‘Tis the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday if you will. Claris and Elliot walked around the city to get the greatest deals on gifts to their families and friends. They sported their red and white clothing, and bought some great DVDs for friends, and socks for family. While they were carrying their bags with their shopping successes, something suddenly seemed empty. Not in a sense that there was nothing around, but in the sense of the people.
It seemed like in the first day of the holiday season, there was no joy in the other people's eyes. They were bustling around the streets trying to get to the next destination. They didn't seem tired, quite the contrary, but they seemed stimulated in the wrong sense.
Claris noticed their red cup with a symbol of a hand with an eye on it, which Claris knew for a fact that was the Wizebucks symbol. What also seemed empty were the cups.
They were red and blank which wasn’t the issue at hand: the cups were physically empty, but the people kept of carrying them.
"You aren't upset at the red cups, are you?" It seemed that Elliot had noticed Claris' dismay as she looked at each person carrying a Wizebucks cup.
Claris shook her head, "I could care less of a competitor's cup, I'm just caring about the people carrying them!"
Elliot looked at the people, "Maybe they were up all night in line or working, and all of their energy is on the caffeine."
Claris looked up at the Twin Seeds Clock tower to see that it's been reworked as a pine tree. The star seemed to be missing... they must be still working on the decorations.
Claris wrote down which hour she got into her shift, and put on her purple apron. She was ready for her busy Black Friday shift at Javatopia. Claris had always felt something magical about Javatopia. The manager is an owl, her coworker flies, and the environment changes based on who entered the place. This time, the tables had a mahogany tint to them, as do the chairs. The carpet is red with white glitter on the bottom. Whoever last entered Javatopia must be in the holiday spirit.
Oh wait, Claris was the last person to enter Javatopia.
Claris' coworker, NiGHTS, approached Claris and said, "so guess who needs some additional training for the season?" NiGHTS was sporting a red jester cap, and a white vest. Not NiGHTS' usual get up, but they were in goth wear during the month of October.
"I'm pretty sure it's me?" Claris answered the rhetorical question with another question, "I'm pretty sure I know how a peppermint mocha works, Madame."
"Well, yeah, you make a mocha, and add a pump of peppermint," NiGHTS said, "but there is more. As you know, there is magic with time of year. Visitors tend to be giving and have wellbeing."
"Aren't visitors always giving and have a sense of wellbeing?" Claris asked.
NiGHTS laughed for a good thirty seconds, then continued, "Well, with coffeehouse magic, we extend visitor's spirits to have them feel a positive spirit during the middle of the winter. What we need is stardust." NiGHTS then opened a cabinet, then lifted a giant bucket. NiGHTS opened the bucket to see a bunch of brown and gold glitter inside. "After a supernova, it creates this stardust that is collected. This is the source of the wellbeing of Visitors in midwinter."
"What about midsummer?" Claris asked.
"Oh, that's just the sun in general," NiGHTS answered, "the sun isn't as present this time of year, so we need to make up for that with stardust." NiGHTS poured a cup a coffee, added milk then added a scoop of stardust in the cup, "it's one scoop for a small, two for a medium, and three for a large."
This seemed simple enough. Claris didn't seem nervous about any of that. Yet she remembered the people carrying the red cups being out of the holiday spirit... "Does Wizebucks have the same thing?"
NiGHTS bit their lip, and looked over across the street, "their stardust supplier went out of business earlier this year, and they haven't been able to find another for this season. They have been trying to undermine the whole 'Christmas' thing by just having red cups."
Suddenly, Javatopia went red and black with a checkered floor. Reala had entered the Javatopia with red markings on their face. "If I get one more red cup thrown on my face...."
"Hey, you need to keep good customer service," Claris taunted the red nightmaren, "it's very important."
"Well, my shift is over, one iced coffee please" Reala stated, "Gillwing is now the manager, so Visitors need to talk to them if they want to talk to the manager."
Claris remembered that name before. Maybe from a nametag from one of the times she went to Wizebucks. It seemed like a dragon name.... She scooped some ice into a cup when she remembered: "Oh, is Gillwing the one with the long tail?"
"Just don't step on it," Reala rolled their eyes.
Now Claris remembered, Claris was getting her band some Puffychinos and she stepped on someone's tail. The employee growled at her, and she profusely apologized. That must have been Gillwing.
"Guess Gillwing won't be as kind about the red cups as you are," Claris shook up the iced coffee, then handed it to Reala.
