The Clay and Tay Cafe.

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By Spoopyro
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“Did you not hear him!? He said there wasn’t anywhere else we could get a lease!”

“Yes Tay, I heard him…but you are being a little loud.”

“I’m what-? Oh…”
Tay turned behind her to see everyone who was waiting in the town hall lobby staring at her through the half-open doors of the mayor’s office.

“Um, sorry…” she called back to the room with a gentler tone, before facing the desk in front of her yet again.

Tay dropped back into the creaky cushioned chair she had frustratedly jumped out of a few seconds earlier. She slouched forward, her fists on her pouting cheeks as she blew a lock of her short pink hair out of her eyes. From the next chair over, a tall, blonde young man reached a hand over and rubbed her shoulder. The mayor, who had stayed silent through her small outburst, looked over the map they had printed out for their discussion. A slew of red Xs dotted the page, marking down rejected locations all over the tiny mountain town of Stonebank.  

With a population of less than 2,000, news traveled fast when the townspeople first heard wind of a new couple moving into the neighborhood. Visitors were rare, and new residents even rarer, though the news quickly turned to rumors once their identities were made clear. The rustic town bristled at the idea of the lively and bright-eyed Tay and Clay, with their dreams of opening a café, staking a claim in the old-fashioned community. “Great, a hipster coffee shop. I’m sure that’s EXACTLY​​ we need here.” “They’re just letting those punks run around on our streets?”
“Did you SEE what she did to her hair? That boy doesn’t look any better either; looks like he hasn’t seen a barber in months.”

The complaints didn’t last long past opening day of The Rosegarden Café, however. Tay Sheehan’s loud style and appearance hid a true passion for hospitality, and she would constantly manage to strike up lively conversation with her patrons. Meanwhile, any jokes to be cracked at the ridiculous sight of Clay Kelly’s bulky frame hunched over some delicate pastries were quickly silenced once the population got their first tastes of the results. The establishment was a smash hit, becoming a regular hangout for people from all corners of town, and was almost guaranteed to be lively and packed during every breakfast and lunch that they served. Business was booming, and the two young lovers were able to live comfortably in a small apartment just above where they worked.

Two years passed, novelty became a tradition, and The Rosegarden, alongside its owners, gained a level of respect as if they had been there for decades. All seemed well, until a faulty wire sparked a fire in the café basement. By the time it reached the upper floors, the two had managed to get out, along with most of their valuables, but the blaze wasn’t put out in time. The young couple soon found themselves safe, but also jobless and homeless.

The local inn was happy to comp them a room the first week, and a fundraiser for a new location was pulled together by a large number of people who didn’t want to see their favorite café leave forever. A meeting was penciled in with town hall to discuss potential locations for the its potential revival, but the meeting quickly revealed some unfortunate truths. Not a single existing building was for sale, and the town had seemingly been stretched as geographically wide as it possibly could; being tightly tucked between a wide stream, a dense thicket of forest, and the sheer rock face of one of the many nearby mountains.  

The mayor sighed, readdressing the two in front of him.  
“I truly wish there was something we could do, but the best I can offer is my sincerest hopes that you find as much success wherever you may take your business as you did here. I’ll be the first to say that not being able to stop by for your fantastic breakfasts will be a tremendous loss for the whole town.”  

Never one to forget a regular, Tay responded nearly automatically with a nod.
“Egg, bacon, and cheddar sandwich with a cinnamon tea every Tuesday and Thursday- plus an extra apple tart if you’re feeling festive. Look, we know you’re trying to help- we’re just frustrated at how this is all playing out. We don’t want to have to leave such a wonderful place like Stonebank either. Is there really just nowhere else we can squeeze in? What about…” Tay scanned the map, desperately looking for anywhere that hadn’t been specifically denied by the red pen. She happened upon a vacant plot on the very edge of town, the closest location to the local stream. “…here? Right next to the stream? It doesn’t look like anything’s there, and it seems like its big enough to fit a café. Would that work?”  

“Hmm…possibly. It certainly seems unoccupied; hold on, let me check the records…” The mayor motioned to stand, presumably to check the filing cabinets, but stopped himself short. “…oh…I apologize…I just realized where that was.” He took a pause and readjusted his glasses. “I know you both haven’t been here too long; I assume nobody has told you the superstitions surrounding the stream that runs nearby?”
Tay and Clay exchanged glances, not quite sure how they were supposed to take what was being told to them. A superstition was something this town took seriously enough for the mayor himself to make note of?  

