• C E Huntingdon

Weremom - Kafenthropy Part II

Updated: Apr 24


Continued from Part I >

Jane awoke with a feeling that could only be described as gunked up. Louis had tried to talk to her about tracking dirt into the bed, but she didn’t listen. Her head was splitting, her chest wheezed. Every joint in her body ached. At first, she thought she was simply congested. Perhaps going to B-Pond had set off her allergies. Reaching to her nightstand, Jane pulled a tissue from her bean patterned tissue box and gave a good hard blow. She could feel the impact on the tissue and inspected it to find a dark, mucusy clump of what she knew to be yesterday’s incident.

Hastily wadding up the tissue and tossing it in the wastebasket, Jane continued to blow her nose until all but a few traces of dark grounds were to be seen. She lay back against her pillow with a heavy thud and felt worse now than she had before.

Coffee. That’s what she needed. That would make everything better!

Wrenching her aching limbs over the side of the bed, Jane took each step as if it might be her last. The pain in her body reminded her of the pain in her head as she trundled down the stairs and hobbled into the kitchen. Fortunately, it didn’t take much of a mind to make coffee. For Jane, it was pure instinct by now. She could do it with her eyes closed or with a deathly head-splitting, body-curdling ache. Her eyes were shut tight in pain when she heard the coffee beans grinding, its dulcet tones triggering the endorphins in her body, of the pleasure soon to come.

Jane opened her eyes to see her hand inches away from the grinder, the tips of her fingers dangling into its open cylinder. She immediately jolted it away.

“Oh, you stupe,” Jane muttered before resuming the rest of the espresso ritual with a slightly more lucid pace.

Warm mug in hand, Jane heaved her tired bones into her usual spot by the dining room window. She dipped her spoon into the bowl of Cocoa Peanut Logs cereal she had poured for herself and slowly brought it to her mouth with an aching arm.

“Mmmffgh!” Jane exclaimed as the crunchy puffy cereal she had expected to bite into turned hard. She looked down to see nothing but coffee beans floating before her. Beans again! Exhausted, Jane gave up. She left the cereal where it was, grabbed her latte, and headed back to bed. With the gusto and tolerance that only a caffeine addict could muster, she downed the latte, laid her head down on her pillow, and immediately fell asleep.

The day passed in a sweaty blur. In between sleep and periods of wakefulness, Jane remembered Louis checking on her worriedly. At one point, her empty mug was replaced with a fresh latte, which she had guzzled thirstily. She tossed and turned as fever overtook her, throwing day into night and casting doubt on what was real and what was just a dream.

Jane rose, feeling a thousand times better. She bathed, dressed, and was out the door. She had decided on a walk. Yes, a walk was what she needed right now. She didn’t want to wait for her walking buddies tomorrow, she needed to get out tonight.

The cool evening air was invigorating as Jane drifted down the street. It felt good to move. Her body seemed to glide effortlessly over the pavement. She passed by home after home, judging the owner’s landscaping sensibilities, and doing her best not to think of anything else. The last couple of days had just been, so bizarre.

“Ok, just no.” Jane wrinkled her nose at a distasteful display of garden gnomes, one of which had its little trousers pulled down to moon passing traffic. The real full moon overhead bathed the porcelain posterior in an eerie glow. The one thing Jane hated almost as much as bad coffee was kitschy yard art. It was bad enough that every person with a front lawn in Vente West seemed to have some strange fascination with carved bear statues. It wouldn’t be so terrible if they were just bears, but they always had to be wearing dumb aprons or fishing. It was just so tacky.

Jane continued to contemplate the allure behind bear sculptures of any kind until she came across a familiar face. It was Ken Kenderson, conductor of their local church choir. Jane sometimes helped Ken with the choir’s bookkeeping after their fundraising events. He must have just been getting home from one of his late night choir practice sessions. They did have performances coming up at the community Riles Bad Blues and Brews Festival.

“Oh, hi Ken!” Jane greeted him loudly and gave a wave. Instead of returning her greeting, Jane was surprised to see Ken’s eyes widen. He slammed his car door shut and fumbled in his pocket for his house keys. Jane approached, slightly annoyed by his lack of response.

“Ken?”

With all the speed of a hunted rabbit, Ken unlocked his front door and hastily shut himself inside. The deadbolt clicked audibly. Ears ringing in indignation, Jane skimmed over the entryway and approached Ken’s front porch. As she raised a hand to knock at the door, she saw only a tentacle of brown liquid stretched out before her. Looking down, Jane saw her entire body was nothing but a steaming mass of hot coffee.