Reala laughed for a good thirty seconds, "No, they really won't. Yet Gillwing says that they have a secret weapon."
Claris wondered what it could be... The store was slow for once, so she grabbed a pen meant for signing receipts and began to draw curly cues on one of the cups. It's weird that Wizebucks is getting so much hate for not designing their cups, but Javatopia hadn't even changed the color of the cups, let alone make them look different for the season. Claris added a few stars to the mix just to give it a nice Christmas feel.
Star, Star, Star....
"Did you see that the star was missing from the big tree at Center City?” Claris asked.
NiGHTS pondered for a second, "I noticed that too. I thought they were still setting it up. Take a lot of work to set up a big Christmas tree."
"Oh yeah, you think about setting up a tree at home, think quadruple the time," Reala placed the iced coffee on their face, "it's a huge tree."
"But you'd think they'd put up the star first," said Claris, "it only makes sense."
"But it also makes sense to put the star on last," said Reala, "as a final touch as you will."
Either way, both NiGHTS and Claris saw that the star was missing. There must be something fishy going on, and it wasn’t fish.
“Also, NiGHTS, you have the midnight shift tonight. We’ll be expecting a lot of customers this time around,” Reala said.
NiGHTS sighed, “Yeah, I know.” Claris could tell that NiGHTS didn’t like working at Wizebucks, but Javatopia was only open so many hours, and Owl only could keep so many shifts per barista. Claris was fortunate enough to use her music for extra money, but NiGHTS only had their skills in hot beverages.
Throughout the shift, visitors of Javatopia have been showing more wellbeing than usual. Claris somehow thought it was the stardust in the java that was keeping the visitors positive. A lot of the visitors didn’t stay, since they had shopping to do. Will and Helen sat down for a little while, but they just talked to each other about football. Claris found it a particularly boring shift, even with the new information on the peppermint mochas and the stardust.
At the end of her shift, Claris undid her ponytail, and placed on her red fluffy jacket to head out for the evening. NiGHTS flew right out the door so they could get to Wizebucks.
Claris followed NiGHTS to Wizebucks so she can take a look at the red cups that everyone seemed so angry about. The place had wooden floors, and wooden chairs and tables. Nothing ever seemed to change at Wizebucks. They didn’t even decorate for Christmas. It must be a nightmare to work somewhere that was this consistently.
NiGHTS went to the backroom to sign in for their shift. Claris ordered a hot chocolate from a Shleep. Claris was already hyped up on Javatopia coffee, she wasn’t going to get hyped up on Wizebucks coffee in combination with her previous coffee addiction.
A giant frog dragon headed toward the door, when Claris yelled out, “hey, Gillwing! Any more positivity during your shift?”
Gillwing looked at Claris and glared at her, “yeah, what about it?”
“Well, Reala was getting backlash over those cups, and you told them that you had a way to keep the positivity.”
A grunt came out of Gillwing, “shift managers have their secrets.”
The Shleep gave Claris her hot chocolate, then NiGHTS tapped Claris on the shoulder, “I see you’re enjoying the cave of our enemy.”
Granted, Claris never went to Wizebucks when NiGHTS was working. Claris took out her cellphone to pay for the hot chocolate as she laughed nervously. She had First Rank Visitor status on her Wizebucks account.
Gillwing had left by now, and Claris looked at the ground to find some gold dust on the bottom. Claris knelt to the floor and took a closer look… it seemed familiar.
“Oh, we had a spill tonight, we mopped it up as best as we could,” said the Shleep, “but being that it’s Black Friday, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.”
“Do I see stardust on the floor?” Claris asked.
“Oh yeah, we used stardust for the second half of the day.” The shleep explained, “Gillwing said they had their own sources.”
Very, very, interesting. Claris looked at her cup, then took out her white gel pen and made little doodles on it. She made it look like the giant Christmas tree at the center of Twin Seeds with decorations and all. The christmasy feel of the cup looked nice, yet Claris knew that wasn't the truth behind why people weren't feeling as much spirit this holiday season.
A girl with blonde hair, white leggings, and a bright blue peacoat looked over Claris’ shoulder and smiled, “that really looks nice. Mind if I gave it a whirl?”
Claris was done with drawing at that point, so she handed the pen to the girl. Suddenly, she recognized the girl as a frequent Javatopia customer, “Helen?”
Helen began to draw a menorah on her cup, then smiled, “yeah, I go here when you guys as closed. Helps me crack down on homework assignments.”
