Tag Archives: coffee

That First Cup of Optimism

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first story of 2016 and so I wanted to make it an upbeat one to set a tone for the year. I wish you the best possible 2016.

This picture is one that was first used about 3 years ago and was my 4th ever Friday Fictioneers story. You can read it here if you want.

FF4 - Jean Hays

copyright Jean Hayes

Jared took his first sip of coffee in 2016. It was instant, but such was life. Even unemployed and confined to the house, he still felt good about the coming year.

He should open his own cafe. It would have to be in his house, and the bank would never give him a loan, of course. Still, Big Dan owed him a favor, after the . . . unpleasantness.

He went for the mail and his ankle bracelet beeped in warning. He looked back at the house and pictured his cafe in his mind, its neon sign welcoming in customers:

The House O’Rest.


Coffee and Writing and Muggings

Last Monday, I wrote a story that only had verbs and adjectives, called Read Run Inspired. People speculated what was happening in the comments and some got pretty close to what I had intended. Here is the full story, with nouns and prepositions and everything.

Sources 1 2 3

Sources 1 2 3

It was my New Year’s resolution this year to never have a full-time job again. That might seem risky but it wasn’t total suicide. The November before, an agent had gotten back to me about a novella I’d written. “Great,” he’d said. “Make it into a full-length novel and I think we’ll be in business.”

So I quit my job. I sold most of my furniture and moved into the back room of my friend Crazy Bob’s coffee shop, eating the bagels and baked good he couldn’t sell during the day. And I sat and drank free coffee and typed as fast as my jittery fingers could.

At least that was the plan. Maybe it was malnutrition or the pressure of having to produce a masterpiece, but everything I wrote sounded stupid. Crazy Bob was sympathetic but I could tell he thought I was stupid, and that’s something, coming from Crazy Bob. I wasn’t stupid, although I was afraid I might get scurvy by the end of the year if people didn’t stop buying all the lemon muffins.

I usually worked in the back where I wouldn’t take up table space, but one day I just kept writing and rewriting the same paragraph and went out front to get some sunlight and coffee. I sat there in an overstuffed chair and sipped my coffee, feeling my brain activity spark back into life.

I was feeling very cozy when a woman came in and walked straight at me. She was dressed like a mugger, or at least what one might be dressed like in a movie. She had a hand stuck in her pocket and it looked like she had a gun.

“Can I help you?” I asked, desperately hoping that I couldn’t.

“Give me all your gold dust,” she said. I didn’t know if this was a euphemism for money or a new kind of drug, but I just froze. She repeated it and moved a step closer.

I’m not a good one for crises. My body flips a fight-or-flight coin and I have no say in the matter. I yelled and threw my cup of coffee in her face. She screamed and fell down and I ran towards the door, leaving my laptop on the table.

“Wait, come back!” she shouted after me. I wasn’t going to fall for that trick. I kept sprinting. She stumbled out of the shop, still wiping coffee off her face, and promptly ran into a light pole. I heard the scream and looked back, still running. It was so comical that I laughed. I turned back around just in time for my nose to collide with the “S” on a stop sign. I shouted something that started with “S” but it wasn’t stop.

I kept running, limping even though it was my nose that was bleeding and apparently broken. The woman kept coming, cursing and shouting for me to stop. I was considering slowing down when I heard a gunshot, which convinced me not to. I was getting tired when I turned down an alley that was blocked by a truck at the far end. I stopped, trapped.

She came into view, scalded, bleeding, and holding a gun. I screamed like a little girl because no one gives out medals to the corpses that died with dignity. She stopped, caught her breath, then gave a little laugh.

“Are you done yet?” she asked.

“Uh, I guess.”

“You run really fast for an unemployed writer,” she said. I waited, not sure how to take that. “I’m Crazy Bob’s cousin,” she said.

I was confused so I just nodded. “He was worried about you,” she continued, “so he asked me to pretend to stick you up and ask for something bizarre, then just leave. He thought it would inspire you in your writing to have a real experience to write about. The gun’s not even real.” She put her hand over the muzzle and pulled the trigger. Sure enough, there was no hole in her hand.

“Are you crazy?” I was just about to begin an epic rant when I remembered whose cousin she was and thought it might not be a rhetorical question after all. I stood for a moment, trying to adjust my mind to not being mugged and murdered and then I started to laugh.

“Sorry about throwing coffee at you,” I said.

“Sorry about your nose.” We both laughed, then waved and limped our separate ways.

I went back and bandaged up my nose. It didn’t seem to be broken, just very sore. I got another cup of coffee and sat down again. The caffeine flowed through my brain and suddenly I started to write.

Thank you, Crazy Bob.


My Barista Loves Me

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Or, if you hate Valentine’s Day, as some people do, happy Jeongwol Daeboreum, which is a Korean holiday celebrating the first full moon of the lunar year.

As a disclaimer, this story is totally fictitious. I only say that because my wife reads my blog and I really don’t want her mad at me on Valentine’s Day.

barista

Her name is Sally, according to her nametag. I’m not saying I’m going to marry her someday, but I’m not saying I’m not either. Let me tell you how it all started.

