37, day twenty three.
Firethief sat in the coffee shop and watched the people drink their drinks and have their conversations. He didn’t look like Firethief, of course. No crown of golden flames or eyes of infinite color. Not here. That would bring too much attention. He loved the attention, when he chose to indulge in it. Right now, in this place, he loved a peaceful cup of coffee even more. So he wore the guise of a small woman with ebony skin and nice plump buttocks. The feel of them between his hip bones and the chair was very pleasant. He did not understand why humans tried so hard to avoid bodyfat. Someone told him once that too much of it meant they died faster. They died so fast, anyway. What difference would a few short years make, especially since they were invariably spent old and slow and dimwitted?
A woman walked in with a baby strapped to her chest. She walked up to the counter.
“Good morning, Ann,” said the barista. “You want your short non-fat?”
“It is not a good morning,” Ann groaned. “And yeah, short non-fat one splenda.”
“What’s wrong?” the barista asked.
“Husband had to leave early, so he couldn’t take Isabel to daycare,” she looked down at the baby. “Not that I would mind, but I have a morning meeting and I’m going to have to miss it or figure out something to do with her.”
Firethief knew her, he realized. She was a regular. He did not recognize her because of her attitude. Usually she was cheerful, and often rather smug. He decided that today her latte was going to taste delicious, and ease the stress in her mind. Tomorrow, perhaps she would be back to being intolerably smug. If so, he would make her latte irritate her bowls all day, as he sometimes did. But not today. Today she got some relief.
A man in an expensive suit walked in with a self-satisfied expression as his face. Firethief giggled. Humans with that much confidence amused him. Sometimes, during decades when he was bored, he followed their lives closely so he could laugh at their inevitable failure, or betrayal by someone they trusted. This man, too, was a regular.
He walked up to the counter and looked up at the daily trivia question that hung on the wall behind the barista. If a customer answered the trivia question correctly they got an extra punch on their buy-ten-drinks-and-get-one-free card. The trivia questions were very popular. Some people liked the chance to get free drinks. Some people liked to learn new and interesting things. Some people, like this man, like to show how smart they were.
“Morning, doll,” he said. “I’ll have my Americano. The trivia today is really easy. You guys make it too easy.”
“Really?” said the barista. “No one has gotten it so far today.”
“No one has gotten it?” the man smirked. “That’s funny. The answer is hydrogen. It’s obvious.”
The barista stared at him. The people near him waiting for their coffee stared at him.
“Hydrogen?” said the barista. “Hydrogen is the name of a playwright?”
The man blinked. He looked up at the trivia. It said, “What Elizabethan playwright wrote the lines “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?” A few seconds before, when he was the only one looking, it had said, “What is the first element on the periodic table?”
“Uh…no,” the man stammered. “I guess not. Grande Americano, please.”
Firethief’s grin threatened to break through the face he was wearing. This businessman was too small a target for anything larger than that, but making him feel like an idiot for a few seconds was its own reward. As the businessman hastened out of the coffee ship with his drink, Firethief took a sip of his mocha, and savored the warmth. He cast his gaze around the room, to see what else there was to see.
A young couple sat at the table next to Firethief, sipping their lattes in silence. She tried to make conversation several times. He resisted. She ran her fingers along his under the table, but his hand did not move. It was clamped to his leg, tense and frozen. She was pouring on the affection and getting nothing in return. He was cheating on her. It was as plain to Firethief as if he wore a sign on his forehead in bright flaming letters. That could be arranged. No, that would not do. If flames appeared on his face she would rush to his aid and try to put them out. That would create more affection from her that he did not deserve and would not return.
Plus, it might make the news, and some people would know that Firethief had done it. Not everyone. Not most people. His teammates would know. Some of them. Well, one of them. He would have to find a new coffee shop, and he had spent so much time getting to really know the people here.
Firethief considered making the boyfriend’s cell phone ring. It could be a call from his mistress. It could be loud, and awkward, something his girlfriend across the table could not ignore. But she would ignore it. Just as she ignored all of the evidence in front of her. He could make her cell phone ring with a call from his mistress. Perhaps they mixed up their phones this morning. That, too, could be arranged. No, it was too complicated. It might make a scene.
Firethief had no problem with deception, in and of itself. But no lies were allowed inside his coffee shop. It didn’t help that humans were, by and large, frustratingly bad at it. The ones who were good at it did it for entirely the wrong reasons.
He sighed. It looked like he was going to have to let this one go. Maybe the couple would come back, and he provide him with a better opportunity to reveal deception. Or maybe they would stay away from his coffee shop forever, and it would no longer be his problem. He did not know which scenario he favored. He took another sip of coffee. This place had the best mochas in the entire world. At least, on certain days, it did.
It was hard, sometimes, to be a good person when you were a trickster god woven from elemental chaos and exiled to a world of coarse and static matter full of ephemeral beings in denial of their own frailty. But he did his best.
He always did his best.