Dr. Zaius Fiction. Why the hell not?

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Dr. Zaius
Several years ago, I did a brief stint at Starbucks in the summer after my second year of teaching American Lit to 11th graders at an all boys Catholic school. The following vignettes are part of a larger fiction piece I did at the time revolving around a disgruntled Starbuck's barista and an befuddled researcher compiling a history of coffee. I think I titled it "Lovelier Than A Thousand Kisses" or some other such rubbish. Anyway, as it goes on, the story sort of alternates between the two very distinct viewpoints of the main characters. I think my "barista" turned into a sort of demonic Holden Caulfield-like counterpart in the end...So think of this as half comic meditation from a satanic viewpoint, half salvific moment.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Here's the first installment.

Straight Shooter

My name is Sui, that's pronounced Suey, Generis. Don't ask me what language that comes from. I'm not talking about that crap right now. No one wants to hear me go on and on about where I got my name or how I got to be what I am today. Its ancient history, anyway. Case closed. Besides, I've moved on with my life. Changed names, addresses, and country of origin. I'm starting things over the way they should have been in the first place, the way I would have wanted it.

Making a clean slate of it, I decided to become just another face in the crowd. And that's just how I like it. Recently, I took a job at Starbucks. I figured I was already spending something like a hundred dollars a month there, so why not cash in on the employee discount and collect a paycheck to boot? It sure beats paying those marked up prices we charge the customers. And, besides, flashing my employee tag around really gets me off sometimes. That's what it all boils down to in the end, all the special perks. You know what I'm talking about--the fringe benefits. The extra dab of cream in your coffee.

But that ain't the only thing. I don't know about you, but I'm a f..king wreck in the morning without a cup of joe. That's because I hardly ever sleep at night. No time. I've got big plans. Stuff to figure out. I'm driving fast down the straight and narrow yellow, brick etcetera etcetera.

So, if you see me early in the wee hours sporting my last stain-free green apron and my best, up-beat, pro-active smile, you make sure you have your crummy order right and cut the bulls..t. Cause I tell ya, I'm a no-frills, no-limit, coffee-slinging barista. You got a problem with that?

Bardock42
Your stuff is not bad. Especially since it's about coffee. I mean, who doesn't like coffee?

But we have a special forum for General fiction: The General Fiction Area. I will request this thread to be moved there, I am sure you can continue your stories there.

Dr. Zaius
Originally posted by Bardock42
Your stuff is not bad. Especially since it's about coffee. I mean, who doesn't like coffee?

But we have a special forum for General fiction: The General Fiction Area. I will request this thread to be moved there, I am sure you can continue your stories there.

No sweat.

Dr. Zaius
2nd Installment

Transcript from John Lowry's Diary: In Which Dreams Are Paid Court, Daily Rituals Are Enacted, The Past Is Declared Fugitive, And Thoughts Are Shared Over Coffee

I woke up this morning. At least I think I did.

There's another person on the other side of sleep--a stranger I dimly recognize. Sometimes I ignore him. Sometimes I wave. When I'm lucky, I miss him completely staring at the bathroom mirror.

On the occasions when it's just me in the mornings, I get lulled into this false sense of security and think momentarily that I've given him the slip. But then I realize that it's the other way around. He's lost me. But, what does that mean? I ask myself as I sit back and contemplate him exploring all the latent possibilities in my otherwise certified existence--watch him as he unlocks closed doors, beats odds too steep for me to brave, and pulls the rug out from under all of my precocious and irrevocable defeats. He's a confident one, my doppleganger, a winner. Single-minded, confident in his eventual triumph over the world's opposition, he never second guesses himself. Sometimes, thinking about him makes me wonder, Could I be the fake? Am I the intruder?

His power over me has grown so great that sometimes I fully expect to wake up in the mornings as someone different. As I brush my teeth with my Crest Extra-Whitening Formula paste, I begin to contemplate my life as a simulacrum, and shudder as a flood of childhood memories wash over--intermittent games of cops and robbers behind my neighbor's house, trick-or-treating at Halloween as a costumed ghoul. Back then, the world of make-believe was shear joy. Now, I'm not sure. Now, there is no ill-gotten candy to munch, only indigestion and unsought epiphanies. This morning, when I careened towards the bathroom mirror like a runaway car in the new, grey daylight, I feared for a moment that I wouldn't see my bleary-eyed reflection for the wreckage.

This morning, however, so far so good. Reality seems to have held to form. When I finished shaving, I saw my face looking back at me over the white, porcelain sink and the dissolving clumps of whisker-laden shaving cream twirling slowly down the drain. Just one more of life's small victories,I thought, Play it again, Sam.

After I finish shaving, I usually like to retreat to the kitchen, where I begin my other chief morning ritual of brewing coffee. I like to sit nearby and read the paper as the peculator spits and gurgles its way into action. Sometimes, I imagine that its sound is cheerful as I rush to the burner, reaching out to grasp the handle with cotton-padded oven mitts, and lay out the ceremonial implements of mug and stirring spoon atop the kitchen counter. At this point, I'm usually in a good mood. But not this morning. This morning the coffee maker only sounds angry and accusatory. As I look more closely, I see that the chrome has thrown back a guilty expression. 7:30 a.m. and barely awake, I already stand condemned.