Another dream? These were getting a little out of hand Jane thought. Though her awareness of the fact only made her feel calmer and more confident. Once more, extending a prehensile limb of liquid brew, Jane knocked on Ken’s door, sizzling the wood with the heat of her boiling body.

“Ken?!” Jane demanded of her dream-neighbor. “Ken? Why didn’t you wave back to me?”

Silence answered.

He’s not even a good conductor, Jane thought to herself, and his voice has that weird nasally pitch to it that made him a poor addition to the chorus. Jane had always thought it was pretentious of him to have actually purchased his own baton. She wasn’t even sure he knew how to read music, he just poked at people with that little stick, telling them to sing. She could hear him now, "sing," poke poke, "sing now," poke, "sing louder, fabrisimo!" poke, as he raised his hands high overhead with a flourish as if conducting a world-renown symphony rather than a gaggle of gnarled townsfolk. She was also fairly certain fabrisimo wasn’t even a real word.

Jane knocked again.

“I’ve only done your bookkeeping for the last fifteen years! I think I deserve at least a nod of respect. Ken? KEN!?”

With an unearthly shriek, Jane slammed her liquid bulk into the man’s front door. Rather than meet any resistance, her body slid through the cracks with ease, and Jane allowed herself to pool for a moment in the entryway, enjoying the sensation of being such a warm and commanding liquid.

Ken Kenderson sat huddled in his favorite armchair, frozen in shock, tears streaming down his ghostly cheeks. Jane turned towards him, smiling as she felt her body reforming, growing stronger and more potent with each droplet that re-collected. Even though she had splashed herself into bits, Jane felt whole, and a fervent sense of joy steamed inside of her. She was not hollow beans, she was not fragile grounds, she was all of that, and more. A complex blend of nuanced flavors, at once both bold and smooth. Jane drank in the heavy scent of her own poignant aroma as she seeped across Ken’s welcome mat.

“Ken?” Jane asked again as she slithered towards him. “What’s wrong Keeeeeeennnn?” She reached out to him, a hundred tentacles of burning hot coffee with a roast so strong it could singe nose hair from across the room. Something inside her, some long-dormant instinct, urged Jane forward. Her liquid appendages enveloped Ken, and as her scorching hot limbs grappled his body, Ken began to bellow in pain.

“Yes, Ken, fabrisimo!” Jane hissed as she poked at Ken with her oozing limbs. “Louder! Fabrisimo, Ken! FABRISIMO!”

RrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

“Jane? Jane! Wake up, you’re steaming!”

“I’m what?”

“You’re screaming, Jane!”

Jane snapped awake violently as her husband shook her.

“What happened?”

“You must have been having a nightmare, honey. Are you okay?”

“I… I think so.” She sat up in her nightgown, rubbing her bare arms slowly as she delved into her brain to try and catch what was already slipping away. She had been running from something. Something dark and brooding. Or was she the one chasing it?

Jane shook her head as she slid out of bed and wandered sleepily to the bathroom for a shower. She let the water encompass her completely, trying to shake the uneasy feeling that lingered from her forgotten dreams. She turned the water up hotter than usual and enjoyed breathing in the steam.

When she got out and dried her hair, she was disturbed by a brushing sound coming from the bedroom.

“Louis, what are you doing?” She wandered over to see her husband picking at the bedsheets.

“It’s like there’s a stain or something here in the bed.” He paused for a moment, inspecting a dark brown patch dotting the linens. “You must have spilled half your latte here, hon.”

“Well, I have to wash the sheets today anyways,” Jane replied tersely as she pulled on her black stretchy pants and shirt. “I better get going, or I’ll be late for my walk.”

“You’re going out? Feeling better today, then?”

“Yes, I feel fine,” Jane paused for a moment as she smiled with a sense of levity. “I feel better than fine, I feel…bold.”

“Well, that’s just great. Good for you!” Louis wandered over to give his wife a peck on the cheek before hopping into the shower himself.

Jane brewed herself a quick morning latte and poured the cream-colored coffee into her travel cup. The strong urge for a sip overcame her. The sip turned into a gulp, and the gulp turned into a draught until her cup was completely empty. It was delicious as always, but Jane was overcome with the feeling that it wasn’t quite what she was looking for. Something stronger would do, and so Jane brewed herself a rich, bold blend of espresso. It was such a tiny thing, just an ounce of liquid joy. It was a shame to dilute it with more hot water, she thought. And then an idea occurred to her. Looking over to her twenty-ounce travel mug, she poured the shot into the empty cylinder.

