- Berlin Coffee Shop – A six-part digital novel / The Author
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- Episode 5 · Totally Retro
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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 5: Totally Retro
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)
When the pain is gone, I feel like I’ve been reborn. On top of that, sitting at my desk, getting served a wonderful cafe latte from Andrea (Captain’s current Sweetie and hot-blooded Italian who is even a talented waiter), researching online and doing my job – this is all like a little welcome to paradise.
“Sandra, Coffee Shop felt empty without you. You just belong here,” Captain says as he comes out of the kitchen and serves me the daily special, an enticing spaghetti vongole.
Spaghetti Vongole à la Andrea
2 1/4 lbs clams
1 lb spaghetti
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
a few sprigs of thyme
2/3 cup white wine
10 cherry tomatoes
fleur de sel
Carefully clean the clams and separate out the opened ones.
Clean zucchini and dice into small cubes. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Boil spaghetti until al dente.
While the spaghetti is boiling, sauté the clams, zucchini, thyme, and garlic in a pan.
Douse with white wine, bring to a boil, and add olive oil to taste. Let cook for three to five minutes until the clams open. Remove any that remain closed. Mix in the halved cherry tomatoes.
Drain the spaghetti, add it to the pan and toss everything together.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and season with fleur de sel.
“I hope you never want to set up your desk anywhere else.”
“I’m so happy to be back here.” I spread out my arms. “The very best office in the whole world.”
I get exactly two hours and twenty-four minutes. Then it becomes clear that the owner of the best office in the whole world has temporarily blocked out the fact that the best office in the whole world has one major disadvantage: a door that is open to all sorts of guests. Including the parents of the woman who works in the best office in the whole world.
As usual, my mother takes a seat at my desk without asking, pushing my papers aside to put down her purse. My father takes an empty chair from the next table, but only after politely asking if it was free and then telling the group of students about how I am his daughter and a seeker who loves everything virtual, and that his wife is my mom.
“We need to talk to you,” my mother says, starting the conversation without any further delay.
“Mom, I’m working.”
“You’re drinking coffee!”
“I’m drinking coffee and working.”
“Why do you even have an office?”
Considering that my parents still think Claudi’s apartment is my office, which they helped finance, my answer is diplomatic.
“You can work in cafes and offices.”
“There are even people who don’t have offices at all and only work in cafes,” my father explains.
Sometimes I am amazed at the things he knows. And I briefly consider whether he might suspect more than he admits.
“We were on the Internet,” he continues. “Martin showed mom and me how to … what’s that word, mom?”
“Exactly, how to smurf the Internet.”
“Surf,” I correct them.
“Well, I still think it’s smurf,” my mother says reproachfully.
“We asked Martin specifically to show us how to smurf because … well, because you … um …”
“Because Dad thinks you’re a lesbian even though you were in bed with Oliver Schultze.” By nature, my mother already doesn’t have a very quiet voice. And whenever she’s explaining something to someone, she gets a few decibels louder. The students at the next table grin at each other, a young woman in the corner looks over at me curiously, and Andrea giggles to himself behind the counter.
“So, I think it’s all nonsense. I already told your father several times.”
“Mom thinks this is all nonsense,” my father repeats for everyone in the cafe that may not have heard it the first time. “She thinks that gays and lesbians just haven’t found the right partner yet.”
Captain pokes his head out of the kitchen and waves to us. “That’s why I’m doing such an in-depth search.”
My father waves back a bit awkwardly.
My mother nods. “Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. You aren’t homosexual at all. I have had the thought that Sandra might even be the right one for you, but my daughter doesn’t want to listen to reason.”
“Mom,” I hiss quietly, “could you please stop entertaining all of the customers here?”
“Oh, they don’t hear anything,” my mother says. “I’m talking so quietly.”
“You’re talking to everyone in the cafe.”
“You’re talking much too loudly!” I say much too loudly.
“Don’t shout like that!” my mother says. “I’m not hard of hearing.”
“Anyway, we were on the Internet because Martin said it has everything.” My father turns to our neighbors. “Do you also know the Internet?”
“Yes,” they all answer in unison, “we know it.”