line was moving. Simple coffee orders, I thought. No Peppermint Mocha Frappuccinos, double toast white chocolate mochas? I guess not. They rolled slowly ahead without pausing. Holy cappuccino, are these folks on herd diets?

At last I arrived at the voice box, to see a sign written in crayon on the back of a box lid Scotch-taped to the box.

“STORE CLOSED MERRY CHRISTMAS.”

Say what? Store closed? Starbucks closed?

Is this a joke?

Perhaps there is a private employees’ party going on behind the croissant warming machine?

Green aprons and masks being tossed into the air, indiscriminate hugging? No. It’s dark in there.

Is this the great Starbucks — where the elite meet to eat — that was founded by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl in 1971, just down the street from the historic Pike Place Market in Seattle? Closed?

Rumors persisted for days.

It’s New Year’s Day; the dark and ugly truth is revealed. An associate came to work with COVID in a pocket. I can hear my mother’s words now, “Is nothing sacred?”

Apparently not, mama.

Today, FIVE GUYS is going out of business. Couldn’t some of them hold out? Two Guys? A guy and a half?

As I sit here now waiting for the next business shoe to drop, a script about a dystopian America in burning ruins fills my head.

J.P. Devine’s discarded Starbucks coffee cup is seen on an empty street as a cold wind is blowing. Photo by J.P. Devine

In the closing scene, the streets are empty except for a stray dog nibbling at a discarded croissant, a smoky haze soiling the sunset.

A cold wind is blowing, papers are blowing through the streets. There in a gutter, laying against the curb, is a paper cup, a soiled and weather-beaten Starbucks holiday cup with a sticker attached that reads:

JP
Mocha/decaf/nonfat
2 pumps SF vanilla

THE END?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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