On the day I met her, my day wasn’t going well. If days were rated by cable news, that one would have been Bad Dayocalypse. I don’t remember why now, I just know I was in the foul mood when I walked into the new Java Bean.

I’ll always remember the first words she said to me: “Can I take your order?” Then she gave me a smile that lifted my spirit to the heavenly realm. It was more than just a polite smile. There was something there.

When she handed me my cafe latte (with another glowing smile), my heart skipped a beat. She had drawn a heart in the cream on top! This girl seriously had a thing for me. Things were moving so fast, but I felt invigorated. The day had gotten a lot better.

Love at first sip.

Love at first sip.

My Barista Loves Me

Our relationship settled into a routine. I went to the Java Bean every day she worked (it took me a week or so to figure that out) and ordered my regular. Almost every time, she would draw a heart in the foam on top. It was like her signal to me that everything was still okay. I used to watch her work, trying not to be jealous when she smiled at other customers. That’s just her job. She has to be polite to them, I would think, over and over. It doesn’t mean anything with them, like it does with me.

Then came the day I happened to walk by the counter as she was giving another customer his coffee. There was a heart drawn on his too! It was almost too much for me. Had everything she had done for me been a sham? No, of course not, but was her love for me waning now? I couldn’t go back to the Java Bean for a couple days, but when I did, she smiled at me as always. I was tempted to say something cutting, but I didn’t. When I got my coffee, it had a string of three little hearts on top and all my anger melted. It was like this was her apology to me.

coffee three hearts

These days, we’re like an old married couple. I love our banter as she’s taking my money or making the coffee. “Cold weather today, eh?” I say. “Sure is,” she replies. Is that just like her? Boy, I love her.

I’m not sure if this has a future or not, but for now I’m just taking it slow. Still, no matter what happens, I know my barista loves me.


A Cup of Music and a Slice of Fiction

Do you have certain music you always listen to when you are reading or writing—music that seems to go perfectly with the words on the page? Music can be important for framing the mood of a story. A friend of mine, Miles Rost, is very interested in the relationship between music and fiction. He has recently started a blog called Music and Fiction where he melds songs into his stories. Check it out.

cup of music

Also, in honor of him, I am announcing the next story in my Open Prompts series, which admittedly has been on hold for a while. In the past, I asked people to give me story elements that I used to write a story.

However, for this one, I’m asking you to suggest a song name in the comments, with a link to it on Youtube. Anything with English lyrics is fine—go nuts. I will write a story using at least one quote from each of the songs, linking the song to the quote, so you can tell where it is. If you suggest a song, I’ll credit you in the post.

I’ll take the first five song suggestions that I get and post my story on Friday. If you’re up for it, write a story using the same set of songs. Post your story any time, but send me a link so I can read it.


The Perfect Cup – Friday Fictioneers

Another story for the Thursday Friday Fictioneers. Here are other people’s stories based on this picture.

Copyright Jean Hays

Copyright Jean Hays

“The secret to perfect coffee is time and sunlight,” Roald said. His gaze bordered on manic. “Put beans and water outside and the sunlight slowly coaxes out the coffee’s spirit.”

“Sun coffee?” I asked, unimpressed.

“I also play music for the brew. Piano, some harp. I talk to it, and sing. Here’s the result.” He produced a small jar and an eyedropper. “Try it.”

I took a sip, then gulped down the whole thing as my brain fireworked. “This is heavenly,” I gasped. “Is there any more?”

“I’ll get right on that,” he growled. “Call me again in twelve years.”


Keeping on Nano-ing Along

Well, I’m not dead yet. It’s going really well, actually. Nano, that is. I just passed 30,000 words today and although I’m not entirely sure how everything is going to turn out at the end, the story shows promise, especially for a second draft.

First Lines

In the spirit of my Monday post on first lines in literature, here is a first line from my Nano novel. It’s not the first line of my novel, but instead it is the first line of a 19th century novel that the characters find that sheds some light on their particular situation. I’m not saying it is a particularly good first sentence, since it’s not necessarily supposed to be, but it is what it is.

“In that long forgotten corner of Byzantium, where once was known and forgotten much of the lore of elder days, stood the great pile of stone, grey and rough-hewn, and in front of it the man himself, the wizard, the sorcerer of living flesh who struck and molded that mind of slave imprisoned, keeping it alive for all his dire purpose.” Heinrich Finster, Travels by Darklight.

Nano Tradition

This is my seventh year doing Nano and over the years I’ve developed various traditions surrounding it. I usually work in coffee shops, since I work better there than at home, and since it’s the season for mandarin oranges in Korea, I usually eat a lot of those while I’m writing. Here is a picture of one of my favorite coffee shops near our house.

I like this coffee shop since it’s the only one I know of that lets you sit at low tables on the floor. It’s a very cozy place to work. I also now have an official Nanowrimo mug, if I want a lot of coffee, that is. It holds 500 ml of coffee. I made it myself (mostly). When I drink from it, it makes me feel like a Viking warrior and the word “quaff” comes to mind.

