I’ve never been happier to see someone walk around a corner than when Mikhel finally arrived at the reopening of Floggin’ Brews.
Boss ran around the corner first and, uncharacteristically, jumped into my arms when I, not uncharacteristically, held them out. I told Her “I missed You too” as I gave Her a big hug. And then Mikhel appeared, leaning on his cane, and looking more surprised than I’d ever seen him.
Of course, I’d rarely seen him surprised.
Brita had been tasked with leading a cheer when Mikhel appeared, though I don’t think anyone needed much encouragement. The crowd was mostly “the regulars” from before the Great Pandemic Shutdown, as I’d started to think of it. But there were some new folks too, and there were people I’d invited from the neighboring businesses, including the co-op where Brita worked. They’d volunteered to supply granola & yogurt for breakfast, though I think they were a bit surprised at the size of the group. But it didn’t matter – Nick took it upon himself to serve everyone whatever they wanted from his food truck. And while I love the co-op’s locally-sourced yogurt, it has nothing on Nick’s blueberry lemon pancakes.
I’d heard from a lot of people when Mikhel was hospitalized with Covid-19. Some of them were just worried about the venue – the Theater is a well-regarded party location. But most were worried about Mikhel. Almost everyone told me a story about how they’d been the beneficiary of a kind word, or a favor, that helped them through a difficult moment. And absolutely everyone had a story about Mikhel suggesting a new beer that was perfect.
So it made sense to invite them all to the Grand Reopening of Floggin’ Brews. It was enormously gratifying when almost everyone showed up, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I mentioned that Nick’s truck would be there.
I knew it was cheesy, but I couldn’t help myself when I first saw him. “Welcome back to Floggin’ Brews, Mikhel Kivi, where everybody knows your name!” The crowd cheered and Mikhel was clearly speechless. Which was a first.
Mikhel was soon surrounded by fans and well-wishers, and I made sure that Mercy took him by the arm and got him inside and in a chair next to the bar so he could greet folks without having to stand up. Mercy & I got busy behind the bar. I suspected we were going to be busy, so I’d given Brita her own station which was clearly labeled “Amazing Nonalcoholic Drinks Only!”
At some point, Mikhel wanted to get behind the bar to help out. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I told Brita to keep a close eye on him. After about an hour he was clearly tired, so I sent someone to get him a bite to eat from Nick’s, and used that to lure him into the office.
Mikhel sat behind the desk with a little “oof” of contentment. I frowned instinctively. He looked up at me over his glasses. “What’s that look for?”
“You’re not complaining that you aren’t tired. It has me worried.”
“Ha! Well, perhaps I’ve gotten wiser. And perhaps I just wanted to enjoy this caramel roll in peace. Would you like a bite?”
The roll was as big as my head. “Sure, I’ve got time for a bite.” After all, I’d be saving him from some of that sugar, right?
I picked the stack of paperwork out of the other chair and sat down. “There are a few things for you to look through.” I handed Mikhel the stack. “There are some contracts that need to be renewed, a list of breweries that are new or have closed, a couple of resumes, that kind of thing.” The piece Mikhel handed me on a napkin was bigger than a bite, but I decided I wouldn’t argue about that.
Mikhel waved a hand at the pile. “What do you think?”
”About what?” I bit into the caramel roll. “I think I’m going to have a sugar high off this thing. Yum.”
”About all of it. What do we need to change around here? What do we need to order? Who do we need to hire?”
“We need a wider variety of nonalcoholic beverages, and we need to hire at least two people. And we need someone to be in charge of social media and scheduling.”
“Ok, do that. Is there anything else I should know?”
I pulled a sheet out of the stack. “This. It’s in Estonian, I think, and it was in the mail a couple days ago. No idea what it is.”
Mikhel took the sheet, and his expression changed. “Yes, that’s Estonian. I’ll take a look. After the roll.” He flashed me a smile. I took that as a dismissal, and headed back to the bar.
By lunchtime, most of the early crowd had gone, but there was still a steady trickle of people stopping in for a beer and a bite to eat. Six munches had been scheduled, including 2 new groups. We’d run out of Floggin’ Brews t-shirts in size medium and size large, and Boss had retreated to the office to catch a nap.
After reappearing, Mikhel had pulled his weight behind the bar. Brita had fussed over him, but he waved off her concerns, and eventually sent her off to get some fresh cream from the co-op for Boss.
“We have plenty of cream in the walk-in,” I reminded him after Brita left.
“I know.” He pushed his glasses up his nose. “She just wanted so much to be helpful, I thought I’d give her something to do other than hover. Besides, Boss likes the organic stuff.”
“How are you doing? It’s been a long morning – I’m tired and I’m not recovering from covid.”
“Ach, I’m fine. Nick’s food has remarkable restorative properties, you know.”
“So I’ve heard. But we need you here for the long haul. Don’t go wearing yourself out on the first day.”
Mikhel gave me a look. “It would wear me out much faster not to be here.”
I started to object, but thought better of it. And then the three moderators of the “For Starters” group came in to say hi and ask about scheduling munch, and when would parties start? I left Mikhel chattering with them as I wiped down the far end of the bar, where a pizza had recently been devoured by happy but messy patrons. I realized he was right – he was right where he needed to be to recover. And so was I.