When Mack first moved into the apartment building he was the only one on his floor. The apartment wasn’t new, it had just fallen into ill repute under the former manager. The current management, one Phil Coulson, was slowly rebuilding the old buildings reputation.
It was slow going, which led to most of the building being empty. The building was three stories with six apartments on each level. It was a squat and ugly thing, and the inside wasn't anything to write home about, but the heating and cooling worked, the sink only dripped on Tuesdays, and it was close to the downtown area, and even better , close to Mack’s new coffee shop. It was called Mack’s Coffee Shop. Mack was very smart, and he knew his coffee, but he wasn’t all that good at naming things. Case in point, his goldfish’s name was: Fish.
Mack knew that he was bad at naming things, he accepted it about himself, and had moved on with his life, which consisted off selling coffee and thinking up new ways to make coffee.
It was a simple life, but it was the life that Mack had chosen for himself.
It was also a quiet life.
That was, it had been a quiet life. Then, Skye had moved next door and she had a million dogs. Mack had tried to count them, but after ten he decided that was too many dogs and he had retreated back into his apartment.
They had briefly met when Skye was moving in, but Mack did not have the time to stop and chat that day as he was already running late to open up the shop. Skye had been struggling under a heavy box that was threatening to tip over down the stairs. Mack reached out a hand to steady it and introduced himself, before having to dash down the stairs to catch the bus on time.
Since then, they had managed to miss each other. All he knew about her was that her name was Skye and she had a million dogs and she was a fan of Alanis Morissette, who she played at high volume at all hours of the day and night. Mack thought about filing a complaint with the building manager, and then shook his head at himself.
"You are a grown ass man, Mack, go talk to her," he said to himself before making his way to her door. She lived across the hall, which did cut the noise down some, but he couldn’t help but wonder how she hadn’t burst an ear drum with how loud it was.
He knocked on her door, steeling himself for the confrontation.
The volume of the music got noticeably lower as she yelled towards the door, “Coming in just a second!”
She opened the door with a smile, “Hey, Mack! Long time no see, wanna hang out?”
"What, no. I just wanted to ask you to turn down the music? It’s a little loud."
"Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry about that. I forget that other people are around me, it’s my first time in an apartment, you know." Skye seemed genuinely sorry. "Can I at least get you a beer, to make up for it?"
Mack was surprised at how welcoming she was. He had lived in the city for so long that easy interaction was foreign to him. Everyone was on edge from living so close to people that they disliked. Not one of his neighbors had ever just invited him in like this.
"Sure? I mean, if that’s not a bother." He decided to offer her an out. Of course, she hadn’t realized her faux pas.
"Nah, man, it’s no bother! Come on in!"
Skye stepped back and let him in and there was not a single dog to be seen.
Mack craned his neck, surreptitiously around the corner that separated the bedrooms from the main rooms. “So, uh, all the dogs are down for the night?”
Skye popped around the corner with two beers and confused smile. “I don’t own any dogs.”
Mack just looked at her, “Okay, so that small army of dogs you have every morning is what? An extensive hallucination?”
Skye laughed, “Oh, no. Those aren’t my dogs. I’m a dog sitter/walker/carer/groomer. Actually, I should probably figure out an actual title for that.” She whipped out her business card. In black, across, the top was the name of her company: Skye Walker.
Mack laughed out loud at that. “You know, I wish I could think up a name like that. I named my coffee shop Mack’s Coffee Shop.”
"Well, at least no one will wonder who the owner is or what you do there?"
He nodded, “True, but ain’t no one going to laugh about it.”
Skye cleared the remains of what looked like a computer off the couch so they could have a place to sit. “How does someone get into the ‘coffee’ biz anyway? Unless it’s Starbucks, pretty sure those guys are churned out in factories en masse.”
Mack rolled the beer bottle between his palms, “I went to MIT, decided I hated it there, and ran off to fulfill my boyhood dreams of being a barista.”
Skye nodded along, though the idea of someones life long dream being to serve coffee was weird she didn’t feel she had room to talk since she was a glorified dog walker.
Mack laughed again, “Nah, I’m just kidding. I inherited the coffeeshop from my uncle. It seemed like a good stop before I figured out what I actually wanted to do. Well, it’s been three years, and I love it still. Might stay a bit, you know.”
"Oh, man, I wish I was doing what I loved. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs but I don’t want to walk them for the rest of my life."
He gestured around them, to the veritable sea of electronics surrounding them, “Is that what this is?”
She picked up a circuit board she had tossed aside. “Yeah. I like this stuff. Well, I understand this stuff. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up.” She sighed and put it to the side, “Look at me, getting all mopey with a couple beers. I’m sorry, it’s just been a long day. I lost control of my dogs, and they trampled this lady, and she was so nice about it but I still feel awful.”
Mack slouched against the couch, “I feel you. Today, I had this short, frizzy little guy come in cursing about the Starbucks down the road. I thought for sure he was one of those crazy people who shoots up entire,” he waved his hands, “I dunno, block or something. It put me on edge the whole day. That’s why I came over here to yell at you about the music.”
Skye tinked her bottle against his, “Here’s to beers at the end of long days.”