“Oops.” A smile cracked from her lips. Why hadn’t she thought of this sooner? Shot after shot, she brewed and poured into the container until it was filled to the brim. “Absolutely perfect.”

She let her mug sit for a moment while she made Louis his usual for after his shower. Leaving his mocha on the counter for him, she hollered up a goodbye, grabbed her keys and raincoat, and headed for the door.

What should have been a ten-minute ride took eleven and a half minutes, thanks to the driver she was forced to follow behind.

“You butt-hook!” Jane screeched from behind the wheel, mug in hand, sipping at its dark contents. A golden snooterwagon piloted by an elderly man had pulled out, causing her to slam on the brakes.

“There’s absolutely no one behind me! Why!?” In her agitation, Jane failed to notice that the abandoned parking lot in front of the old appliance store was vacant once more. The canvas-covered caravan of the Chizgany coffee stand had moved on, brown horse and all.

After what seemed like an eternity, Jane pulled into her usual spot. She made her way over to join the gaggle of ladies waiting for her, a light mist justifying the use of their Southback coats with built-in rain slicking technology. After exchanging their morning pleasantries, Jane and her walking buddies took to their route through the park and then onto the main street.

“Did you hear about the murder on Spruce Street? Poor old Ken,” Kathee let out a long sigh.

“What? No! What happened?” Jane inquired. She couldn’t help the feeling that she had just been thinking about Ken but couldn’t remember why.

“Well, I only know because my nephew is a volunteer firefighter, so he heard on the constable’s scanner. I don’t know all the details, but apparently, Ken Kenderson was murdered in his single-wide last night," Kathee said gravely.

“I think it’s a double-wide,” Linda chimed in. “And how do you know it was a homicide? It usually takes a while to rule it one way or another.”

“No, it’s definitely a single-wide. Barb had to feed his fish for him back in October. And anyways, it is definitely suspicious. My nephew had to visit the home because they thought there was a fire.”

“What!?” Sue exclaimed.

“Well, was there a fire?”

“No, in fact, my nephew said the house looked untouched. The neighbors called because they thought they smelled something burning, but when they got there, it was just Ken in his favorite armchair. You know, the one with the quilt on the back?”

“Oh yeah, Annette knitted that quilt for him ages ago. With the little blue flowers on it?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Well, anyways, I guess he was just sitting there. Looked like a boiled chicken’s foot, my nephew said.”

“How bizarre!” Jane replied.

“Oh my!” Sue said, which kicked up the walking ladies into a frothing tizzy that had not been seen since Bonnie had announced that her daughter Sarah had eloped with a Himelforth.

So engrossed was the group with their current mystery that they didn’t even notice a man powerwalk up alongside them.

“Hello ladies, lovely day for a walk, isn’t it?” the stranger interjected.

Startled, the group of ladies went silent immediately. All that could be heard for a few minutes was the gentle pounding of sneakers on pavement, the man and his ample mustache keeping pace with them.

“Discussing that suspicious death, were you?”

“Ok, excuse me. Who are you?” Jane’s eyes narrowed at the intruder as they began their descent down Woodking street.

“Special Agent Johnson, ma’am,” Johnson said without missing a beat, briskly snapping his badge open and closed in front of them. “I don’t suppose any of you were out last night between the hours of ten and two?”

The group collectively shook their heads ‘no.’

“No? No, I suppose not. A little late in the night for most people. I suppose you’d have to drink quite a few cups of coffee to still be up at that hour. Thank you, lovely ladies, for your time. If you think of anything I might need to know, well, just give me a call.” Johnson pulled a glossy business card from his pocket and handed it to Jane. With a wry smile, he nodded his head and broke off down the adjacent street, still powerwalking as he disappeared around the corner.

“Well, that was bizarre,” Jane stated flatly as she tucked agent Johnson’s card into her coat pocket.

The rest of Jane’s walk was fine, not great, but fine. She’d drained her mug shortly after speaking with agent Johnson. Kathee and Sue discussed their favorite ways to prepare kale, but all Jane could think about was that next cup of coffee. She was quiet as she counted her steps. She knew Sue was completely wrong about her preparation methods. The best way to make a fresh kale salad was obviously to massage it first, so the flavors could come out and then to soak it in warm coffee. The unorthodox technique went completely unnoticed by Jane, as her mind turned with what she knew to be obvious.

