The Coffee Machines - by R. B. LeMoyne
© June 15, 2010 * firstname.lastname@example.org
“You wanted to see me, boss?”
Taryn looked up from her desk at the young god standing in her doorway and smiled pleasantly. She was a vision of professional beauty, dressed in a classy cream-colored blouse and matching tan skirt suit, her honey-blonde hair pulled up in a bun. “Ah, Mister Caulfie. Please, come in, and shut the door behind you.”
“Sure,” he said, stepping into the office after closing the door quietly. “Also, you can call me Mr. C, if you like. Everyone else does.” He glanced around her room, noting the accolades on her wall and the pictures of her with coworkers and very important divinities. He only had one other opportunity to view the interior of this office before, back when he was hired, but that was in 1972. The number of framed commendations had increased dramatically since then, as well as the number of pictures. Mr. C doubted he would ever see half the gods Taryn had posed with, let alone appear as casual with them as she appeared to be in each image. Such is a divinity’s life that, even if he had centuries of service under his belt, he was simply one small part of the Inanimate Pantheon.
“All right, Mr. C,” she began, gesturing to one of the chairs across from her before closing the file she had been reading upon his arrival. “Have a seat, and we’ll begin.” At her request, he sat down, smoothing down his black tie and tugging on the cuffs of his white long-sleeve shirt nervously while trying to guess why he had been called in to see her.
Finally, Taryn folded her hands on top of her desk and regarded him evenly. “Do you know why I called you in here, Mr. C?
“No, ma’am,” he answered, shaking his head in the negative. “Should I?”
“Not necessarily. You may or may not know that I’ve been conducting evaluations of my employees over the past few years, gauging job performance with an eye toward the future of our business. As the goddess of coffee machines, I want to make sure our relationship with the goddess of coffee herself stays on very good terms,” she explained, idly tapping the file centered squarely on her desk.
“Of course,” Mr. C nodded.
Taryn nodded in return and continued, “To that end, I wanted to go over your file with you. For the most part, you’ve been an exceptional employee, filing your paperwork on time, keeping your domain in excellent working condition, performing your duties as the god of home coffee machines with enthusiasm and devotion.”
Mr. C smiled modestly and said, “Well, I do my best.”
“Your best,” she echoed, opening the file on her desk again and scanning the first page of the collected documents with a scrutinizing frown. “I have a few recorded events of ‘your best’ here that I wanted to get your take on. See if you can help me understand some of these… unique claims.”
The god blinked, stunned, unsure of where Taryn was going with this. “Uh, okay. What sort of claims?”
“The first one I have here,” she began, taking up a fountain pen before peering into the file, “is a report that you brew tea. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but you are the god of home coffee machines, are you not?”
“Yes, I am, but-“
“And is there not also a goddess of home tea machines to take up that task?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow at him critically.
Mr. C answered, “Yes, there is, but to be fair, Mrs. Tee’s domain wasn’t fully realized until I had been in my position for twenty-three years. In that time, mortals had already misused my domain to brew tea, a bad habit that I have no control over, unfortunately.”
“Hm. Then there’s this report,” Taryn continued, turning back to the chart again to make a note before flipping to the next page. “It says here that your domain, and I quote, ‘would seem like it was finished brewing - until I pulled the carafe out. Then a stream of coffee would suddenly pour down,’ end quote.” She looked up at Mr. C with a questioning frown. “We’re in the business of wasting another god’s domain now, are we?”
The god sitting across from her shifted his position uncomfortably in the seat. This was not going well. “No, we’re not, and I’m terribly sorry about that, really I am. But like the previous issue, mortals can only be influenced so far. It’s up to them to clean my physical domain, not me. I can only do so much without revealing my presence to the mortal realm, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”
“I see.” Mr. C was not reassured by her neutral tone that she did see, but that didn’t stop her from making another note and continuing with the evaluation. As she turned to the next page, Taryn went on, “Then there’s this report here that you leaked water all over a counter instead of using it to brew coffee.”
Aha! The god smiled and respectfully replied, “Actually, those instances are exceedingly rare and usually account for an error by the mortal using my domain. I’ve done some looking in to that report as it’s been brought to my attention previously, and I’ve found that they’re actually attributed primarily to office coffee machines, not home coffee machines.”
“Which means you’re accusing your co-worker of negligence when it comes to his domain?” she countered quietly.
“Uh, no, not precisely,” Mr. C responded, his smile faltering in the wake of her accusation. “Only that it’s possible the paperwork had been misfiled, or otherwise labeled incorrectly, to attach it to my domain, ma’am.”
“Possible,” Taryn echoed, making a quick note before setting her pen down and closing the file once more. “There are several more claims in there, following along the same lines as those three. Am I to gather, then, that they are no fault of your own and easily chalked up to either mortal incompetence or the carelessness of file clerks?”
Mr. C tugged nervously on his sleeve cuffs again. “Well, it’s hard to say without hearing the claims themselves. I will say, however, that if I’m at fault for anything when it comes to my domain, it’s in not exercising as much influence on the mortals as I could. I try to walk the fine line between influencing them in the care and upkeep of my physical domain, and allowing them the benefit of the doubt, but I tend to err on the side of withholding my influence so as not to draw undue attention to myself. If you’d rather I push that line more than I have, I can easily do that, but my concern is – and always has been – the Rule of Prime.”
Taryn stared at him for a moment in silence, the two divinities simply watching each other over the immaculate desk – the goddess with a critical eye and the god with a wary gaze. Before Mr. C could shatter the quiet with an anxious remark, however, his boss smiled pleasantly and spoke. “No, I don’t think that will be necessary, Mister Caulfie. It’s my professional opinion that you have a strong grasp of your duties and a remarkable intuition when it comes to how much pull to exert over the physical realm. And as you’ve noted, mortals don’t always allow us the luxury of performing our duties flawlessly. You’ve done some excellent work over the years, I must say, and I’m recommending you to fill my position when I’m promoted this year.”
It took Mr. C a moment to process what she had said, and even then, he wasn’t sure he had heard her correctly. “Wait, you’re… promoting me?”
“Indeed I am. The goddess of coffee herself is taking me on as her personal assistant, which leaves me in need of a responsible and trustworthy god to take my place when that happens. We’ll work up the details later, after you’ve had time to come to terms with this revelation,” she commented with a mildly teasing tone, “but be prepared to pull double duty as you’ll be carrying out your normal tasks while I train you to take on my own.
“I… I don’t even know what to say!” he stammered, rising from his seat as Taryn did, and thrust his hand out to her. “Congratulations to you, boss!”
“And to you, Mr. C,” she replied with a more casual smile, taking his hand briefly before sitting back down. “I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early, so we can go over the finer points of your promotion.”
Mr. C grinned, nodding, as he opened the door. “Absolutely! I’ll see you then, boss!” He closed the door behind him and walked down the hallway with a spring in his step and a song in his heart, eager to find out all that his new role in the pantheon entailed.