Caramel Coffee

Patrick Dwyer

He sat at that table with his suit and tie and watched the barista mix another goddam coffee for another "guest". Maybe barista is the wrong word, he thinks, yeah, I think you can only be a barista if you work at Starbucks. He sips his iced caramel coffee and stares at a blank proposal due in no more than three hours to his ungrateful and faceless, slightly overweight middle manager.

Speaking of slightly overweight, he pinched his belly under the little table with the chess board print no one ever used. Eyelids heavy and burning he rocked back and forth before he realized he must look like a loon and stopped. Melissa, his cubicle neighbor, said this was the spot. Like it was enchanted by some kind of powerful ju-ju, he could get his work done here. Hell, the figures were in front of him, all he needed to do was put them into order. Of course his crumpled, wrinkled wreck of a suit spoke to how he felt about organization and "order".

Maybe everyone would turn into Rhinoceroses, he thought, and then I wouldn't have to do this shit. Jesus, he realized, that was the last date he had had, watching a college production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros and thinking how wonderful it would be to bring a goddam bomb into work. He fucked her that night. It was pretty good.

Blushing, pants tightening, his eyes fixated again on the screen in front of him. This caramel coffee sucked as much as the last one did, still, it wasn't as bad as the one at Starbucks. How could all these retards fuck up caramel?

The clicking of a pretentious d-bags laptop keys stays rhythmically erratic, he rocks again and hears people's mocking thoughts, why is that man rocking mommy, because he's a pedophile dear, stay away from him. He's rabid. Why do so many people order foamy drinks- the sound is maddening. Clicking, clacking, cackling calamity. Holy talent-less writer Batman this fucker won't stop.

Rocking, foaming, clicking, clacking, don't pound so hard on the spacebar asshole, he's a raving loon dear, stay away form that man, my God does anyone else hear this!

He slams his laptop shut, shoves papers into the briefcase, and loosens the corporate noose around his neck.

The world has not changed, but it's far less audible.

The doors open and three loud-mouth teenagers amble into the bookstore.

"No more coffee for me," he whispers to no one in particular. Packing up his things he decides a walk around the store would do some good. Relieve some of this excess energy.

The bookstore is as bookstores are, hallowed in a way, more quiet than most places, save those teenagers playing catch with a stuffed animal. A worker, some college kid making ends meet so he can finish up an all but useless philosophy degree looks at them with disdain. Kind of funny really. Then again, the man thinks, I look at college kids like this one with same sort of look. One part disdain, one part dismissal, and three parts underlying jealousy.

He stood in this bookstore eight short years ago; he bought an ACT prep book with the little earned stocking shelves at the now-closed local grocery. He didn't drink, didn't have a car, but still had less money the rich pricks in the area. Blowing up the office building grew more tempting by the second. But then he'd have to learn about explosives, gather the materials, plan it all out, because jail clearly wasn't an option.

Banal is always preferable to unwelcome anal.

Somewhere amidst the murk and mire of senseless pseudo-cathartic thoughts the man wandered into the religion and spirituality section. Hundreds of books on Christianity, dozens on the rest of the world's religions, and one copy of a Necronomicon. He laughed out loud, one the three teens gave him a look and the man shrugged.

"What's so funny?" She had red streaks in her blonde hair, blue eyes and black lipstick. Again he blushed, dirty old man.

"Nothing, just a book," he pulled it out and showed it to her.

"Necronomicon? Never excepted it from a nark like you."

Good God, she called him a nark, he wanted to take her here and now. But she couldn't have been more than fifteen, and even if she were eighteen, how would that look? What if the people from work found out? Kiss that potential promotion goodbye. "Nark? I didn't know kids still said that."

"Kids?" Even her smile teased.

"Yeah, what are you, sixteen?"

"Nineteen." His heart grew three times it's size, like some sort of perverted Grinch.

"Bullshit." Reason still had some sway.

"What is that book about anyway?" She changed the subject.

He sighed, for a moment he had hoped, "There's, well, there's a lot of necrinomicons out there, they all claim to hold spells for various things. When I was a kid, like you, my friends and I used to read them and act out some of the stupid rituals. It was all BS, but," he put the book back in its place and, straightening his tie, he said, "That was a long time ago."

"How old are you?" She asked.

"Nineteen." He lied.

"Bullshit," she slipped her hand in his back pocket, he jumped, and she came back with a wallet. "Mark Rendal, twenty-three, oh and lookie here, you're from the city."

"Give it back."

She smirked and took a step back.

"You kept your college ID?"

"Give. It. Back." He tried to snatch the wallet from her hand, but she slipped around him. Cornering her between religion and politics, he reached again for the wallet and got a handful of taut backside.

She leaned in and whispered, "Maybe I should scream."

"Maybe you should," He whispered back reflexively.


WhatamIdoingwhatamIdoingwhattheFUCKamIdoing, his mind raced with his heart and she dropped the wallet.

"Colleen!" Someone shouted. The man and the teenager separated, no one had seen them in their back of the store facing corner, between politics and religion.

She smiled less seductively, her eyes filled with a light of innocence not there before. She all but skipped off and joined her friends. He thought for sure the whole thing had been a prank of some kind, but they did not turn back, did not snicker, simply got in line, bought books, and left with the same energy with which they came.

"What the fuck just happened?" He asked no one. Sitting on the carpet the man, Mark, poured over the contents of his wallet. Nothing was missing, his credit cards, bank cards, picture of his ex, money, receipts, driver's license, work ID, College ID, and... wait. His high school ID was gone.

There was no reason to have it anymore anyway, what did it matter if she took it? He organized everything again, stood up, straightened out, and sat back at the coffee shop. In two hours he collated the data, made fantastic graphs, and crafted a fantastic PowerPoint which he promptly sent to his overweight middle manager.

The pretentious bastard still pounded away on his keyboard, punishing it, slamming the space bar. Mark laid the necronomicon in front of him and remembered a time when, for a moment, his friends thought they actually made something happen. They finished an incantation and the lights went out. In truth, he knew it was his friend James's mom playing a trick on them. He saw her as she sneaked back upstairs. Either way, it was the same feeling. Maybe, he thought, it would have been better if something happened.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790