“Can’t say I have. Clay, did you ever hear anything about it?”
Clay shook his head.
“Nope, nobody’s ever mentioned anything to either of us.” Tay responded.
“Well, without going too much into the history of it, a lot of the older families that first settled here would often pass down tales about witchcraft being practiced in the nearby woods. Ghost stories to spook their kids- keep them from wandering off and such. The stories got pretty ingrained over time as the town grew, and one of them specifically mentions that creek: ‘anyone who inhabits these banks shall become one with the earth itself’- at least I think that’s the wording. I don’t really believe it myself, but I’d imagine you might find yourself hard-pressed to find the locals to be willing to-”
“WE’LL TAKE IT!” Tay interrupted, slamming her palms excitedly down on the desk, and the map that lay on it.  

“What? Weren’t you listening?”
“Nope! But hey, whether or not there even IS some kind of spell over there, I feel like a café is just what’s needed to get people out in that direction. Plus, I can’t imagine cursed land costing that much! That’s good with you, right Clay?”
Clay gave a thumbs up.
“Well, if you’re sure, I’m certain you won’t run into much competition to get it. I’ll forward you to the people who can help get you started.”
Tay startled the mayor with a hug. “Thank you so much! In just a few months, we’ll get The Rosegarden up and running again for certain!”

“This should be the last trip, right Clay?”
Tay stood on the top stair of a narrow staircase, perilously balancing three small suitcases in her arms. Clay stood at the bottom, carrying a load just as large, if not larger. From outside, the familiar beeping of a vehicle backing up could be heard, but for the first time in weeks, the sound came from a moving van driving off, rather than any type of construction equipment.

Three months had passed since the small plot of land had practically been given away by the town authorities, who were overwhelmingly happy to finally get it off of their hands. Using every scrap of savings they had, construction started and finished on a tiny, two story building by the edge of the water. After the inn could no longer support their stay, they had rented out a guest room a local family offered up for fairly cheap while the construction wrapped up. Various townsfolk did voice their concerns about visiting an establishment located on such superstition-rich grounds, but the couple’s enthusiastic, if not slightly bullheaded, confidence in their new location convinced people to give it a shot. The new location was smaller than the old one, only fitting four very snuggly arranged tables and a seated counter, but while they technically didn’t own the space to the side of the building, it was unlikely anyone would raise any complaints about some extra outdoor seating.  
“Mhm, these are the last ones.” Clay called back up.

It had been a long day. Hours were spent loading and unloading heavy furniture and equipment from early in the morning until the later parts of the night. The kitchen equipment was sorted by noon, the furnishings for the apartment above by five, and by ten, they were finally done. Unpacking and unsorting the bare minimum amount of things needed to get to bed, the lights of the tiny building were out by ten-thirty as the two lay on a hastily made bed.  

“Pretty sure if there was actually a curse here, we just triggered it. You worried?”
Tay was met by snoring. Clay had went out cold the moment he dropped to the mattress
“Heh, you got the right- *yawn* -idea there…I’m wiped.” She gave Clay a kiss on the forehead. “See you in the morning, dear.”

With that, Tay wedged herself further under the covers, wrapped one arm over her boyfriend’s shoulder, and fell into a deep sleep.

Two Weeks Later

Tay opened her eyes as she lay, uncovered and unclothed, on the bed. A quick look through the now-furnished apartment over to the beeping alarm clock showed that it was 4:30 in the morning. The half of the mattress next to her was empty; Clay must have already gotten to work.  
Despite her level of exposure, she wasn’t terribly concerned. It wasn’t like she had any indecent parts to cover up; in fact, she hardly had any parts to speak of at all. Her face was the only vaguely recognizable feature left intact upon a goopy pile of what looked like lightly-tanned dough, stretched thin and brushing off in small strands, as if she had just been coiled around something that had since left. Seemingly unconcerned with her general lack of shape, the mass began to stir as Tay’s clay-like body began to pull back together. While it was certainly nice to lay loose and relaxed, she had a café to run.  

The curse of Stonebank Creek, for as incredibly real and potent as it turned out to be, only managed to delay the opening of the new Rosegarden Café by about a day. While two flesh-colored puddles were freaking out in the upstairs bedroom after their first night sleeping there, the first customers eager to get their first tastes from the new location were horrified to see the storefront vacant, and immediately feared the worst- that is, until the café opened back up without a hitch the next day. People walking by the building once again the next day were startled to see both owners back behind the counter, pulling pastries out of the oven, pouring coffees, and generally acting as if nothing had changed.

But they had changed. The magic that had been rooted in the small patch of land had seeped into their bodies, changing them from top to bottom, inside and out. What was once
skin, bones, and all the messy stuff in between became a single substance, melding together into soft, squishy, malleable clay. Tay and Clay were understandably startled by this, but it only took a few hours acclimation to realize that this so-called curse was anything but. Using their new shapeable, flexible bodies, they could not only continue running the café, but do so better then they ever had before.  