As they turned the final corner of their walk and made it back to their cars, the walking ladies parted ways. Jane waved a despondent goodbye as she raced home to the espresso machine.

The orange eye of the machine glowed as it warmed its silver body up. Jane grabbed a bag of beans from the pantry. Holding it with both hands, she breathed in the pleasant aroma of the roast. They clattered merrily as she dumped them into the grinder. She was just about to begin the process of crushing them into grounds when the pigwhistle rang.

“No. I don’t want to talk to you.” Jane yelled at the noise while at the same time marching over to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hello?” An accented male tone replied.

“Who is this? What do you want?” Jane vocalized her thoughts in a less than cordial tone, eager to get back to grinding her beans.

“Is this… Jane? Jane Nelbow?”

“Of course it is, this is my number. Who is this?”

“Right. This is Special Agent Johnson calling. I was wondering if we might have a bit of chat.”

“Well, you already gave me your card, and I’ll call you if I think of anything. I’m very busy right now, though.”

“Oh. Well, it’s a shame, I was hoping perhaps we could speak over a cup of coffee, my treat, down at Brande’s Barista Bar. But, well, if you’re busy, you’re busy. Nothing you can do about that. Sorry to disturb you, Jane.”

Jane stood silent for a moment on the other end. She was going to make her own coffee, but if Johnson was offering a free cup, then Jane could take him up on his offer and still come back and make her own later. Jane wasn’t a woman to walk away from coffee, especially free coffee, and if she was lucky, she might even be able to get several cups out of him, if the conversation took long enough. Even one for the road, perhaps.

“Mmmm…okay. I guess I could squeeze in a quick meeting.”

“You’re sure? I don’t want to impose-”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Okay, Jane, then I’ll meet you there in, oh say, twenty minutes?”

“Let’s make it fifteen.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Johnson said before disconnecting. Any annoyance Jane would normally feel about making a second trip back into town was quelled by the anticipation for that next cup. Grabbing a handful of beans to tide her over, Jane was out the door in an instant.

The morning’s light mist had turned into a gale-swept downpour. Jane was elated to find a parking spot right out front of Brande’s Barista Bar. Jane had been here precisely four times before and had enjoyed their brew well enough. Though, it wasn’t her favorite place to visit. The owners had poured their resources into making the haunt look hip and chic while also rustic and rundown. The tables hung from trendy metal wires that extended down from the ceiling as if the absence of traditional table legs was more affluent. And there were rivets everywhere and corrugated metal, faux distressed with brown paint to give it a look of apathetic rust. But the coffee was okay. If only they’d spent as much time focusing on that.

Jane looked around at the crowded establishment but did not see the mustached man she was looking for. She headed to the counter with a soft ‘tsk’ and was met by a surly-looking youth.

“Hello. Do you do ten-shot espresso?”

“Uh, sure, I guess.”

“Ok. I’ll have one of those then.”

“What size mason jar do you want?”

“What?”

“Do you want a grande mason jar? Do you want a vente?” The young man behind the counter tucked a curl of hair back behind his ear as he stood with his mouth slightly open, still trailing off of the ‘vente.’

“Don’t you just have cups?”

“Uh, we have sleeves for the mason jars, so you don’t have to worry about burning your hands.”

“But you had cups last time.”

“Uh, yeah. But then we got the mason jars, so we have those now.”

“Hmph. Fine. I’ll have a ten-shot espresso in a…mason jar.”

“Cool. So that would be…” the youth trailed off as he ticker-tapped away on a nearby pad.

“Oh, and I’m meeting a man here, so he’ll pay for it when he comes in,” Jane interjected as she waved her hand at the barista, batting away the price from his lips.

“Oh… uh…Okay,” He shrugged his shoulders and turned to fill Jane’s order.

Jane waited a few moments, listening to the sweet grind of the industrial espresso machine until her order was slid onto the pick-up counter. She grabbed the sleeved mason jar and headed to find a spot for two by the window. It was bizarre to drink a hot cup of coffee out of an artesian mason jar, but the blend was okay, so Jane tried to move past the presentation and just enjoy the contents. The coarse cardboard sleeve wrapped loosely around the jar gave her the most irritating feeling as it slid against her fingertips, making her all sorts of squidgy. Jane decided to discard it, sliding it up and over the rim.

