Jan 17 2002

All I Want is a Cup of Coffee

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Daniel stared at the money in his hand, as the people behind him in line waited impatiently. $2.05. It wasn’t enough.

“God,” he said. “All I want is a cup of coffee … that’s all … after everything, is even just a cup of coffee more than I can have?”

Daniel had, until today, been a happy enough guy. Not perfect, nobody’s ever perfect, but happy enough … he had a good job, a girlfriend he’d met on that job who seemed promising, a car he liked and a nice house. He was what you might call “successful.”

Until today.

This morning, out of the blue, his girlfriend, Joyce, had said, “Daniel, I’m leaving.”

“What?” he’d said. “Why?”

“Well Daniel, to be perfectly honest, I never really liked you. I was only sleeping with you to get ahead at work.”

Daniel blinked as if he’d been shot in the stomach. “You … what? Why?”

“You’re buddy-buddy with Jon K., and I thought if I got in with you, it could get me in with him … and he’d give me a promotion. But I just found out in my e-mail this morning that the promotion went to Cynthia. So I’m screwed. So, since there’s no point in staying with you any more, I’m leaving.”

Daniel couldn’t understand it … this wasn’t Joyce, the charming woman who’d laughed so happily at his bad singing and worse jokes, was it? This was some shapeshifting harpy who’d eaten Joyce and taken her place!

The harpy was still talking. “But, so it shouldn’t be a total loss, I’m going to claim that you promised to get me that promotion in exchange for sleeping with you, and sue you for sexual harassment. You’ll hear from my lawyer.” And she’d walked out.

Daniel had finished getting ready for work that morning in a stupor … he didn’t watch what he was doing, or even think about it. His toast was left neglected in the toaster when it popped, and his coffeemaker bubbled away unnoticed.

Jon K. was waiting in Daniel’s office when Daniel finally managed to get into work. He was tapping a well-dressed foot on the beige carpet. “Daniel,” he said, “we need to talk.”

“Hi, Jon,” said Daniel, listlessly. “Can it wait until I get settled in? I’ve had a rough morning.”

“No, Daniel, it can’t wait.”

Daniel looked up at the tone in Jon K.’s voice.

“Daniel, Joyce has filed a sexual harassment suit against you.”

“But—!”

“This couldn’t come at a worse time for this company, Daniel! We’ve got everything riding on the line, right now; we can’t afford any embarrassment. So I’m afraid you’ve got to go.”

Daniel blinked, again, as if he’d been shot in the stomach.

“But I didn’t DO anything! She was just using me to get—”

“I don’t want to hear about it,” said Jon K. “Your irresponsible behavior may very well cost this company our biggest client, if the press gets ahold of this. I want you to clean out your desk, and be out of here in fifteen minutes.”

Daniel’s shoulders dropped. “Can’t I at least get a cup of coffee first?”

“No.”

So Daniel found a box and dumped all of his personal effects in it, plopped the box into the back of his car, and turned the key.

Click.

No engine.

Click, click, click.

Nothing. Either the battery was dead, or the car was. It had worked fine on the way in; now, nothing.

“What did I DO???” Daniel cried at the interior of the car, but it didn’t answer him. So he pulled out his cell phone to call the auto service, but its battery was dead.

The guard wouldn’t let Daniel back into the building to call the auto service, so he walked half a mile to a convenience store to make the call. Their coffee machine wasn’t working.

He rode back home in the passenger seat of the tow truck, listening to some hate-filled religious zealot on the radio.

“He’s right, y’know,” the driver said. “It’s them jews’ fault; them and the fags and the feminists, all trying to make people forget morality. Oughta just shoot the bastards.”

“Oh yeah,” said Daniel. “I’m sure God would really approve of that.”

A cold feeling settled in Daniel’s stomach as they got into his neighborhood; gray smoke hung in the air, and there were cars and people everywhere. As they turned onto his street, the red-and-white flashing lights told Daniel everything he needed to know.

If fit too well; it was just inevitable.

He got out of the tow truck and staggered past the “Danger — Do Not Cross” tape that surrounded the black mass that had one been his house. A stern man with a bushy moustache approached him. “You the owner of this house?”

“Er … yeah,” Daniel finally managed to say.

“So it was probably you who left the coffee machine on when you left this morning?”

“Yeah,” said Daniel. “It probably was.”

There were forms to fill out by the ream, and half of the information Daniel didn’t know, because he kept it in a file in the house … and that was gone. The driver of the tow truck had cheerfully charged him an extra $150 for making him sit there and wait while Daniel dealt with the fact that his house had burned down.

“Damn, fella!” the driver had laughed. “Can’t you even get a simple cup of coffee?”

It started to rain as Daniel sat on the curb in front of the smoking ruin of his house for an hour, just sat, staring at his inoperable car, letting the water wash over him, wondering what he had left. Everything, no matter how big, no matter how small, was beyond him, now. He would have to start over. He may have cried; he wasn’t sure. The moisture on his face might have been rain instead.

Without putting much thought into it, Daniel stood up, and walked. He walked for 45 minutes, trudging along the side of the road in that slow gait that says, “I’ve got a long way to go, and I’m not going to think about anything until I get there.” He was soaked through, and cold, and feeling half-drowned by the time he reached his destination.

It was a coffeehouse. Amber light glowed through its windows, and its green and white sign had been carefully crafted by some PR person to suggest a kind of exotic culture and sophistication. But the place smelled good, and it was warm, and Daniel went in and stood in line, dripping on the tile floor. When he got to the register, the guy asked what he wanted.

“All I want is a cup of coffee,” he said.

“Okay, that’ll be $3.25.”

Daniel stared at the money in his hand, as the people behind him in line waited impatiently. $2.05. It wasn’t enough.

“God,” he said. “All I want is a cup of coffee … that’s all … after everything, is even just a cup of coffee more than I can have?”

“Let me take care of that,” said a voice behind him. Daniel turned around, to see a strikingly tall man in a long, black coat. The man had startlingly blue eyes, that were deeply wrinkled around the edges, even though the rest of his face seemed young.

“Thanks, mister…” said Daniel.

“In fact, buddy, you look like you’ve had a rough day.” The blue-eyed man turned to the cashier and said, “Give him an extra-large mint mocha, my treat.” He handed the cashier a $5 bill, and said to Daniel, “I won ten bucks on the lotto today; my lucky day, I guess. I figure I ought to share my good fortune with somebody.”

Daniel couldn’t even begin to say anything. He just stared at the man for a long moment, and then said, “Wow … gee … thanks again.”

“My pleasure,” said the man. “And keep your chin up. You’ll be all right.”

“Yeah, well … I hope so.” Daniel collected his extra-large mint mocha, and found his way to a chair in the corner. He sipped it slowly, feeling its warmth seep down into him, settled back into the chair, and smiled.

Okay. He had a cup of coffee. He could at least do that much. He would build from there.

Outside, nobody seemed to notice when the blue-eyed man removed his coat, letting bright, white-feathered wings stretch out free, and kicked off into the sky.

-The Gneech

©2002 by John “The Gneech” Robey, all rights reserved

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