"Here they come!"
The tour bus came to a stop at the corner. Since Joe's pastry and coffee shop was the nearest open door to the corner, he knew that all of these children touring the museum would be coming in the door en masse.
A man's voice called out and the children stopped running. As a long line of children's faces became visible through the large plate glass windows, Joe simply sighed. "Here we go again," he muttered under his breath.
An adult entered the store first with one child after another in succession.
The first child came to the counter and said, "¿Dónde está el baño?" Joe looked over the counter at the child and replied, "Banjos? We ain't got no banjos here kid, only pastries and coffee – or hot chocolate."
The older patron at the corner booth spoke up, "Hey, kid…" When the boy looked over at the old man, the old man simply nodded to the hallway on the left. As the child took off down the hallway, the old man smiled and blew over his hot coffee in an effort to cool it.
Joe raised an eyebrow to the old man, and looked at the next child in line. "Whadaya want kid?"
The child looked up and said, "Pardon, où sont les toilettes?" Joe eyed her up and down and responded, "Yeah, yeah, we got croissants. How many ya want?"
Again, the old man looked up from his booth. "Hey, kid…" When the little girl looked over at him, he nodded to the hallway on the right. As she headed down the hallway, Joe grunted toward the old man.
Joe looked over the counter at another small face. "Ya want some hot chocolate, kid?"
The little boy looked up and said, "Missä on vessa?" Joe called out, "Who you callin' Missy, kid?"
The old man got up and walked over to the boy, tapped his shoulder and pointed to the left hallway.
As the kid took off, he said, "Why do you gotta give these kids such a hard time, Joe?"
"They come in here, once a week, the whole lot of them, use my bathroom, probably don't even wash their grimy little hands and don't buy nothin'. I don't know why I have to be the lucky shop where they unload. Every darn week!"
"Joe, you know why they come in here. It's the deal you made with the city when you opened right across from the museum. You get a stipend from the city for allowing them to come in, use the bathroom and get a drink of water. You know the chaperones need this stop to get them calmed down after the long bus ride before they start touring the museum."
"Well. I've changed my mind…"
"Then sell me the shop, Joe."
"One of these days, I'm gonna do just that. Go back to your coffee, old man, it's getting' cold."
The children were lined up at the door now, waiting for the chaperone to give them the cue to head out across the street. As each one left and passed the old man, he handed them a lifesaver. The roll of colored ones was always a hit. The children hugged the old man's neck as they walked by, each one after the other.
The old man stood to leave.
As he walked toward the door, Joe called, "See ya next week, grandpa?"
"I'll be here, Joey."
"Give grandma a hug for me."
The old man smiled as the bell above the door chimed.
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