(2018-09-03) The Great Coupon Conspiracy
A bartender, a veterinarian, and an ER doctor walk into a cupcake shop..

It's a fine afternoon in Calaveras, with people milling around in and out of the different stores. This cupcake place is pretty packed. Does a person come into a cupcake store for just one cupcake? Multiple cupcakes? What's the deal usually? Abby arrives dressed down in casuals, checking out the display case. So many choices, so many decisions. There's a decent line already, several people deep. Once she's done looking around, she'll hop on it and wait. And wait. It's taking awhile, but that's probably because there's a really old lady at the register and she's asking a lot of questions and she has coupons. COUPONS. They're expired. But can they still work?

It was happenstance that put Luke behind Abby in line; he was dressed in a pair of jeans and a fitted cotton tee, over which was worn a white lab coat, sleeves drawn up. Maybe he had come here from work? Either way, he was beginning to feel like he's been in this line forever. With his height, he had the advantage of being able to see over most of everyone elses' heads, and that old lady was still going through her coupons. He breathes out a sigh, rocking back on the heels of his sneakers, before he glances down to Abby. "Do people really even still use coupons anymore?" he mutters to her, keeping his voice low so it doesn't travel. "Someone should show this lady Groupon."

Do people still even use coupons, he asks? As if on cue, the old woman reaches into a large old woman bag and pulls out a binder. A binder of coupons. "Now just see here… I have saved ALL of your coupons, perhaps there's been a printing error!" Abby watches this transpire, her eyebrows gradually inching up and her eyes widening, a ripple of sighs travels down the line to where they're standing. "I guess so… I think we're going to be here awhile." Since Luke is talking to her, she'll turn around and give him a once over. The lab coat is a tell and she hms curiously, "Dr. Wright?"

Luke only just barely manages not to groan aloud when the binder is pulled out, but there's a very clear widening of blue eyes as he watches, momentarily transfixed by what is happening. It was like watching a trainwreck, except there wasn't a train. There was just a binder full of coupons. "Jeeze," he sighs, running his hand through his hair as he leans back, slouching somewhat out of comfort. He's in it for the long haul now. "Yeah, I think you're right. This is what I get for trying to bring my staff a treat, huh?" he flashes Abby a mild grin, blinking when she says his name and tipping his chin towards his chest to squint down at the lab coat he's wearing. "Ah, yup. That's me. Luke's fine though," he looks back up to her, his grin deepening. "I'm the vet at Paws and Claws, down the street."

"But just look, you say you honor competitors coupons…" The debate at the front of the line continues. Meanwhile, Abby is just going to pretend she hasn't entered voluntary purgatory by staying in this store. "Oooh, I see. I don't make my way down there very often, I don't have any pets. Yet." She flashes him a quick smile before glancing over her shoulder. "I'm Abby. I'm actually the other kind of doctor, I work at the ER." This includes a tip of her head in the general direction of the local hospital. "I thought I'd buy my shift some treats. Everyone has been in a really grouchy mood lately, I figured I could bribe them into at least not being grouchy at me." So not exactly full of altruism here.

"Yet, huh?" Luke's brows spike, his grin broadening as he looks down to her. "Well if you're looking, I've got a whole binder worth of cats and dogs that we're trying to get adopted out. There's even, I think, a couple of goats, a pig, and a clutch of chicks." He scrunches his brow as thinks that last part through, uttering a low chuckle. "Not that you look like you're in the market for farm animals, but you never know." He glances out the window at the tip of her head, before he looks back to her and offers a hand to shake. If she'll accept, his grip is warm and firm. "Well it's nice to meet you, Abby. And man, I hear you on the grouchiness. I think it must be something in the water."

"Yet! I just moved back into town after finishing my residency. So I have a lot of boxes sprawled all over my house with things half unpacked." Abby waves her hands and arms around a bit to indicate the level of sprawl that's happening, barely managing to avoid hitting another customer. She pulls her hands back in and clears her throat, whoops. Then she's reaching for the handshake, hers firm as well. No one gets hurt. "But no, I'm definitely not in the market for any farm animals. I was just telling someone that I can't wait to get a cat, so I'll definitely be down to check out your binder of cats." At the counter there's some tension finally starting to rise when the reply of 'But we don't have competitors!' filters down. "I think so too. Though sometimes I feel like the medical field or really any other field where tensions are high and people are together all the time? It happens. Best friends and best enemies."

Maddie arrives from the Main and Route 10.
Maddie has arrived.