For a moment, she thought the glass might be too hot. Mason jars, after all, weren’t designed to protect against hot liquids, let alone be used to drink coffee. She gave it a try, though, and was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming she found the warmth. Lacing her fingers around the glass, she pressed them in as tightly as she could and sipped neatly with both hands.

As she let her attention wander from the comfort of the drink nestled between her hands, her eyes looked over an acrylic stand with a disconcerting note wedged between. It read:


Brande’s Barista Bar looks forward to honoring Saint Rosebeary’s Intervention. Artisanal teas will be served in place of any caffeinated beverages in observance of the holiday.


Jane nearly dribbled her coffee as she read. She had completely forgotten about Saint Rosebeary’s Intervention! Her mind buzzed wildly in a near panic. She would have to run to the store today and grab coffee for the rest of the week, that is, if they weren’t sold out already...

Her feverish planning was interrupted as Special Agent Johnson trounced through the door, giving Jane a friendly wave. Jane managed a wry smile and held up her coffee jar in response. Johnson raised his eyebrows and headed to the barista bar. A few moments of awkward exchange passed between Johnson and the curly-haired youth behind the counter. The barista shrugged as he pointed towards Jane, who watched Johnson slowly dig bills from his wallet.

A few moments later, Johnson joined Jane at her seat by the window, carrying a well-worn travel mug with him and an empty mason jar. Jane stared at him, looking puzzled.

“Oh, I just had my own already,” Johnson said, noting Jane’s eyes boring into the catbarian pattern that danced across the jacket of his travel mug.

“I didn’t know they let you bring in your own drinks,” Jane replied, immediately annoyed that she could have possibly brought her own mug in to save herself from the unconventional mason jar that sat innocently before her.

“Well, I paid for a coffee anyway to excuse the rudeness,” Johnson trailed off as he tapped his fingers against the empty glass. “Not sure why they actually gave me a jar…Anyways, what’s that you got yourself there, Jane?”

Johnson cocked his head forward in interest before almost immediately recoiling. Jane could almost see the hairs of his mustache curl back in protest as the robust scent of her mighty espresso pierced his nostrils.

“Eh heh,” Johnson let out a little cough, “and I thought I liked my coffee black…”

Jane smiled and took a sip in response while quietly trying to garner an idea of what Johnson could have brought in his mug. Taking a few subtle sniffs, she tried to make it out. Was it a Florencian Fine Roast? No, she could sense no hint of bitters. Perhaps it was a Himelforth Blonde Coffee blend. They did have a weaker brew, maybe that’s why she couldn’t smell it. Regardless, the overwhelming scent of her own shot-filled mason jar created a wall of smell so powerful it quickly blunted any other scent in the vicinity. Smiling again, Jane took another delightful sip.

“So, whadda ya say Jane? Nothing beats the last sip of coffee before Saint Rosebeary’s Intervention, eh?”

“Hmmm…” Jane nodded her head in agreement while inwardly protesting. She hated the Intervention holiday but had always found ways around it. A coy smile crept onto her face, quickly hidden by another sip from her mason jar.

“Well, Jane, I’m just hoping I can touch base with you here and ask you about the last couple of days. I hear you helped out Ken Kenderson with some of his bookkeeping, so anything you can tell me would be a real help to our investigation.” Johnson paused as he pulled out a small notepad and flipped it open while palming a pen in his other hand.

“So, how long have you and your husband lived in Picante Vista?”

“You mean Vente West?”

“Yes, sorry. I’ve been ah… moving around a lot.”

Jane nodded away Johnson’s error. “Well, we moved here in eighty-five, no wait, eighty-four. In the spring. I remember we were moving in right around Schmendricks Day, so the traffic was just terrible and-”

“So you’ve lived here for a good long while, alright.” Johnson nodded his head as he jotted down a few notes. “A lot of crime here in Vente West? Would you describe the town as, uh, murderous?”

“No, not at all,” Jane answered honestly and couldn’t help herself from blurting out, “so was it a murder? Is it suspicious?”

A crinkled smile creased Johnson’s face as he took a sip from his travel mug. “Well, Jane, I certainly don’t know many people who’ve been boiled alive under not suspicious circumstances.”

“Hmmm.” Jane wrinkled her brow at the mystery that unfolded before her. “How bizarre!”

