There's a superstition that says if the palm of your hand is itchy you'll soon be receiving money. If that were true, I'd be a gazillionaire instead of an underpaid barista. Instinctively, I felt my itchy hand might one day bring me luck. So far, nada.
I rubbed my burning palm on the countertop while I concentrated on whipping up a large café mocha, no sugar, no whip, extra-dry, half-skim, half-whole milk, with chocolate syrup.
"Watch your back, Jen." My co-worker, Mitch, squeezed behind me to get to the cooler for more milk.
Mitch was tall and muscular with golden hair and eyes like hot espresso. When Mitch worked, Merlot's Café saw a fifty percent increase in female clientele. The estrogen enriched customers flocked to flirt with him. They tended to hang around too long and talk too much, but I didn't mind. Mitch's hundred watt smiles had a direct correlation to how the tip jar overflowed, and we shared gratuities. I reaped the benefits without having to sell my own soul with plunging necklines and pushup bras.
My palm was itching even more, so I snagged a wooden stir stick and scraped it roughly against my hand.
"Eczema acting up?" Mitch asked, raising his eyebrows.
I merely shrugged. No sense in complicating our working relationship by telling him I was crazy.
Mitch took a woman's coffee order, then elbowed me good naturedly.
"Hey, look." He indicated outside the coffee shop with his chin. "It's your pal, Mr. Stinky."
He chuckled, but I didn't. My teeth clenched as I glanced out the coffee shop's window. A disheveled homeless man took up his usual sloppy stance on the sidewalk across the street.
"He's not my friend."
I took an order for a medium, extra-dry café mocha with raspberry syrup.
"You say he's not your friend but I doubt you've bought anyone else on the planet as many coffees as that guy."
Mitch was bent at the waist restocking the pastry case and looked up at me with a smarmy grin. He was trying to be funny so I resisted the temptation to send him flying into the lemon scones.
"Admit it," Mitch chided as he got to his feet. "As far as coffee dates go, you and Mr. Stinky are on a roll."
"Right. You caught me." I tucked a wayward strand of brown hair back into my loose ponytail.
Normally, working with Mitch was a coaster ride of wit made even more fun because he was so easy on the eyes. But it was only halfway through my shift and my feet already hurt in my new espadrilles. Don't mess with a girl with sore feet.
"Oh you li-i-ike him," Mitch teased. He elbowed me in the ribs as he passed.
"You got me. I'm a pushover for skinny fifty-year-olds that smell like a Dumpster."
"Fifty? You think he's fifty?" Mitch straightened, tilted his head and stared out the window. "I'd say a hard sixty."
A bouffant-blonde regular stepped up to the counter in thigh-high boots and an impossibly tight blue dress.
"What do you think, Molly?" Mitch asked her. "How old do you think Mr. Stinky is? Jen says fifty and I'm going with early sixties."
"Who?" she asked, looking confused.
"The homeless dude who's been sitting across the street every day the last month or so." When Molly continued to offer him a blank stare, Mitch added, "You walk by him every morning to get your tea."
Molly glanced quickly over her shoulder.
"He's there every day?" She frowned and blinked long false eyelashes. "I never noticed."