There's a line at the cupcake shop and it's a doozy! An old lady at the front of the line is currently arguing with the woman behind the counter about coupons, and she's got a binder full of them. Luke and Abby are standing in line, the former just behind the latter, and are chatting.
There's a bit of quiet laughter from Luke as Abby waves her arms around, tilting back just a little so that he doesn't get hit in the process. "Moved back, huh? So you're a local," he deduces after the handshake, his attention now mostly on Abby, maybe in an attempt to avoid watching the tension that is broiling up at the front of the line. Drama, it's so addictive! "I moved back a little while ago to set up the clinic," he tells her, shoulders rolling back into a light shrug. "But yeah, definitely come down to the clinic. There's a lot of cats, I pick up strays and work with some rescues, too, to get 'em out of the kill shelters when I can." He glances up, squinting down the line to the old lady, and shakes his head as he breathes out another sigh. "But yeah, I agree with you. Best friends and best enemies, I like that phrase," he chuckles.

"I have never been treated like this in ALL of my days!" The old woman proclaims loud enough for the entire store to hear. "I want to speak to an ADULT." This poor woman dealing with her is very clearly an adult and has been for awhile.

Abby continues on like she didn't almost accidentally hit someone just before, which probably means this happens semi-frequently. "I am. Born and raised here in Calaveras. I'm surprised that we haven't met before, but…" Well, these things happen, so her shrug seems to indicate. "Aw, that's nice of you. So you're one of those people who leaps out of their car to try and snag a dog bounding down the side of a highway?"

"…Que mierda?" It's the classic ringing bell atop the bakery's door that first draws eyes towards the dressed-down figure of Maddie Hernandez; her hair up in a messy bun, deep green sweatpants worn high on her waist, hugging her hips. She has on a loose white crop top, hem hanging an inch or so above her pinched belly button. She yawns, looking recently woke — though it's noon. Hey, it's a holiday! She scratches at the back of her head, a subtle scent of marijuana lingering about her as long 'n' toned legs carry her to the back of the line. For a second, she just lingers there, frowning grumpily. Then — she hears a familiar voice. A mischief-filled smile, and soon she's standing beside Luke. "Hey," she says, using the greeting to join his place in line, much to the annoyance of those behind. "Morning," she says. It's not morning. She glances to Abby, and offers out a small smile and a nod to her, as well. She squints, some vague familiarity in her eyes, as if she's seen her around before.

Luke tilts to the side to squint down the line again as the older woman shouts, his lips bowing into a small frown. "Yeah, I'm surprised about that too. I left right after high school though, went down to Colorado State, and then wound up in the army to pay for vet school.." he trails off, flashing her a dimpled grin. "I've only done that a handful of times," he winks at Abby, before his attention is stolen by the lingering scent of weed and the sudden appearance of the Latina girl at his side. He raises his eyebrows, but it comes with a wide grin for Maddie. "Afternoon, actually," he says playfully to Maddie, glancing apologetically to the line of people that she just cut in front of. "Uh, sorry. She's with me," he mumbles, then points a thumb to Abby. "Have the two of you met? Abby, Maddie. Maddie, Abby," he introduces in quick succession, then casually sidesteps out of line. "One sec. Hold my place?" he says to the girls.

And then with a mild clearing of his throat, he ambles up to the front of the line, already fishing out his wallet from his pocket. "Uh, Ma'am. It looks like this whole coupon thing is a bit more trouble than it's worth. So, I'm gonna buy your cupcakes, whatever you want," he offers, pulling out a credit card and flashing the old lady a wide smile.

Abby seems on the verge of launching into a story when Maddie arrives and plants herself next to Luke. She looks the younger woman over curiously, probably picking up the scent of weed. If it bothers her in some way, she doesn't let on. Instead, she smiles politely at her and replies, "Hello!" to the 'good morning'. When Luke leaves them so that he can attempt to get the line moving, she lifts her chin to watch the unfolding situation. In an aside to Maddie, "We've been here for about twenty, twenty-five minutes. She has an entire binder of coupons that she took out of that huge bag. Who knows what else is in there…"

"Excuse you, young man. This is the problem with your generation, you think that you can solve everything by throwing money at it. It's the principal of a thing! They're supposed to honor their deals, not trick us in here to spend money!" She's not entirely mollified by Luke, but she is starting to eyeball the credit card. She'll probably cave. But not without making the spectacle just a little bit bigger. For fun.

