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Short Story 19

Cup of Joe



The bell above the door rings with an old fashion jingle, a quaint silver bell hanging in its path. The man who walked in took no notice of the bell coming or going. He seemed in a low mood; his suit disheveled, dark hair run through till it hung lazily where it fell. Glancing around he saw the environment he had entered for the first time.


A coffee shop, walls were an expresso color, the tables a warm wood with leather seats. There was a homey, earthy scent to the air that elicited a distinct sense of calm. The counter was a crown on the motif, a luxury black expresso machine sat on one side a small, glass stand with a jar full of coffee beans stood beside a vintage cash register on the other. Behind this was a map in calk with different places renowned for their coffee beans, with a frame of small jars of beans squaring it out.


The man approached the counter ringing the shining brass service bell beside the register. A man dressed in black came out from the back. He wore an apron which matched the blindfold bound around his eyes. This person appeared like any barista from an upscale café, hair just so, uniform consisting of a vest and slacks with white pressed shirt. It was only the blindfold that stood out as abnormal.


“May I help you, Sir?” The voice was robust and deep.


Taking out a handkerchief the man in the suit moped his face, a wash of exhaustion. There was no visible menu to choose from. “Do you have a menu?”


“I am afraid we don’t, however if you would like a drink, it will be made to your taste, Sir.”


“Is this some kind of gimmick?”


“No gimmick, Sir, it is just the talent of our café. We know what our patrons want.”


A sigh as shriveling in sound as it felt to the one who made it, “That’s fine then, I’ll try it.”


“If you would please have a seat. It will be just a few minutes.”


The man did as suggested taking a seat facing the counter. The barista turned from him gathering the tools of his trade before his patron, not hampered at all by his lack of sight. A small gooseneck kettle was produced, as well as a burner to heat the water. The boiling process bagun an over glass was retrieved from the counter as well as filter paper. With expert hands the barista formed the cone, placing it in the mouth of the over glass. Going to the calk map he took down a small jar of beans before proceeding to a manual coffee grinder on a table at its base. The popping and crunching of the prepared beans echoed through the silence of the shop with every turn and rotation of the grinder.


Going back to the over glass, he took the kettle pouring some water over the paper filter discarding the water before taking the freshly ground beans pouring them into the dampened paper. It was here that the first bit of water was introduced to the deep brown granules, just enough to dampen them through. They moved against the escaping carbon shifting in the filter as the process began. A few seconds passed before the barista proceeded to pour again, a slender flow of water enveloped the beans, dripping down into the hallow basin below. Gradually, the base of the over glass began to fill with dark black liquid, the warm rich fragrance wreathing and adding to the rich scent of the café.


Finished the barista disposed of the greater mess taking the over glass he poured the contents into a large creamy green porcelain cup. Taking a tray, he placed the over glass and the cup and its saucer on the black surface, bringing it to the man waiting at the table placing the contents of the tray before him.


He mopped his brow glancing at the barista and then the cup. Hesitantly, he took the hot porcelain in his hand leading it to his mouth. Bitter, rich, fruity, with a very subtle sweetness. He had never tasted anything so pure in his life. It drew tears to his eyes. Tears he didn’t understand.


“What is this? It tastes so familiar.”


“This cup of coffee represents your life.” The voice of the barista pleasantly ran out through the room, “Bitter and sweet, rich and mellow.”


The man in the business suit looked up at him now old and gray, a wrinkle to his face, a crepe to his hands.


“The reason it tastes familiar is you came here once before. At that time, I also prepared something for you. That was a cup of life, and its taste was not so different from this one.”


“And this? What cup is this.”


“It is said that at the end of a life people have a chance to reflect upon everything they have done, and everything they have made of themselves. That is what this is.”


“And when I finish… what will happen?”


“You must go.”


“Can I go back?” There was a weary hopefulness in the old face, the man dabbing his cheeks.


“No, you can only go forward from here. And only you can choose the path. But before you finish, is there anything you wish to add to your cup.”


The old man seemed to understand the significance of this, he searched through his mind for a long moment. A smile, like a child’s young, fresh, and new spread the wrinkles from his lips.


“Do you think I could have some milk and honey?”


“Of course, just one moment please.”


The barista left with the tray and upon his return presented a small pitcher of milk and a pot of honey with a ceramic dipper.


“Aren’t you going to put it in?”


“I am afraid that only the person who ordered can add this to their cup, no one can do it for them, but it is never too late to add as long as there is still liquid left.”


There was hesitation at first, as if fear or uncertainty held him back and then he lifted the pitcher adding the milk, the liquid paled becoming a softer brown. From here he lifted the glass top off the honey pot raising the dripper, from the end a long strand of crystal yellow oozed back into its homogony. Taking a spoon offered by the barista the old man caught the tail of the thick congealing liquid allowing it to fill the spoon before replacing the dipper and putting the silver spoon into his cup. Carefully he stirred and still more so he took a sip.


Tears like that of a child spilled from his wide eyes, “How have I gone so long without this taste.”


The barista was no longer wearing his blind fold, gazing on the old man with eyes of an indescribable color, “It is for you to add. Many never know this. Some know it close to their birth. And still others not until the very end. And there are those who know and still never add it.”


From this cup he drank until the very end, “Will those I love taste this?”


“I cannot say, it is for the individual to decide and no one else.”


This idea kept the last bit from traveling to his lips, a shaking timidity causing it to tremble at the bottom of the glass. At last, knowing he could not stave it off he took the final mouthful. There was nothing left to be said. The barista took the cup and saucer, along with cream pitcher, honey pot, and over glass setting them on the black tray.


“It has been a pleasure to serve you Mr. Lee. When you’re ready, just step back through the door.” With that the barista disappeared into the back of the shop.


Mr. Lee stood, a sense of childhood impatience in his knees and joints. He moved to the door taking the handle as if it were something quite precious. And with a smile threw it open, stepping out.


Everyone comes here at some point. Not everyone has the same drink. Not everyone sits in the same chair or chooses to face the counter. The barista is sometimes without his blindfold from the moment a patron walks in and at other times he never takes it off. The motif changes. There are times where it is tea or something else presented. But everyone has to come here, and everyone has to leave, and always when the blindfold covers the baristas eyes, he asks if they would like to add something to their drink. Some say yes and many others say no. And always those who do are anxious to go out and those who don’t are anxious to stay. But everyone who comes in must go out. For that is the way of things.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt: Cup of Joe


Word Count:1500


©DecemberKnight 2022


Special thanks to Joe Kevin Canlas from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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