The Saints' Drop Cafe - Long Black
It was three months after the death of Miss Priscilla Smyth-Brown and of Saint Nicholas coming into his inheritance.Â He now had a bank balance bursting at the seams with health.Â His own health was rampant, despite having flushed his medication down the toilet.Â His doctor would have been alarmed by it had she known but Saint Nicholas hadn't seen her in all that time.Â However, he had been a visitor to the Good Will Bank, seeking advice, all of which he ignored other than for accepting a golden bells and whistles bank card for unlimited amounts of cash withdrawals.
Instead of accepting the bank manager's advice to burn the boarding house to the ground, the saint engaged a builder to renovate and refurbish the entire premises.Â He paid a handsome bonus over and above the quoted price for an immediate start, and a generous incentive for an early completion.Â Thus teams of tradesmen set to with a will, working longer hours and completing the project in record time.
Now years of neglect had been rectified, with no expense spared.Â The establishment was freshly painted within and without to stand as a lighthouse amidst the sombre and decaying buildings of Hell Street.Â A newly installed elevator connected the basement and loft, and all three floors in between.Â Saint Nicholas had decided to remain living in the basement, and the loft had been fitted out with a kitchen, Saint and Saintess toilets, and boasted an upmarket, does-everything-itself espresso coffee machine.Â Above the elevator doors a new sign boldly stated: The Saints' Drop CafÃ©; and the loft boasted five brand new cafÃ© tables, with four chairs apiece.Â It was a heaven on earth for the true coffee aficionado; and the blessed saint was such a one.
Living up to the name Guesthouse for Saints on a sign above the front door of the establishment, the ground and second floors each had six apartments, with one more on each end of the first storey.Â This level had communal bathrooms and toilets â€“ one each catering for Saints and Saintesses, respectively â€“ common kitchen and public dining room, and a large living room that was equipped as a huge home theatre and music room.Â It was a fantasy come true for the saint.Â What more could he possibly want?
He wanted to get away from it all!Â To go for a distancing ride on his black motorcycle along running roads leading to an endless horizon.Â But he couldn't!Â He only had himself to blame.Â In a manner of speaking.Â For the newly completed guesthouse both was and wasn't his own idea.Â It wasn't his idea to begin with, but it was he who made the decision to implement it, thus making the idea his own â€“ sort of.Â In a manner of speaking.Â Kind of.Â Maybe.
Miss Priscilla's will had been read in the morning, and that evening he'd received a visitation from his drop-dead, gorgeous guardian angel.Â He'd dozed off in the beanbag in his basement apartment, only to be nudged awake by the angel.Â The usual slender blonde type, with blue eyes and knock-out figure.Â As he sat up, blinking owlishly, she handed him a mug of skinny flat white coffee.Â Then she parked herself in the rocking chair to sip from a mug of flat white coffee â€“ her favourite drop.
"Nicholas, my love," she said cheerfully, "It's time for a fresh beginning.Â For some new blood in the building.Â That is, after you've had the place fixed up.Â It's a real dump as it is!Â What have you got to say about that?"
Not being wide awake, he had nothing to say about it.Â He just nodded, listening to her as she suggested that he invest a drop from the bucket of his newly acquired fortune into converting the boarding house.Â Turning it into a cafÃ© and retreat for saints hard pressed in a happily sinning world.Â In short, to establish a Guesthouse for Saints on Hell Street in the dark heart of the suburb of Hades.Â The contribution of Saint Nicholas consisted of nodding, and naming the loft as The Saints' Drop CafÃ©. Later, when he reflected on it, he first thought it had all been a dream after a tiring and trying day.Â But a dream with a very good idea!Â By the next morning, he was convinced that the visitation had actually happened, and he galvanized into action, including the commissioning of the builder.
Now, after three long months, he was ready to offer rent-free and full-board accommodation to saints in need.Â Fourteen of the blighters were required.Â And he was impatient about the matter.Â For months he'd been confined to the claustrophobic Hades neighborhood because of the builder, who needed to be able to consult him at the drop of a hat.Â Thus he'd had to ignore the call of the wild pleading to him from the open roads.Â But to roar off on his motorbike he first had to locate and persuade at least one saint to come and live in Nirvana.Â To be there to recruit and greet and â€¦. And do heaven knows what to make 13 blessed strangers feel welcome and cared for.
But to actually locate saints in dire need now suddenly seemed a hopeless cause.Â For none had shown up to clang the brass bell beside the front door in the first week of the Guesthouse for Saints being open for occupation.Â In desperation, that evening, Saint Nicholas visited his good friends Mongrel and That Bitch.