The customers were of course surprised when they first saw the people serving them stretching and changing shape with little warning. But once they saw that the friendly smiles and warm service, not to mention the quality of the food, of the two were unchanged, the town easily grew an acceptance, and even a bit of admiration, for their newfound powers. After all, who wouldn’t want to gain the ability to mold their body into any shape, fall in to any number of pieces, and be completely unaffected by the knicks, bumps, and scratches of everyday life? One particularly brash customer tried stowing away in the café overnight as a means to receive the same transformation for themselves, but it seemed as if the magic had been spent in its entirety on the two owners; the long-standing curse was gone, and the building by the creek was simply a building, albeit one with two extraordinary residents.

Having reformed into a human shape, with her pink bob of hair having returned to its spot atop her head, Tay walked over to the adjacent bathroom in order to step into the shower. She turned the tap to its hottest setting, plugged the drain, and let the steamy water run over her. Heat held a significant sway on their bodies, and she soon felt the initial drips of her own body running in small streams alongside the water. She began to puddle on the bottom the basin, spreading even thinner and softer than she had been on the bed. After letting the tap run for five minutes, her own liquid form began to lap in waves on the rim of the tub, threatening to spill over, so she decided that she should probably move on with her routine. With the very last traces of her solidity, Tay pulled the shower plug, and felt her body get sucked down into the piping below, her entire shape squeezed into a narrow tube that twisted and turned between the walls and floors of the building, before falling back into the open air as she poured out of an opened pipe in the broom closet, collecting into a bucket that had been intentionally placed to collect her gooey mass.  

While her form settled and her face slowly drifted up to her surface, she saw Clay enter the room, holding out a change and clothes and an apron, while he himself was dressed in the same. Given their new bodies, clothing tended to be more of a hindrance than anything as it prevented them from getting too inventive with their shapechanging, but while Stonebank’s residents were fairly accepting of having two clay people wandering the town, two ​naked clay people might just be pushing it a little too far.

“Aww, look at you, up already and on top of it; sorry for sleeping in! Just put them down next to me and I’ll get started as soon as I cool down and firm up.”

Clay did just that, then stepped out of the room in a rush, likely already juggling the preparation of at least half a dozen batches of various breads and pastries over in the kitchen. A few minutes later, a fully dressed Tay silently slid the closet door open and squeezed both her head and a stretchy neck through the finger-width gap, sneaking a long selfish glance at her boyfriend. His transformation into clay hadn’t lessened her attraction to him in the slightest, and while both of their general lack of certain anatomical parts made some aspects of their romance more difficult to say the very least, it made the cuddles even cuddlier, so in the end they chalked it up as a plus.

A beeping of a truck outside bought her back to her senses and reminded her that she was still at work. Slipping fully out the closet, she headed out to the back door into the dark early morning to meet the milk truck that had stopped just outside.

“Morning Tay! How are thing going?”

“Going well, and yourself?”

“Certainly can’t complain; you ready or-?”

“Oh! Sorry, let me just…” Tay concentrated for a moment as her body began to change. Her arms drooped longer, reaching down to the pavement as the hands at their ends pressed together and molded into a large sheet. “Alright- ready!”

Tay let out a giggle as the milkman took a few heavy crates of milk bottles and begun stacking them on Tay’s impromptu flatbed cart. It had taken a fair few attempts and forms, with multiple flattenings coming as a result, but she had finally gotten down a system that allowed her to carry the heavy orders of milk into the café while Clay focused on the baking.  

“Man, that still kind of catches me off guard whenever I see one of you two do that kind of thing. Speaking of, I haven’t gotten a chance to speak to Clay since you took his place doing this; has he mentioned if he’s still up for bowling? I know we made plans before all…this…happened, so is he still planning on…?”

“Oh, he still is! You should have seen him last night; he was doing some practice rolls and kept on flinging his arm off across the room! I’m sure he’ll be fine though, he got the hang of it in the end.”
“Awesome! Tell him I said hi!”

“Will do!”

Forming little wheels on the sides of her merged-together hands, she carted the stack of milk crates inside, laying them right next to the walk-in refrigerator. But instead of immediately going and putting them in, she instead walked over to the oven, which was now lined with several sheets worth of deliciously-browning pastries. Tay stood in perfect bliss, letting the heat and aromas radiating from the oven wash over her. No matter how long she and Clay would be together, she doubted she would ever get tired of the wonderful things he was able to do in the kitchen. Even now, she would likely not be able to resist helping herself to a sample once they finished baking; her mouth might literally melt off her face for a while as a result, but a fresh, warm muffin was more than a fair trade for it.