Helen went to the University in Twin Seeds, she moved from Bellbridge to study musical performance. It almost seemed like she was always doing homework at Javatopia. She must be taking a lot of classes if she's also working later at Wizebucks.
“Completed another semester by the way.” Helen drew seven fires on top of the menorah.
Claris looked at the fires on Helen’s cup deeply. She was aware of the story of Hanukah and the oil that was meant for one day lasting seven days. Sort of like the star during Jesus’ birth, “do those fires give you hope?”
A nostalgic sigh came out of Helen’s mouth, “yeah, when I'm at home and I see those flames, it lets me feel a sense of wellbeing. That if something is wrong with the world; humanity can fix it.”
Claris looked at the tree on her cup, then realized the star on that tree gave her that same feeling. “Was there a star on the big tree at the center of downtown?”
Helen shook her head, “Not this year.”
There was a sudden feeling that something may have happened. Claris got up from her seat then asked the shleep, “so you had stardust today?”
The sheep nodded his head, “yeah, but only for half of the day.”
Odd, Reala was sure there was no stardust this year, “is this when Gillwing took over?”
The shleep paused then hummed, “come to think of it: yes.”
There was a sudden gasp from the back room. NiGHTS came out of it with half of a star. “There was stardust here? This must have been the source!”
Claris recognized the star: it was the one from the tree. Now it's ruined!
Helen gasped, “no wonder why everyone is so empty! Helen placed her menorah cup on the counter.
Suddenly, both the menorah cup and the star began to shine, and a little bit of the star restored.
Claris placed her cup there, and that also shined and the star was further restored.
Claris and Helen looked at each other, then took out their cellphones and began to text their friends. They figured out how to help the holidays.
Claris bought more gel pens from the drug store while more people went to Wizebucks. They were confused why there was a need to draw on the cups, but they liked the creative endeavor. Even Will and Elliot showed up to draw their designs on the cup.
There became enough cups to fully restore the star. NiGHTS grabbed the star, and everyone walked to the center of Twin Seeds. Claris, Elliot, and NiGHTS flew up to the tree and placed the star on top of the tree. The star shined throughout the city.
The three flew down, and everyone looked around the people… and yet… everything still seemed empty.
Once Elliot landed, he began to run towards the group. He stepped on a piece of ice and slipped across the sidewalk. His slip traveled around everyone who was present, until he fell.
After all of that, a slight giggle came from Elliot, then Will began to laugh, then Helen. Soon enough, everyone began to crack up. Just a simple mistake ended up being hilarious. At that point: Claris felt it; Claris felt the holiday spirit.
It wasn’t about the cups, fancy light, or material possessions. It’s about people joining together with other people. It was the project to draw on all the cups at Wizebucks. It was everyone laughing with Elliot after he made a flying fumble. Perhaps it takes people to help aid the wellbeing of other people.
Claris went back to Wizebucks to see all the cups. One person drew seven fishes; which represented the Feast of the Seven Fishes, while another person drew Krampus; a German figure that punished children, one person made the Wizebucks cup look like a chicken bucket; a frequent Christmas meal for a Japanese family. There were potato latkes; a frequent Hanukah meal, other menorahs, some Kawanza candelabras; representing seven Kwanza principles, a yule log; a pagan tradition and television program, and tons of Christmas trees. People joined up together to show their favorite traditions on these cups. It was people joining together to draw together that caused a sense of hope to all the people who participated.
The next year, Claris looked at the window of the Wizebucks to see that there were designs on the cups. Good thing that Claris worked at Javatopia where their cups were always plain and white. Claris walked into work and looked at the next event: a coffee cup drawing party tomorrow on Saturday. It was Claris’ idea to continue the tradition at Javatopia. Claris took off her red coat, pulled up her hair, and placed on her purple apron.
The door opened, and the place turned red and black. Reala must have gotten off his shift. Yet… they looked happier this year.
“You’re looking chipper here Ree,” said Claris, “want an iced coffee?”
“Hot coffee, with half and half,” Reala ordered, “Wizebucks found another manufacturer of stardust this year, and we don’t need to steal stars to make our customers happy.”
“Ever figured out who did it?” Claris asked.
Reala shrugged. It didn’t matter. As long Twin Seeds had their star and everyone was brought together the next year: that was all that made Claris happy.
And people coming together for all of the holidays was all that mattered to Claris.