“So, anything out of the ordinary happen over the past few days?”

“Hmmm…well, no. Everything’s been fine, as far as I’m concerned…”

Johnson took notes while Jane rattled away the details of her last few days.

“... and then I had to go to the store around noon, which I hate to do because they have discounts for all the old people. So of course, that took forever. Why is it that most people can’t navigate through a grocery store? But it turned out alright because I found some fun new oven mitts, so I had to get those too…”

Johnson inhaled sharply and widened his eyes at the vast and numerous details of Jane’s continuing statement. He flipped another page on his notebook as he continued to write.

“...and then my husband went up and took a poor man’s hot tub-”

“Let me just stop you right there, Jane. Just uh, want to clarify something here. A ‘poor man’s hot tub.’ What, uhh…what is that? Some kind of outdoor bath?”

“No. No, it’s just a shower. We don’t have a tub.”

Johnson cocked his head as he stared at Jane, his eyes squinted in genuine confusion and mental fatigue.

“I don’t...I don’t really...it’s a shower?”

Jane couldn’t understand why Johnson was so confused. “Yes, of course, it’s a shower.”

“Alright…well, let’s just move on to what you did yesterday.”

“Hmmm…well, I was very sick. I woke up early, and I had a terrible fever. I ended up just going back to bed, and then Louis brought me a coffee-”

“Ok, that’s great. What were you doing between the hours of ten at night and two in the morning?”

“Well, I was asleep, obviously.”

“Can someone vouch for that?”

“Louis could, I’m sure.”

“And you’re not sick today?”

“No, I feel much better.” Jane eyed Johnson cooly.

“Kinda a quick turn around for the flu, hmm?”

“Well, I don’t know if I had the flu, I was just sick. I don’t know what it was.”

“Maybe you just, didn’t have enough coffee, Jane,” Johnson cracked a smile again and raised his brow as he took a sip.

“Probably right.” Jane let out a forced cackle.

“So, tell me how you knew Ken Kenderson.”

“Well, like you said, I helped him with his bookkeeping. We go to the same church, and he’s very active in the community.”

“Yes, I heard he ran the local choir. Were you ever a part of that?”

Jane scoffed loudly.

“Oh, not a fan, huh?”

“Well, not to speak ill of the dead, but I just wasn’t a fan of his directing. But he was a very nice man.”

Johnson’s eyes lowered. He hunched his shoulders slightly and leaned in towards Jane.

“Nice man, doesn’t mean he didn’t have his... moments,” Johnson paused as he let the punctuation of his words settle. “Did he ever do anything that, made you mad or made anyone else mad? Ever a little too hot and heavy with his baton? Make anyone, stay too late for practice? Too reckless with his finances? Too many doodles, and not enough zeros and ones? Or maybe just, I don’t know, maybe he just had... one of those faces?”

Jane had the faint feeling that Johnson already had the answers to all of his questions, that he’d already gotten a good measure of Ken Kenderson. But she didn’t budge, she’d read enough Tutor McGouch to know better. Plus, she had nothing to worry about. Why was he treating her like this?

“As I said, he was a nice man. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hurt him.” She chanced a glance at her watch and saw it was now half-past ten. A chill ran through her, it was getting late. If she waited too much longer, she would have to fight the church crowd at the store, and at two o’clock, they would be taking the coffee off the shelves, as was tradition for the Intervention.

Jane barely heard Johnson asking her another question as her mind raced. She knew what she had to do. If she ordered a cup of coffee to go, that would at least last her until she got home. She could then make herself another cup to get to the store. If she timed it right, she would have just enough time to grab an extra five, or wait maybe seven, bags of beans.

“Jane? Everything okay?” Johnson voiced his concern.

“What? Oh, I’m fine. I’m sorry, I’m just very busy today. I hope I’ve helped you enough, but I have to go. Good luck!”

“Oh, okay then,” Johnson was taken aback. “Well, call me then… if you think of anything else...”

His voice trailed off and was buried under the grinding of beans as Jane approached the counter to order her coffee to go.

“Would you like our disposable mason jar to go? Or would you like to pay just ten dollars more and get our eco-mesh bio-reusable mason jar, to go? That one comes with a lid too, and a reusable straw.”

“Keep the straw, give me the cup,” Jane spat out as she slapped down the exact price of the reusable-bio, eco-bio, reusable-mesh mason jar-thingy, plus the cost of her vente 20 shot espresso.

