The Coffeeshop Writer

Prompt: Write a story that uses magical realism.

The Coffeeshop Writer


Penelope was standing at the coffee bar, bored. No one was in the shop, and as she was not allowed to use her cell phone when she worked, there was nothing to entertain her.

“Go clean up,” her manager, Steve, said, when he saw Penelope nodding off against the counter. Penelope dragged her feet to the closet and removed a broom and dustpan.

There was only one customer in the store, a pale young man with tawny hair. He was staring out the window, watching the pedestrians idly and occasionally writing in a journal-like book.

Something about the man intrigued Penelope, so she maneuvered herself to sweep right behind him. When she was in position, she peered over his shoulder.

It was a gloomy Monday at It was a bright Monday afternoon, and Mack was walking along the boardwalk at home, getting ready for enjoying his typical cup of coffee at the local coffee shop. He had ordered a cup of his usual black Americano, no sugar, no cream from the cute redheaded barista, whose name was Penelope. 

Penelope blinked. That was all the man had written? He’d been sitting there for nearly an hour! And why was she in his story? Penelope looked down at her name tag. PENELOPE DAWN it read.

As she watched, the man twirled his pen, then started writing again:

all of a sudden, it began to rain. In fact, a terrible storm descended upon the little town. 

Suddenly, there was a crack of thunder, and the sky, which had been sunny and bright blue outside, turned dark as fat rain droplets pelted the sidewalk. Penelope jumped. What in the world?

The man scratched his head, and then crossed out what he had written.

Within three seconds, the rain outside ceased. Penny looked behind her at Steve, had he just noticed…? But her manager was busy counting the money in the cash register and hadn’t seemed to be affected.

Penelope crept closer to the man. Surely it was a mistake, surely…

Just then, the bell over the door rang as a stranger wearing a trenchcoat walked into the coffee shop.

Penelope looked up at the door. Sure enough, it began to open and the bell above the door sounded–ring, ring, ring–as a tall man wearing a gray trenchcoat came into the coffee shop.

“Can I help you?” Penelope heard Steve say as the man went to the counter.

“I need an amnesia potion, please,” the man wrote, as Penelope watched.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as the man in the trenchcoat took out what looked like a wallet and said to Steve: “I need an amnesia potion, please.”

“A what?” Steve said. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m familiar with that drink.”

“You know,” the trenchcoat man said, looking agitated. “A potion for making someone forget their memory. I need something that will wipe out about a weeks’ worth of memories.”

“Uh, we don’t have anything like that here,” Steve said.

“What do you mean? I saw the word POTIONS right there on your front door!”

Steve chuckled nervously. “Yeah, the founder of this shop decided to name it CAFFEINE POTIONS. I had nothing to do with it, I just work here. But we only serve coffee and juices here. Would you like a coffee? Latte, mocha, or a smoothie perhaps?”

Penelope could almost see the trenchcoat stranger’s anger emanating off of him, even though she couldn’t see his face. He must have been wearing a frightening expression, however, because Steve looked scared stiff, which was unusual for him.

Penelope glanced again at the seated customer’s notebook. Everything that had just happened between Steve and the customer in the trenchcoat was written there, in his neat penmanship. Penelope assumed his name was Mack, based on what he’d written earlier.

“Lies!” the stranger in the trenchcoat was saying, even as Mack was writing his lines. Penelope stood frozen, fascinated. “I was clearly directed to this shop for the potion! If I do not come back with it, my master will have me beheaded!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Steve said. “But we really don’t…”

“If you do not give me the potion right now, I am afraid I will have to kill you,” the trenchcoat man said in a low, threatening voice.

Kill him? Penelope did not like where this story was going. This Mack fellow had a dark imagination.

She edged closer to him, in order to see what else he was going to write.

The man in the trenchcoat reached across the counter and grabbed Steve’s lapels, Mack was scribbling.

At the counter, Penelope watched as the man in the trenchcoat indeed leaned across the counter and grabbed Steve’s lapels.

“Give. Me. The. Potion!” he growled.

“I don’t have any potion! I  really don’t have any potion!” Steve said, shaking.

Penelope watched as Mack paused, then put his pen back down and wrote: As Steve continued to protest that he did not have the potion, the stranger in the trenchcoat reached into a pocket and took out a handgun…

This was really getting to be too much. There was a half empty cup of coffee a previous customer had left on a table next to Penelope. She grabbed it and unceremoniously walked over to where Mack was writing, then dumped the entire content of the cup on his notebook.

The coffee mingled with the newly wet ink and smeared it so that it became unreadable.

“Oops! I’m so sorry!” Penny said, as Mack jumped up, cursing. Penelope grabbed napkins from the dispenser on the table and attempted to help the stranger clean up the coffee, making sure to scrub the book’s pages extra hard, so much so that she scrubbed a few holes into the paper.

“Stop that! What do you think you’re doing?” Mack yelled, grabbing the book away from her. But it was too late, the damage was done. The story was gone.

“I’m terribly sorry,” Penelope said contritely. “I don’t know what came over me. So clumsy. My bad.”

“I am never coming back to this rotten coffee shop again!” Mack grabbed his soggy book and marched out of the store. Penelope watched him go and then turned back to the counter. The man in the trenchcoat was gone. But Steve still looked a bit shaken.

“What…just happened?” Steve asked. “Where did that guy go?”

“Don’t know,” Penelope said. “But I don’t think he’ll be back. He seemed royally ticked off when I ruined his book.”

“Not that one,” Steve said, rolling his eyes. “I mean the one in the trenchcoat. That crazy man who threatened me!”

“Oh, him,” Penelope said. “Don’t worry, Steve, I’m pretty sure he’s not coming back either.”