For Services Rendered
Notes: I knew I wanted to do this challenge (I asked for it after all! *g*) But no ideas, no ideas... when the son of one of my LJ friends requested, as a birthday present, that some of his mom's friends write him some short stories. IDEA! So, here it is. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. I used the simplest first-line, and also gave a nod to Jess Riley's "maxi-drabble", which was based on one of my first lines.
First line from A New Tradition in the Ellison-Sandburg Household by Carodee.
"No." Ellison recognized that tone. He couldn't put a finger on what was different about it, but he knew Sandburg was going to propose something that involved a test of his senses.
"What do you mean, 'no'? You could at least hear the question first; maybe give it two seconds of thought before you just automatically say 'no'! For all you know, I might be going to suggest a weekend of fishing, or tell you I got tickets to a truck show, or tell you I planned to get out of your hair this weekend -- not that you have that much to get out of, but still -- and you'd have two peaceful days of the loft all to yourself. You know, it would serve you right if..."
Ellison sighed. He'd once tried to ignore Sandburg, thinking the kid would run out of steam if he didn't get a response. In theory, that might work -- eventually. In practice, Blair had still been going strong twenty minutes later; Jim had finally answered just to shut off the seemingly endless supply of verbiage. "All right," he grunted. "What did you want to ask... or tell?"
"Well, you see, I have this friend -- actually, it's the son of a friend -- I don't really know him. But his mother's been such a good friend to me, really helped me out when I got to Rainier, and it's his twenty-second birthday, and she's feeling all proud and kinda nostalgic about how he's all grown up now, and I wanted to get him a little something to celebrate, which sorta acknowledges her feelings, ya' know?"
"So how does this involve me?"
"I figured I'd get him some fancy flavored coffee, something he could share with his mom -- they're real close, even closer than me and Naomi -- or maybe with his buddies at the prison, make some points there."
Ellison's eyebrows rose. "Your friend's son is an inmate? How do you think he's even going to be able to brew this fancy coffee? And I still don't know why you need me."
"No, man, not an inmate, a guard. And I'd like you to come with me to that little imported coffee place over on Third; you can sniff the beans and help me pick out the best ones. You know, not too sweet, not too acid, something with a good, rich flavor..."
"Jeez, Sandburg, do you know what a headache I had after sniffing all those essential fragrances? No way do I want to do that again."
Jim had to hand it to the kid; Blair could wheedle his tones better than anyone he'd ever met. "It won't be like that this time, big guy. Just one store, and... and I'll cut the field down to ten by myself. So you just have to sniff ten samples and tell me which are the three best. And then you can tell me the flavorings that went into each coffee. What'd'ya say?"
"I say, what's in it for me?" Maybe that would slow down the perpetual motion machine.
It did -- for about three seconds. Blair blinked. "What's in it for you?" he asked cautiously.
Ellison grinned internally, wondering how far he could push this. "Yeah," he challenged. "You want to use me as a sensory expert; not only do I have to sniff, I have to compare and evaluate and choose the best candidate. 'The laborer is worthy of his pay'... so what do I get out of it?"
"Uh... I buy you half a pound of the flavor you think is the best?"
It was Jim's turn to pause. Blair thought he was serious? Well, hell, why not? "Okay, got yourself a deal, Sandburg. Let's get these reports finished, and we'll swing by on the way to the loft."
"Did I tell you how much I appreciated the help in choosing the coffee, Jim? Gaye was so touched, and Mack was really enthusiastic about trying those flavors." Blair continued to chatter as he bustled around the kitchen to prepare brunch, unconcerned that his friend was hardly paying attention. Let the man enjoy his little perks; he had certainly earned them. "Turns out he's as big a coffee aficionado as Simon is, but he can't afford to indulge it on a guard's salary. You know, lots of times, it only takes a little thought to get someone a great present without spending big bucks. Not that I mind spending money on my friends, but I can't spend it if I don't have it, ya' know? Makes me realize, I better put on my thinking cap; it's not too early to start planning for Christmas gifts. Do you think Simon would like..."
Ellison let the babble wash over him as he turned from World News to the Sports Page. He took another sip of his Yemen Moka, savoring the rich flavor that lingered on his tongue with a hint of chocolate. Yep; when the payoff was this good, sense-testing was a lot easier to swallow. He probably couldn't play that card too often, but maybe once in awhile...
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