"Jesus," is Maddie's response, just blinking at Abby as she describes how long she's been in line for. She tilts to the side, peering around the row of impatient shoppers to watch the interaction between Luke and the old lady. She can't help but laugh a little. She tucks some loose dangle of caramel-black hair that's escaped her bun behind her ear, and shrugs, looking back to Abby. "At least she didn't pull out a binder of coupons /and/ a jar of pennies." She gives Luke a little look from afar, a raise of her eyebrows and a supportive smile — a 'you can do this!' kind of expression.

Luke plasters on that dimpled grin of his, ducking his head in an appeasingly sheepish sort of way. "Oh, you're absolutely right, ma'am. On all accounts," he agrees, even as he flicks the credit card in the direction of the cashier. "But I'm sure you've got plenty planned for your day, and all this fuss is just getting in the way. And it just so happens that the owner here brings his dogs to see me at the clinic often, so I'll go ahead and talk to him on your behalf. Get this whole situation worked out," he shows a hint of teeth when he smiles to the woman again, "So let me take care of this for you. It's the least I can do. On behalf of my generation and all," he says in an all-too-polite and gentlemany sort of way.
There was a quick look back up to Abby and Maddie, the encouragement from the latter met with lofted brows and a big, fake grin. He's /trying/.

"I bet she does have a jar of pennies in there," Abby confides to her new pal on line. "And probably some of those coin sleeves, but only half full so you have to count them anyway." There's a little shudder of her shoulders and she looks on with rapt attention to see if the coins will be produced. In fact, the entire store has their full focus on the counter and the people situated around it.

The old woman has some more huffing and puffing to do before she begrudgingly allows Luke to do something nice for her that she definitely doesn't deserve. "Well, thank you for your consideration. When you meet with the owner, you can tell him that if I don't get a letter of apology written that I'm going to tell everyone in my chapter of the Red Hat Society AND the Rotary Club all about this." Then she lets him pay for her. The bill is laughably, infuriatingly, small.

"Bueno, bueno." Maddie perks up when the old woman relents, and she gives a flash of a smile to Abby, first, and then a small, amused golf clap for Luke. She yawns and rolls back her shoulders, sleep still clinging to the dark-lashed shapes of her dusky eyes. The lazy Latina gives an upward stretch of her arms, and then swings her bag off from her back. She unzips the side pocket, and pulls out her coinpurse. The line's moving again. "Never had to wait in line at… pretty much any shop in Calaveras," she relates. "/Maybe/ during tourist season." Still, though, there's people in front of them, and Maddie murmurs: "I just want some ice cream."

It is clearly taking Luke every fibre in his being to not react rudely to this woman. Instead, he just grits his teeth and smiles wider. "A written apology," he repeats slowly, as though trying to come to terms with those words. "Right. Well, I'm .. very.. sure.. that he would not like to upset both the Red Hat Society -and- the Rotary Club. We'll… get this situation all sorted for you, ma'am," he keeps grinning, teeth showing and everything, as he stiffly turns to the cash register to take care of the bill, hunching over the counter to sign the receipt and pass it back to the cashier. "You have a -great- day, ma'am," he even manages emphasis on the words, before he ambles right back to his spot in the line, sliding back in between Abby and Maddie. The golf clap from Maddie gets an exaggerated eyeroll from Luke, but only when his back is turned towards the old woman.

Only once he's back in line does he exhale, shoulders slumping with the sigh. "Hopefully we can move on with our lives now," he grumbles under his breath to the women. "I'm surprised she didn't try to flaunt her influence with the Kiwanis Club, too." He smirks over to Maddie, suddenly amused at something. "You look like you just rolled out of bed. And you want ice cream?"

The old woman looks very smug. In her mind, justice has been served. She collects her painfully small order, her binder of coupons and her huge bag. As she walks away from the counter, nose up in the air, the other patrons of the cupcake shop begin to cheer and clap for Luke. She HMPFTS loudly at the reaction and briskly exits. The nerve!

Abby watches everything unfold with fascination, continuing to talk to Maddie as the Great Coupon Conspiracy of 2018 comes to a conclusion. "Right? No where is ever this busy except in tourist season. Even then, I feel like people stick to the slopes and stuff? But whatever, I'm glad she finally left." Since everyone has had a solid half an hour to make their choices, the line begins to briskly move along again.

