“I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, I think she’ll die.” Sarah’s streaky brown head of highlighted hair lifted in puzzlement upon hearing the tinny echo of words pour from the speakers. Sarah wondered if she was in the right place to order her Grande skim iced no whip white mocha with an accompanying side of banana nut loaf. The continued musical blasphemy lingered over the aroma of espresso beans as baristas called orders amid the hum of blenders.
The blessings of the perfect caffeinated treat able to entice the mind and warm the body lay just moments away, a ripening brew behind the bar. Sarah breathed in the interior of the coffee shop, lined with well padded chairs and cozy tables clustered with an eclectic group of patrons. Sandwiched in line, clawing through her magazine, Sarah was blissfully unaware that her perfect moment would soon go horribly awry.
The barista, a perky young blond sporting a pixie cut and pierced nosed was one of only a few long-time store residents. Though turn over was high, the blond was a regular store fixture, a feature of comfort for Sarah who was assured that her latte would be adequately brewed by a knowledgeable employee. Sarah had seen this particular member of staff, her nametag shouting “Hi, I’m Beth,” on early mornings when she had ventured from bed before dawn and during the numerous afternoons and evenings when Sarah needed nourishment. Beth engaged people easily in conversation and enjoyed creating cup after cup of coffee creations, especially for the numerous male patrons who always lurked around her. Today, after sniffling loudly, she queried the mother in front of Sarah about her rowdy boys that frolicked in the clearance section.
The mother, usually homebound with her zealot twosome, asked longingly for both a pick-me-up and her freedom. The two small Izod-clad, freckled faces clamored for their cartons of milk and two dollar cookies. By the time their treats arrived, streaks of finger prints like road maps covered the outside of the display case. Once placated with goodies, the two troublemakers, bored with the presence of their prison-keeper mother, ran through the tables and chairs, full of devilish laughter and sweet smiles, both annoying and delighting the customers. Their mother, alone at last, looked innocently away, enjoying her peace and quiet for the first time in the many long hours of the day.
Behind Sarah lagged a group of three business men from the office complex next door, proudly displaying their tightly buttoned suits, pressed and dark. Their loud voices vied for both dominance and assurance in the Venti food chain. The tallest man, buttons on his jacket protesting, offered a sacrifice loud enough for all to hear. He proposed to buy libations for the others in his group, toasting to his profits and excess.
Sarah waited alone, no children, no coworkers or companions, no worldly food chain to gnaw her way up. With only a crumpled magazine for company, she noticed when the same blond barista that had made pleasant small talk with the mother and brewed her white mocha ambled over to get her banana nut loaf. Halting before the case housing the pastries, Beth (only known by her name tag) paused dramatically and then issued forth a sneeze that was aimed most accurately at the food in front of her. Wiping her nose with the back of her hand she continued forward only to be instantly seized with the most powerful need to sneeze again, this time remembering to cover her mouth with her hand. That same hand proceeded to go forth and grab Sarah’s banana nut bread, place it in a bag, and deliver it to her along with her Grande latte.
Already having paid, Sarah was forced to grab the once enjoyable snack wondering if she would now be able to take pleasure in it. She receded to a table and stared at the bag. She pondered her fate if she should open it? Was there a way to be spared the germs that now wickedly waited for her? The bag stared back. It mocked her. It dared her to eat from it with only a week before she left on vacation. The bag laughed at her cowardice.
She looked around wondering if people at other tables faced a similar dilemma, but they all seemed happy or at least engaged in each other, their newspapers, or laptop computers. Sarah wanted to be brave and rise up from her seat to return the offending slice of pastry, but would that alienate her from the people she most desperately needed to supply her with caffeine? Would any amount of tipping compensate for returning the banana nut bread? In revenge, she wondered, would the baristas give her decaf?
Having ruled out return off the offending snack, Sarah reclined in her comfy chair to weigh the options. The latte was salvageable. She slipped the sleeve from the cup, hot with java, retreated to the bathroom to cleanse her hands, and circling the bar, grabbed a new, germ free sleeve and napkins. Back at the table she lovingly reapplied the new sleeve, watching as the cup snuggled to rest. The repeated applications of napkins cleansed the lid.
Sarah now felt comfortable taking a sip of the warming liquid, but it failed to supply her with its usual mystical pleasure. It scorched her tongue while the inedible pastry seared her soul. Sarah sat, sipped, and endured for an additional twenty minutes. The brew tasted bitter. Her magazine devoid of any interesting articles. Would the starving children in Africa be able to forgive her transgression if she disposed of the bag and its contents? Should she do something to warn others of their fate if they ordered any food? Sip by sip Sarah continued to contemplate her enemy.
She returned her gaze to the bag that held her treat: petite, richly colored with greens, gold and warm hues of brown, so deceptive in its true sickly nature. She could not return it and she would not buy another one from that cabinet for many weeks to come. Her only option was to rid herself of her hateful, germ infested enemy. Finally unable to endure any more of the silent laugher that boomed from the one celled parasites that were joyfully multiplying in and on the bag and most likely the table as well, Sarah exited. The bag lay on the table for the next unsuspecting customer.