Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

The Elves and the Barista

by Rudi Dornemann

Tune in this Friday for the Daily Cabal’s third anniversary extravaganza, featuring stories on a theme suggested in our reader contest.

The night before the closing, Melanie noticed that the papers referred to “the premises with all phenomena pertaining thereto.” It was late and she figured it was just one more bit of meaningless legalese–the shop was a bargain, a turnkey operation, fully stocked and with a loyal clientele.

And, for the first week, nothing unusual happened. Then she came in one morning to find a pot of breakfast special, half-empty and still hot. She had the guy from the security company come out, but the alarm system worked fine and none of the locks had been tampered with. His tone of voice didn’t say he didn’t believe her, exactly. She didn’t mention that she thought the milk and sugar station looked unusually tidy, sweetener packets all facing the same direction.

It escalated from there. She started showing up early so she could dump and wash the half-finished pot and figure out what random act of neatening had occurred overnight. Every time she put the key in the lock, she wondered if she might open the door to discover the overnight visitor. Whoever they were, their taste ran to darker, higher-octane blends and the level of organization increased with the caffeine level.

The final straw was when the mystery visitor discovered–and emptied–the jar of chocolate-covered espresso beans. They alphabetized the gadgets and sundries on the impulse-buy kiosks, from the Arabica beans to the Zanzibar spice tea. When she stepped out from behind the counter, she discovered they’d also triple-waxed the floors.

The security guy had pity on her broken ankle and gave her half off the closed-circuit TV system.

“Ach,” he said when they reviewed the tapes. “Infested with common wood elves. No way to get rid of ‘em. Not without,” his voice dropped ominously, “consequences.”

Melanie stared at the fuzzy video. They really were elves, the tips of their ears quivering from all the caffeine, their tiny fingers twitching to put things right.

She switched the coffee to half-caff , then decaf, taking the shop in an herbal tea and smoothie direction. She let the Enya and whalesong background music run overnight and wrote off the loss in chamomile mango (their new favorite) as cheaper than hiring human cleaning help.

The elves’ tidying mania mellowed. And if they built an occasional henge-thing on the counter out of plastic stirrers, it just added to the ambiance.

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