韓國 means “Korea”

Do you have any special things you do when you write? Do you always write in the same place? Let me know in the comments.


A Morning Cup of Danger

A wise man once said that danger is like a fine wine but to Brad it was more like strong coffee: it was a good way to wake up in the morning.

He had recently given up coffee for the same reason an alcoholic gives up keg stands or a gambler gives up Las Vegas: a total lack of moderation. He would drink four cups before work, six cups during work and another four to six cups after work. After a while, he got the impression that this was probably not the healthiest habit—something about the way his doctor kept shouting it at him.

Quitting coffee cold turkey was like eating a grenade: painful and messy. Three days later, Brad’s head pounded like a pile driver, and he felt drugged on the way to work.

“How have you been doing these days, post coffee?” Brad’s co-worker Terrence asked. Brad looked up hopefully; he had only heard the word “coffee”.

“Urghh…” he said finally.

“If you want to really wake up, you should ride in my carpool,” Terrence said. “Sid the janitor insists on driving most of the time, and riding with him is like taking a rollercoaster with no seatbelts. It’s scary, is what I’m saying.”

“Do you think I could?” Brad asked. “Ride in your carpool, I mean?”

Terrence stared at him. “I was just kidding, but yeah, if you really want to. There’s always room in that carpool. I think I hold the record for the longest anyone’s ridden with Sid, and that’s only been about a month. The crazy thing is, he has never had an accident—not even a fender bender or scratched paint. No one can figure it out. Still, not many people can take the intensity for long.”

Brad nodded. “I think I need this. Sign me up.”

The next day, they met at the train station. As usual, Sid was driving. He said he felt uncomfortable being a passenger.

“If you want the maximum effect, sit up front,” Terrence whispered. He jumped in the back seat before Brad could say anything.

Sid had a passion for tropical fish, and rarely talked about anything else. “Do you know anything about tropical fish?” he asked Brad as he whipped left out of the parking lot without checking traffic. He was already eating a donut with one hand, and pulling at the wheel with the other, weaving in and out of morning rush hour traffic without slowing or signaling.

“I’m thinking of getting some Kaudern’s cardinal fish. They start at about 25 bucks, so I probably can’t get more than three. Hold on.” Sid pulled out his phone and glanced at the screen, steering with his knees.

Brad saw the brakes lights of the Chevy Tahoe ahead of them go on, but Sid was still accelerating towards it, frowning at the phone and muttering something about a dentist appointment. At the last minute, he glanced up, dropped the phone on the floor and jerked the car to the right, just missing the Tahoe and cutting off a dump truck in the next lane. He reached down and felt around on the floor for the phone while the car drifted towards the shoulder, still doing 70 miles an hour. They hit the rumble strip just as Sid got the phone and he pulled the car back the other way, overcompensating and almost slamming into the car in the left lane. Brad braced for the rending screech of metal but there was nothing and Sid brought the car into their lane.

“Anyway,” he said in the same tedious tone, “the tank I have is a 64-gallon frameless aquarium with a hyper flow water pump …”

Brad felt like he was truly alive. This was the most alert he had been since giving up coffee. Twenty more minutes of tropical fish lecture and near-death incidents, they arrived at work with Brad awake and ready for the day.

“That was amazing!” Brad said to Terrence later in their office. “It’s like he’s a perfect balance of incompetence and luck. How does he do it, living on that knife edge between safety and utter annihilation all the time?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think you’ll be able to stand it very long,” Terrence said. “I’ll give you two weeks before it all starts to get to you.”

But it didn’t get to Brad. He rode with Sid every day and arrived at work, awake and ready to work. If anything, the effect of Sid’s insane driving dulled over time. Two months after he had started riding with Sid, Brad confessed this to Terrence.

“I don’t know, but it’s not the same anymore,” he said. “Like yesterday, when Sid hit that patch of ice going 90 miles an hour, did a complete spin in front of the snowblower and just missed going over the embankment into the river. Honestly, it didn’t do that much for me. I mean, yeah, it was dangerous and all, but where’s the thrill?”

Terrence laughed, a little uneasily. “Well, I suppose it could always be more dangerous.”

“Do you mean like drugging Sid or loosening up the bolts on his wheels?” Brad asked. “I thought of that, but getting up early and going by Sid’s house every morning—it seems like so much work.” Terrence gave a little nervous laugh and bolted out of Brad’s office.

Two days later, Brad got an envelope from his doctor. Inside were two pieces of paper. The first was a note that said: Your co-worker told me about your situation. I hope this helps.

The second paper was a prescription for one cup of coffee, taken (orally) every morning.

 

Epilogue

Brad stopped riding with Sid every day. He found that one cup of coffee was enough to keep him functional and employed. Every so often, he would ride with Sid for the same reason other people go to an amusement park. Sid never got in an accident, and later changed careers to become a demolition derby driver. He attained legendary status as the only driver in the history of the sport to never lose a car.


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