Never before had someone driven so fast, while staying within the speed limit, throughout all of Vente West. The caffeine coursing through her veins gave her the clarity and predictive abilities to shift and merge between the lanes of the various butt-hooks that impeded her way. Her tires screeched in protest as she barreled into the driveway before turning around and backing in so she could make a quick getaway to the store.

“Okay, it’s ten forty-five. I just need to make a quick latte and then get back on the road,” Jane talked to herself in a feverish frenzy. “If I can get to the store by eleven, I should have enough time to buy eight bags of coffee, no maybe ten bags. I hope I can get the french roast. They should have plenty of bags of whole beans left. No one ever buys the whole beans, everyone wants that nasty pre-ground. I don’t know how they stand it. Or even worse, instant coffee. Blech! Those people should be shot.”

“Oh, hi honey.” Louis’ greeting shot past a busy Jane as she turned on the espresso machine and pulled her favorite to-go mug out of the dishwasher. It was green with a little pattern of white beans spiraling around the base.

“-or decaf. What if there’s only decaf left? I mean, why even drink coffee at all? What’s the point? And all these fancy pod things too, what a waste of a-”

Jane stopped dead as she flipped on the grinder and heard it whimper. It was empty, though she was sure it was stacked full of beans that morning. “Hmmm…well, that’s okay, it’s always fresher straight out of the bag.”

Marching over to the pantry, Jane pulled open the doors and let out a horrified gasp.

“The coffee! Where did all the coffee go? Louis? Louis!? WHERE’S THE COFFEE?”

The pantry was nearly empty. The pullout drawers that normally sagged from the weight of excess beans were completely barren. Suddenly, she felt a nervous presence behind her. Jane turned around, her sockets as dark as burnt grounds.

“Oh, uh…well, I threw it all away for St. Rosebeary’s Intervention,” Louis said as he shifted his feet and scratched the back of his balding head. “I know you had your morning cup already, so I thought I’d save you some trouble and get everything ready for the Week of Intervention.”

“You did what!?”

“I just…threw the coffee away…” Louis noticeably shriveled, like a snail that had been caught out of his shell. “Last year, we didn’t quite throw everything away. We really should be more devout. A lot of people go without, and it’s only fair we do the same.” Louis took a moment and chose his words carefully. “And well, I think maybe you could use a break too… it’ll be good for you, Jane…”

Jane didn’t have to craft her rebuke, she knew exactly how to take Louis apart. His weaknesses, his flaws, his shortcomings. His idiotic idea that a banana was the perfect fruit because it came in its own carrying case! Who was he to judge her? To restrict her access?

But then, before she could even move to speak, the scent of coffee crept into her nose. Jane sniffed the air. Walking coldly past Louis, she followed her nose to the kitchen sink, where she saw a lone ceramic mug sitting innocently in the basin. A mug stained from dark liquid and a bit of sludge resting in the bottom.

It was a mocha.

“What’s this? Louis? What is this!?”

“Well… I just made myself a quick one before I put everything away.”

“And you didn’t think to make me one?!”

“I… I… well, you already had one this morning… and didn’t you just come back from Brande’s?”

“Typical, just typical. Louis, always thinking about yourself. Always brewing just one cup of coffee, never asking if anyone else wants one. Never heating anything to the right temperature and the foam! Always so much foam, and so little coffee.”

Jane continued to spew out a hideous rant as she slowly walked towards Louis. A strangeness had clouded her face, casting dark shadows under her eyes. Her lips almost seemed to drip as she seethed at him. Jane reached out and wrapped her fingers around Louis’ arms.

“Ow, ouch! It’s hot, Jane that’s hot! It’s too hot!”

“No, it’s the perfect one-hundred and eighty degrees, just the way it should be.” Jane squeezed Louis’ arms, her fingers long tendrils wrapping around his flesh. She could feel blisters forming under her touch. She could smell his flesh sizzling.

“Jane, stop!” Louis screamed as his skin began to burst. “Oooooohhhh!”

“Don’t worry Louis, I won’t forget the extra FOAM!” Jane shrieked as she flowed around Louis, encompassing him with her now steaming liquid body.

As he burst apart, she could taste the beautiful nectar that spilled out, that last little bit of coffee that remained within his body. Jane thirstily slurped up every last drop before slithering out of the house, leaving Louis crumbled on the kitchen floor, completely, decaffeinated.


Continued in Part III >

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