After a few more seconds, she could start feeling the small pinpricks of her own body beading up into droplets as the heat took its toll. Having gotten what she came to the oven for, she walked her slowly dripping self back to the stack of milk crates, opened the fridge, and began layering the crates inside one at a time as fast as she could. Such precautions to prevent stiffening up to the refrigerated cold were probably a bit overkill, but all it took was one early closing due to Clay accidentally shattering across the freezer floor to make them want to play it safe.

With the shelves stocked and Clay having taken the first batch of muffins out of the ovens out with a VERY long set of metal tongs, the cafe was almost ready to open. An hour later, just as Tay was just finishing setting up the display case, the first customers started trickling in, looking forward to some warm drinks and tasty treats to liven up their morning.

The café floor was soon abuzz as people shuffled in and out, never leaving a seat open for long. Tay got drinks out faster than ever; poring, frothing, and brewing with six extra arms that sprouted from her sleeves. She knew she could possibly go faster, molding herself even more hands for even lighter work, but the concentration needed for that was more than she could get a manage, especially since her head was currently making rounds across the tables on a long neck, chatting up her customers and taking orders.  

Clay, meanwhile, was running the cash register now that the bulk of the baking was done, helping out the customers who were in a rush and needed things to-go.  

“Your total is ​€4.45, madam.”

“Alright, here’s a five and a- huh? Did you drop your prices recently?”  

“We did, ever since we opened this new one and got these powers.”

“How come?”

“Well, there are a few things we won’t need to worry about spending that much on anymore; doctor’s visits, lots of tools-”

“-clothes…” Tay said, pressing a playful finger into his cheek as she walked by, carrying a load of empty mugs to the dishwasher on a large, tray-shaped hand. Clay’s face turned a dark red as the costumer couldn’t help but let out a small laugh.

“Well, even so, you guys are worth it. Glad to have you back. Keep the change!”

The rest of the breakfast rush went off without a hitch as the stream of customers tapered enough for the two owners to take turns sneaking a quick break before the lunch rush came through. Service continued more or less the same, just with sandwiches in place of sweets. The doors closed at 4 in the afternoon, leaving Tay and Clay free to finally catch a well deserved break. Clay drove off, meeting with his friends at a pub followed by a round of bowling, while Tay stayed behind and made herself a sandwich of her own using the day’s leftovers before heading out to the woods with a book in hand, wrapping herself around some tree branches to become a hammock, and read until sunset before heading back home.

By 8 at night, Clay came back to the apartment, his entire body slumped over and his arms draped across the floor.

“So tired…”

He opened the door to see Tay already sitting up unclothed in bed, still reading. Taking off his own work clothes, he began to take slow, heavy steps toward the bed. His feet made it halfway, his torso the other half, and only his head made it to the mattress itself, his neck laying across the sheets as his face fell into Tay’s lap. Tay stroked his hair, then twisted his head off his neck to give it a full-bodied hug.

“C’mon big guy, it’s been a long day. Don’t worry about having to wake up so early tomorrow!”

The rest of Clay’s body fumbled around, climbing onto the mattress to wrap Tay up in a hug of his own. Given his previous height, this hadn’t been always the easiest thing to do before their transformation, but nowadays their heights seemed to fluctuate on a near minute-to-minute basis, and usually seemed to naturally even out between the two of them, allowing them to fit perfectly into one another's arms.  

Flicking off the bedside light, they both extended their coiling limbs, wrapping together as the warmth of their bodies under the sheets softened them together. Their loops and spirals around one another swirled about as pale and tanned clay marbled together, falling into a peaceful sleep in each others embrace.  
HECKIN' GREAT STORY written by :iconcones710: 
Please give him a watch he's amazing!
© 2018 - 2020 Spoopyro
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Bonkleton's avatar

This is super cute! I loved it when it first came out, too!

HeraldOfOpera's avatar
As usual, tagging cones710 because the actual author deserves to hear things.

The title has a rather nice ring to it.

Passing the savings on to the customers, huh? Capitalism and morality are inherently at odds, because "making" money is really just gaining someone else's, and you need a lot more safeguards than currently exist to keep people from doing that in a scummy way.

Oh, and on the "doctor's visits" thing: they may be more resilient, but if something goes wrong then they are screwed; with medicine, you're either standing on the shoulders of giants or being trampled by them. Countless lives were lost so that we could learn how to save them.
Spoopyro's avatar
HeraldOfOpera's avatar
Doctors will have no idea where to even begin with them, so they better hope they never get sick.