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Do It Yourself – Chapter 33: Family Business

"Hi, what can I get you?" Norman said. He was under the counter, taking stock when the customer came in. Why did the Handy Pavilion coffee shop have three times as many small cup lids as it had small cups? It just didn't make any sense.

"Can you do me a Greek coffee?"

"Don’t have the settup for Turkish coffee."

"I didn't ask for a Turkish coffee, I asked for a Greek coffee."

"It's all the same sh… Oh, it's you, Dad." Norman rose, dusting his hands with a paper towel. "Basically we're just set up for espresso. I can get you a short black, if you like."

Norman's father was a handsome, broad faced man with thick salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed grey beard. He was a couple of inches taller than Norman and looked like he worked out. The sleeves of his fawn windcheater bulged with muscle.

"Just a cup of tea will be fine," he said, "if I can't get a proper coffee."

Norman sighed and poured hot water into a cup and added a teabag. He knew there was no chance his father would pay for his beverage, so this was coming out of his wages. To add insult to injury, this was the point Ms Shan came bustling past. She acknowledged Norman with a curt nod, while Norman tried not to notice the smell of her shampoo. He failed, naturally, and just as naturally his Dad noticed the little wistful look that crossed his face.

"You could do worse, Normie," Dad said.

"Have I ever asked you for relationship advice?" Norman said, a little too sharply. Damn it, he hadn't wanted the old man to know how deeply he felt about Ms Shan. Too late now. "How long since your wife kicked you out? How long have you been sleeping in your brother's spare room?"

The old man shrugged. "A while now. It's not so bad. Just a little damp. You worry too much, Norman. The missus'll take me back, sooner or later."

"She kicked you out for sleeping around," Norman said. "If you stopped sleeping around then maybe – maybe she'd take you back. But you don't stop, do you? You're too full of your 'I'm a sexy silver fox' bullshit."

Norman's father waggled a finger at him. "If I didn't sleep around, you wouldn't be here. But I'm not here to argue, so stop dunking that teabag and take a five minute break, yeah?"

Every time! Norman always promised he wouldn't let the old letch get to him, but every time he did. Norman handed him his English Breakfast in a takeaway cup and put up his 'back in 5 min' sign. It was a quiet afternoon, so there was a good chance he'd get away with it.

"What on Earth is this?" Norman's dad said, pointing at the little centrepiece on the table.

"It's meant to be a steampunk flower-growing machine," Norman said. "My mate Axel makes them. He likes his hobbies when he's stressed out."

Norman's dad looked around the café, which was decorated top to bottom with a Pinterestworth of handicrafts. "Under a lot of stress, is he?"

"Yeah, a fair bit."

"What he needs is a woman."

"That's your answer to everything, isn't it?" Norman said. "Why deal with life when you could be getting laid?"

"I said I don't want to talk about that. I'm here to talk business. You said you wanted to work here in the power tool department, I gave my permission."

"What makes you think I need—"

"But now they have you working in the kitchen. Is that any sort of job? Now your cousin—"

"What cousin?"

"You're Greek, boy. You have cousins. Your cousin was going to go kill this five-headed lion, but he threw his back out so I thought you'd…"

Norman shook his head. "Someone's going to pay me to kill a five headed lion?"

Norman's dad's lips pursed. "Well, no, but…"

"Of course they aren't. It's 2016. No one pays you to kill lions. You pay other people to get to kill lions, and then Facebook hates you forever."

"Hey, Norman!" said Fiona, who was walking by, pushing a trolley full of toilet floats. Norman may not have liked the café, but at least it was better than plumbing.

"Hi, Fiona," Norman said. "Oh, this is my dad, Zeus."

"Hello, Mr Zeus," Fiona said.

"Just Zeus, love, just Zeus," Norman's dad said, cracking a winning smile. Norman kicked him in the shin, but the old man ignored him and turned up the charm another notch.

"Like the old guy in Clash of the Titans?" Fiona said.

Zeus' winning smile faded. "Yeah, like that."

Fiona trotted off. Norman glared at his father. "You can't keep it in your pants, that's your problem," he said. "Just don't go cracking onto my friends, alright?"

"Whatever. Where were we?"

"This lion. Is it in driving distance of here?"

Zeus laughed. "No, it's in Central Asia."

"And who's paying for the airfare?"

The old man scratched his silver beard. "You don't have to take a plane. You could get a crew together and a trireme..."

"And row there?" Norman said. "No wonder this cousin threw his back out. Besides, how do you row to Central Asia? And who's paying Mum's rent while I'm away from work? You?"

"Okay, you want to shush for a minute and let me get a word in?" Zeus said. "This lion is guarding a treasure, alright?"

Norman nodded in a way that he hoped made it clear that he didn't agree. "Actual treasure? Like 'I can sell it on eBay and make a mint' treasure? Or is it one of those 'symbolic representations of prosperity' deals?"

Zeus' face reddened and the air pressure began dropping. As an easy going lad, Norman did not usually like pushing his father so far, but come on. If the old man wanted to help, a couple of sleeves of small coffee cups would be more useful than some stupid quest.

"Hey, Norman." Now it was Axel's turn to interrupt. Norman's dad glowered silently at the little fellow, who held up a glass globe full of succulents. "You got room for another terrarium?"

Norman blinked hard. This is what he got for being good-natured. Nagged in two directions.

"Not really, mate," he said. He gestured around the café. Surely Axel could see that every possible surface was covered with his handicrafts. There were paper flowers and painted wooden containers and little plaster figures. The quality was highly variable. Axel seemed better at paper crafts than woodwork, and he was better with metals than either.  The horribly accurate A3 sized embossed copper portrait of Gary Bussey that hung next to the drinks fridge was proof of that.

"Huh," Axel said. "Maybe the key-cutting counter, then."

"Yeah, maybe," Norman said.

Axel scuttled off. His interruption was probably for the best, Norman thought. It had given Dad time to calm down.

"That was my mate Axel," Norman said. "That was a bit rude of him, talking like you weren't there."

"He's probably an atheist," Zeus shrugged. "They're all like that. Look, I got shit to do. Give me a call when you get bored making coffee, alright?"

The old man vanished in a flash of light, leaving Norman looking at an empty chair.

"No, you give me a call, you old prick," he said, "when you can find some way that killing lions will get my rent paid, and not get me sued by the animal rights people!"

But it wasn't a satisfying thing so say. He went back to searching for the coffee cups, though if he'd just asked Belinda she could have told him what had happened to them.

Next - Chapter 34: From Bad to Wurst

Previously - Chapter 32: Transformations

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