- Berlin Coffee Shop – A six-part digital novel / The Author
- Main Characters
- Episode 1 · An Office, an Office
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Berlin Coffee Shop – A six-part digital novel
Follow Sandra and friends as they navigate life, love, and their late-twenties in Germany’s hip Berlin.
The best office in the world is in the Coffee Shop – a cozy cafe in Berlin. From here, Sandra plies her trade as a thing-finder. Her customers are people who have lost or want to find something which will make their life happier. But on her quest for other people’s desires, Sandra suddenly finds herself in search of her own happiness – and of herself. And a dead goose further aggravates her emotional turmoil …
Gerlis Zillgens lives and works as a freelance writer in Cologne, Germany. Throughout the years she has written many successful novels and screenplays, as well as developed television series and toured as a cabaret artist. She also enjoys organizing readings, enjoying the view from her office, salsa dancing, and Berlin
Sandra is a professional “seeker of things.” She serves customers who are looking for something they themselves can’t find. Sandra’s “office” is a table in the Coffee Shop – a cozy cafe in central Berlin, run by her friend Captain.
Captain owns a cafe, the Coffee Shop, which is the hub of Sandra and her friends’ lives. Captain is always looking for new male waiters who by no coincidence just happen to be stunningly attractive. For the sake of simplifying things, he calls them all “Sweetie,” since he replaces them as quickly as he does the daily special at the Coffee Shop.
Nils studies veterinary medicine, but he is actually occupied full-time as Sandra’s seeker assistant. On Sandra’s missions, the two end up in situations that bring them closer together. But they are really just best friends … Really …
Claudi is Sandra’s best girlfriend. In addition to Sandra, Claudi has about 7,112 friends – on Facebook – who get to hear about everything that happens in her life, as well as those of her friends Sandra, Captain, and Nils.
Episode 1: An Office, an Office
Translated by Sharmila Cohen
“I seek, therefore I am …”
(loosely adapted from a French philosopher)
“I am a jelly doughnut …”
(loosely adapted from an American president)
An Office, an Office
“Sweetie, two mochachinos, a strawberry frappe, a cappuccino with lactose-free milk and no cocoa powder!” Captain roars the order through the room as if Sweetie were standing a mile away, in a crowd of thousands of fans at a rock concert at Brandenburg Gate. Captain can be a little “too”: too loud, too strident, too over-the-top. Really, though, this “too” is just a diversion from his too-good heart.
Status update from Claudi:
On my way to the coffee shop now.
Incidentally, Captain’s name is not actually Captain, but Detlef. But of course, Detlef doesn’t cut it … even less so when you’re gay. The name Captain was given to him by one of his ex-lovers. If you want to annoy Captain quickly and keep him upset with you, just call him Detlef. I don’t want to annoy him. I’m generally a nice person.
Sweetie frantically fumbles with the espresso machine. He’s just as good-looking as he is incapable of remembering two separate orders, to say nothing of making them properly or delivering them to the right tables. Like most of the service-challenged Sweeties who came before him, Sweetie will lose the job on the same night he ends up in bed with the boss. So, probably tonight. After all, Sweetie’s already been working here for three days.
“Sandra!” Captain calls out to me from the other side of the kitchen door, his tone unmistakably queenish. “If you want to drink something, just let Sweetie know!”
Captain moves comfortably between personas. Sometimes serious, then flaky; one day he philosophizes like a brilliant Einsteinian clone, the next day he thinks it’s fun to act like he has an IQ barely greater than that of a ox. He’s just as happy playing the straight dude with crude macho banter as he is playing the queen. His lovers, however – whether they be future, present, or past – don’t vary at all. They are always called Sweetie. The advantage of this is he doesn’t have to remember all those names. This way, there’s no confusion of identity. And no one gets hurt. Captain doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He knows what it means to be hurt.
Sweetie panics. A subtle quiver, a hunted look, mortal fear. Like a bunny cowering on the ground while a particularly determined hawk circles above. Hmmm. What to order … Will I attack and kill him off? I should be merciful. I should let him live out this day. I should not begrudge him a good night. “A double espresso macchiato with low fat milk and extra foam.” I find it hard to be a pleasant person before I’ve had my first coffee of the day.
For a long time, I was an unhappy person. After a pointless attempt at studying (German philology, philosophy, and theater), I perpetually searched for a profession, until one day I was surprised to find myself already in the middle of it. My vocation is searching: I am a seeker of things.
Status update from Claudi:
Standing around on platform. Train delayed. *Ugh*
I search for what others want to find. Orange and brown plaid pumps from the seventies in size 14 1/2? No problem. A book written by a scandalous French author and already out of print in the 1920s? It might take a little while, but it will be found.
I don’t only search for things, but also living things: a seeing eye dog that responds to Croatian commands; a parrot that can recite kama sutra positions; a muscular man who is at least six feet tall with a scorpion tattoo and outstanding skills in both Argentinean tango and rare vintage car repair.
When a search is difficult, I am all the more interested. Others climb the Himalayas without oxygen tanks. I find things that seem untraceable – I would even believe myself capable of finding Bigfoot himself. The only thing I have not been terribly successful at is finding a man for myself.
Status update from Claudi:
On the S-Bahn. Bought a street newspaper. Two buyers other than me. Wondering if it could be worthwhile to invest in the publisher.
Captain, laden with three beautifully garnished sandwich plates, hurries through the kitchen door. He effortlessly gives Sweetie – who is losing a battle with the milk frother that was futile from the start – an affectionate pat on the bottom and runs past me.
“The Doric columns have to go!” he commands sternly, before delivering the order a few tables down.
“Please, Captain,” I plead, “just until I get a storage unit.”
“Straight away!” Captain pauses for half a second at my table on the way back and adds reproachfully: “You left them in front of the fridge!”
“Only because you won’t give me the extra key to your storage room!” Sighing, I follow Captain into the kitchen and drag the Doric columns away from the refrigerator.
I spent three and a half weeks searching for them. It’s a tragic story. The job was for a young man who wanted to impress his fiancée, an avid lover of ancient Greece. Oversized Doric columns were supposed to be proof of his oversized love. I searched day and night. Just when I had finally gotten a hold of them, the young woman died in a traffic accident. She was run over by a Balkania Autotractor 4x4. A Greek car. Very rare. Greece hasn’t manufactured cars in decades. (Greece hasn’t produced much of anything else in decades either. See: Eurozone Crisis.) After that, I couldn’t reasonably sell the fiancé (is there even a word for a widowed fiancé?) Doric columns from Greece.
I clear a little space in the kitchen and push, pull, and shove the columns between the pantry and the counter. “Check it out, they look pretty good here, right?”
Captain wears an if-looks-could-kill expression. “If I had the key,” I argue, “I would put them in your storage room right now.”
Deadly look number two.
“I am doing everything I ...