"A true local hero," Maddie says, greeting Luke with a respectful dip of her head once he rejoins the line. She blinks, amused and surprised by the applause she's started. Her face squishes up with some mild offense at the vet's next comment though, and her shoulders slump a little. "I rolled out of bed, smoked weed, and /then/ wanted ice cream." She's happy enough with that justification. "I live in a trailer park, leave me alone." A good-natured smile, and then she's looking back to Abby. "Or the college football games, but I try and stay off campus unless my friends /make/ me. It creeps me out. It is too, ah… manicured." She shrugs. "Not to mention all the college mall cops."

Luke grimmaces at the sudden applause that Maddie started, dragging his fingers awkwardly through his hair. He scoffs at Maddie's greeting though, nudging her in the side with his elbow. "Pfft. Just doing my duty on behalf of all the cupcake lovers in Calaveras," he smirks at Maddie, shaking his head a bit when she talks of her reasons for her ice-cream desire. "I'm not judging. Unless you pull out a binder full of coupons to pay for said ice cream. -Then- I'm judging," he gives Maddie a firm look, before he chuckles and looks back to Abby. "I imagine that grouchiness at the hospital is just going to increase with how long it's taken to get these cupcakes. They better taste like God's gift to man kind for all this effort," he laughs.

Abby is genuninely amused by the round of applause and joins in, golf clapping as Luke works his way back to his place in line. The people ahead of them move up and she steps with them, glad to be moving again. "I hope so too. I'm really going to have to rush to get home in time to change too, not looking forward to that. I hope the roads are clear." There's a dubious glance out the window the cars on the road. It seems though she realizes she's forgotten something while this whole fiasco was going on and she offers Maddie an apologetic look, "I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Abby Thatcher."

Willowy looking, yet lean and sturdy, Maddie doesn't so much as wobble at the nudge. "I… Will be using a coupon," she admits with a helpless and rising guilt. "But only one. And it is not…" She pulls it out from her coinpurse. "… Dios mio, /it is/ expired." She squints, and then says. "Just cash, promise." She clears her throat.

For a while, she just lazes there, staring covetously at the counter of colorful creams. Abby's introduction draws her mind back to reality though, and she gives a similarly apologetic blink towards the black haired woman. "Oh. Maddie! Sorry, I'm so bad at that."

Luke narrows a look at Maddie when she makes her big coupony reveal, only to snort back a laugh when it's determined her coupon is -also- expired. "Now I'm starting to think there's a coupon conspiracy," he remarks, "Maybe I really -will- talk to the guy that owns the place." There's a sigh as he folds his arms over his chest, his focus momentarily straying to the glass display cases, before he exchanges a glance between Maddie and Abby. "Abby works in the ER. She's a doctor," he says to Maddie, tipping his head in the direction of the other woman, flashing a small smile at Abby. "I hope you make it to the hospital on time. Traffic wasn't terrible when I came in? But I walked here," he shrugs, taking a step forward as the line moves. He looks back to Maddie, brows raised. "You working tonight?"

Quickly enough, Abby finds herself at the register. Having had all of this time to decide exactly what she wants in her order, she quickly places it and pays with her card. It doesn't take the staff long to get her box of cupcakes together and soon enough, it's being handed over the counter to her. "Well, nice to meet both of you! I hope you enjoy your ice cream, Maddie. And Luke, I'll see you sometime soon about a cat. Or well, someone at your clinic. Either way. Have a nice day!" Then she's ducking out of the store and hustling to her car. Gotta get to work, gotta be on time!

The line seems to zip by, now, and soon it's Luke's turn to order. "Yeah, in like, four hours or something. Or later. I dunno. Whenever I get there, really." Johnny Slim's isn't too strict, apparently. Another stray strand of hair loosens itself from Maddie's messy bun, and she blows it away from her eyes with a puff of breath. "… See ya," she says, a few seconds too late as she watches Abby flit out the door in a rush. She yawns again. "I am /so/ not jealous of people with jobs like that." She looks back to Luke. "What about you, Lucas?" She shifts his name into the more hispanic version, twanging it with her accent. "You make your own hours, right?"

"Nice to meet you," Luke says to Abby as she departs in a rush, before he steps up to the front of the line. It's his turn - finally! He looks askance to Maddie and laughs a little. "Sort of, I guess? I have a couple other doctors on staff, but we switch back and forth on who's on call. It's my week, this week," he tells her, before he looks to the cashier and rattles off his order - a dozen cupcakes, and.. ".. Whatever ice cream she wants," he points a thumb at Maddie, flashing her a small grin. "My treat. Since apparently I've made myself responsible for all these expired coupons."

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