The owners of This Café were a kindly couple, a Mr. and Mrs. Troublefield. It could be said that their kindly demeanor came from the desire to prove that they were anything but trouble. But, it could also be said that some people, regardless of their given or taken surname, are trouble and some are not. Somewhere in us is our conditioning and how we were raised and somewhere in us are our choices and what we wanted to be in spite of given circumstance. And, though the Troublefields never changed their name to NoTroubleAtAtllFields, they did often answer requests with, “Oh, no trouble at all. No trouble at all.”
This Café was their café. But, as soon as Allister walked into This Café- their café- they made him feel it, too, was his café. His order was, at first, as simple as the café’s name. Coffee- thick and black. No milk. No sugar. And a muffin (Because, no matter the circumstance or the location, if a muffin was present, Allister needed a muffin). And, that particular day, Allister felt hungrier than usual. So, he added a large breakfast to his order. The Troublefields exchanged smiles with each other and, then, with Allister.
Mrs. Troublefield went to make the breakfast while Mr. Troublefield punched the prices into the register. And there it was. The total. Punched out and added together in a very precise and accurate manner: One 6. Two 6. Three 6. Three 6s. 666. $6.66. The devil's number. The devil's breakfast.
Allister caught the total before Mr. Troublefield and a warning blared ever so slightly in his skull. But, louder still, was a voice in his skull that reassured him that he was not superstitious. That the mark of the beast loses its meaning when it's not connected to a beast. But...how do you define a beast? Was it as simple as not plain coffee? Not muffin? Not egg, bacon, or toast? Could it be that simple? That a beast was simply something fangier? Something more rabid? Something less breakfast-y?
Allister decided to set aside biblical fanaticism for a moment and watched as Mr. Troublefield registered what his register had already registered. And Mr. Troublefield remained there, frozen with panic. His face ashen. A tear welled. Mrs. Troublefield arrived soon after with Allister’s breakfast. Being astute, she realized quickly that something was awry. And, when her eye caught the register, it was all she could do to keep from screaming into a faint. But, there were other customers to worry about. In fact, there was Allister and his demise to consider.
And, so, Mrs. Troublefield’s leftist of hands made the firstest of moves, shakily she reached towards a basket of oranges. An offering. Ten cents to throw into the total and tip Allister away from Satan's bleary-eyed early morning clutch. And it was there that Allister realized, as much as he wanted to not be superstitious, he could not put superstition completely past himself.
If three numbers put together equal instant apocalypse, then rationally speaking, anything connected to those numbers, be it evil registers or early morning people in need of a boost of caffeinated sunshine, muffin, egg, bacon, or toast should instantly get a one way ticket to the deepest depths of Hell.
Allister knew his was not the first purchase of its kind. It was merely a link in a chain of $6.66 happenstance purchases that stretched back for generations. But, while equivalent total prices can happen an infinite amount of times, it only takes one beast to ruin the whole party. And the only way to know for sure whether Satan had been pacing for centuries, waiting for Allister and the day he needed a larger breakfast at This Café, would be to complete the transaction and swallow it all and see if he instantly incinerated and set off a chain reaction whereby the whole of the world incinerated in a fiery game of dominos (perhaps quickly or perhaps a slow fiery game of dominos that no one realized until too late).
And, in Allister’s defense, how could you not be even a little scared? You would have to be ready to burn right then and also to burn everyone you knew and loved. For an extra egg, bacon, and toast? That was too much.
Mrs. Troublefield’s hand hovered. "Would you like an orange?" Her voice cracked. Allister could avoid the possible apocalypse that awaited for an extra ten cents. He could afford it easily. But...he just did not want an orange.
He shook his head to indicate "no" and said what he wanted to believe, "I'm not supersticious." And a funny thing happened. The second after he finished the sentence, Allister actually believed it. To hell with superstition. He just wanted a plain coffee, a muffin, and eggs, bacon, and toast. No god-damned oranges. No disrespect to the Troublefields (who were anything but), of course. But, Allister felt you had to live your life free or die your life imprisoned. And he was always for the living free (and not just because it was more grammatically correct).
Allister thanked the Troublefields and, as an extra kindness towards the Troublefields, asked if he could take his meal to go. The Troublefields answered together with a, “Oh, no trouble at all. No trouble at all.” And, though, they tried to cover it up, there was certainly an air of uncertainty in their voices. But, there was some relief that Allister would not eat the devil's meal in their cafe, This Cafe.
And Allister opened the door and walked into the beams of the day. A changed man. More confident. More pep, perhaps? Yes. Certainly more pep. He sipped his coffee. He bit into his muffin. And he did so with chin raised and with a smile on his face. Everything around him felt warm. Was it the coffee or This Café unexpectedly bursting into flames?
Allister never turned back around to see.