"No idea, man! said Mongrel, once more pre-occupied with planning for an imminent turf war with the uppity Devil's Henchmen Motorcycle Club.
"Why not put an advert in the local rag â€“ The Community News? suggested That Bitch.Â "Something like, Free board and rent for desperate saints?"
"Oh?" said Sissy, an associate member of the God's Hitmen Motorcycle Club.Â She was a spy planted in the opposing gang and had been reporting to Mongrel.Â She was so desperate to meet a man that she'd gone past caring what he looked like, as long as he had the desired equipment.Â "Can I move in, too, Nicholas?"
"Don't be stupid!" That Bitch said scornfully.Â She knew a thing or three about Sissy that would make even the hair of a bishop stand on end.Â "You're no bloody saint, Sissy!" and left it at that.
"A newspaper ad ..." mused Saint Nicholas.
"No good!" growled Mongrel, unable to decide exactly when and wear to strike at the enemy bikies.Â "If you put a bloody ad in the local rag you'll get a thousand Sissies knocking on your door.Â Do you want that?"
Saint Nicholas shook his head.Â The thought of a thousand sissies seeking shelter from the military made his head spin.Â He could counsel one or two of them, perhaps even a dozen, about bravely using the British stiff-upper-lip technique to cope with their fear.Â But a thousand were just too many.Â Even his new espresso machine wouldn't be able to cope with dispensing a thousand black coffees to brace up the trembling and afraid.
"I thought," Mongrel said sternly, fixing an unwavering stare on his pixilated friend, "that you believed Big G. takes care of everything.Â If you stop your bloody interfering!"
The saint nodded ruefully.Â "You're right, as always!" he said.Â He'd obviously needed the words to fall from the lips of a real Mongrel to point out the way.Â "I won't advertise.Â I'll leave it to God to lead them to the guest house.Â To drink at the well."Â He smiled.Â "In The Saints' Drop CafÃ©."
"Can we come and visit for a coffee?" asked That Bitch, who'd grown quite fond of their nutty friend.
"But of course!" replied Saint Nicholas, for he thought of her and Mongrel as having loving hearts, and therefore were saintly in their own unique way.Â "Any time at all!"
"What about me?" wailed Sissy.Â "Can't I come?"
"Not bloody likely!" growled Mongrel.
"Of course you can!" That Bitch said diplomatically, glancing at Saint Nicholas and registering his nodding approval.Â "You do know, Sissy," she continued casually, "there'll only be saints.Â They're not interested in sex."
"Oh," Sissy sighed in dismay.Â As a last resort an impotent man could be force-fed Viagra to restore him to eligibility.Â But if saints were like priests, what was the point?Â "I've just remembered," she said quietly to Saint Nicholas, "that I promised my dying mum never to visit saints.Â Hope you don't mind."
Saint Nicholas shook his head.Â "Keep the faith!"Â Promises to dying mothers were sacrosanct.Â "Thanks guys!Â But I'd better get home.Â There might be a wayward saint on my front doorstep."
There wasn't.Â Saint Nicholas tripped over him in the dark as he was walking to his black motorcycle.Â The man had passed out on the ground, still clutching the neck of the empty wine bottle beside him.
"Must have fallen asleep," the man muttered in a thick voice as he was helped to his feet.Â "Thanks, brother!" he said.
"I hope I didn't hurt you," said Saint Nicholas.
The man shook his head.Â "I'm giving it up!" he said emphatically, looking in disgust at the wine bottle still on the ground.Â He stuck out a gnarled hand.Â "I'm Jude!" he said affably.Â He shrugged and then laughed.Â "I'm the patron saint of lost causes."
"I'm Nicholas," replied the saint, shaking his blessed colleague's hand.Â "And I'm the patron saint of â€¦ of â€¦ ."
"Motorbikes!" said Saint Jude, nodding at the Vee twin machine.Â "That's been a vacancy waiting to be filled for a long time.Â "You're it, I reckon!"
Nicholas nodded his acceptance of his first clear responsibility of office.Â "Talking about vacancies," he said quickly, "I've got 14 fully furnished rooms going begging.Â I need someone to look after the guesthouse while I'm away for a while.Â I'd like to leave tomorrow morning.Â I don't suppose you're interested?"
"If you've got a long black coffee as well, I'm your man!Â Shall we go?Â I've got to get this sour taste out of my mouth."
"Well then!" Saint Nicholas said happily,Â "Let's go!"Â Tomorrow morning he'd be on the open roads again.Â The freedom of it made his soul soar!Â "Hop on the back and I'll take you to your new home."
Tales from the Divine Drop Cafes