After I pour the coffee into my favorite Humphrey Bogart mug, another thought occurs as I gaze down. Coffee casts no reflections. Its surface is too opaque, the reflected light too obfuscated and indistinct. Is this bad? I wonder. This morning, I happen to think that not seeing is a good thing. Blindness this morning might be a black veil hiding dangers from me. As far as I'm concerned, let them stay in hiding. On the other side of darkness, life's dirty laundry can stay where it belongs, concealed and out of sight.

Yes, this morning I'm glad that all my dredged-up ghosts are hidden by the black, steaming obscurity contained within my Humphrey Bogart mug. 7:30 is too early to face my demons today, my thousand past regrets looming up all shoddy and threadbare. This morning, I prefer they steer clear of me.

But maybe the past prefers also to go incognito. Maybe, a fugitive from unpunished crimes, it holds up in ramshackle tenements and back alley corners. Maybe, fearing the light of day, it flees to the interior of hostile, unforgiving continents. Humphrey Bogart or not, I think that the history belonging to this cup of coffee is no different. It too is questionable. It too is compromised. It too is out there somewhere laying low with the rest of us, wanting not to be found, hoping the proper authorities won't catch up. Somewhere along the line, it took a wrong turn and got involved with the wrong crowd. It conspired in the abject servitude of foreign peoples. It traded in slaves and human misery. Then, growing weary of these occupations, it fueled the flagging fury of revolutionaries intent of vengeance and spilled blood. There's something rogue about this stuff. Something unrepentant and dangerous. And now, like the rest of us, fearing recriminations, it's flown the coop. Disappeared. It's blocked the papers for its forced extradition to the land of conscience.

That's where I come in. I decided to write a history on the subject of coffee--to get to the bottom of what went wrong and perhaps size up the eternal deficit of unpaid accounts. I reasoned, Who knows? There might be a hero in this whole matter yet, someone to plug up the slow leak of time and all the regretful looking backwards. At least, that's what I hope.

Tomorrow I leave for Africa to finish my final leg of research. I still haven't found the main character in my narrative yet. I'm hoping the trip will reveal him to me. Someone's bound to come to mind. Someone's bound to save the day.

Dr. Zaius
3rd Installment

Solo espresso Jeremiad

Baristas belong to a class apart. They're made of a tougher metal than the common man. You can tell from the coffee stains on their aprons and the mocha smears on their faces. They've got gumption like you wouldn't believe. Good thing too. Sometimes it's a f..king war behind the espresso bar. Christ. One minute you're pulling shots for a decaf grande latte, and next thing you know the register's calling out a round of caramel machiatoes. And let me tell you something, Jack. Slinging coffee ain't like blowing smoke up somebody's ass. The nerves have got to be steady, the eyes alert. Because manning the bar is not only one constant gut check after another, it's an art as well. That's why a barista's hands are like a surgeon's--always rock steady. And that's important when you're busting your hump over some clod's drink with a dozen more lined up behind it. And God help you if you get behind. I mean, you should see how antsy some customers get waiting for their order. They stare at you with this kind of freaked-out expression, like you just held up their shuttle flight to A..hole Central.

Truth be told, any number of things could go wrong during the process of making a drink. The creation of a cappuccino can be a beautiful thing, but the birthing gets a little tricky. Complications arise: the milk gets steamed too hot, the shot doesn't pull long enough, the froth is flat. That's when you're left pouring the aborted order down the drain. God, I hate that. But I try not to dwell on these things when I'm working. Can't afford to. Not when somebody's perfect orange mocha chip frappuccino is on the line.

Sometimes, the pressure in the trenches is so brutal you think you're going to crack. I always know when I've reached this point when I start having fantasies about handing people dangerously hot cups of coffee without their protective sleeves. Thank God I have my other gig to keep my mind off the pressure.

Yeah, that's right. I do something else on the side. What can I say? I needed something that would take the edge off and help pay the note on my new sports utility vehicle. So, I finished taking classes at the university and graduated--barely. I got a degree in education, which certified me to use the latest and greatest pedagogical techniques...or something like that. I applied for a local position at a local all-boys Catholic school teaching religion. Apparently, my baptismal certificate and half-ironed suit were qualification enough.

During the forgone conclusion of the interview, I thought I hit a snag when the principal asked me what I thought about Jesus. Honestly, I hadn't given the subject a single thought since my first communion. So, I really had to reach for something. Luckily, I remembered a program I had seen on T.V. the night before about the virtues of moderate thinking. It was called "Unlearning Your Masculinity: How to Break the Cycle of Sexual Harassment." I had my inspiration.

"Let me just say that Jesus was understanding. He never pressed his views on others, and he believed in freedom and equality for everyone."

The comment went over beautifully. Everyone was impressed and, more than likely, relieved at my response. There was clearly no need to talk about these kinds of uncomfortable topics ever again. The administration had inferred from my answer that I was neither insane, racist, or Republican. What else needed to be discussed? All the principal asked me upon leaving was to brush up on the school's proud advocacy of social justice issues. He said that it was the cornerstone of the school's special mission. It's been a part of my teaching philosophy ever since.

Coffee means a lot to me. I've been drinking it since...well, since before I can remember. When I was in school, I would sometimes down six or seven cups a night. Looking back, I know the stuff I was drinking was just swill--Maxwell House or some other garbage. But in those days, it was just about making it through, staying awake long enough to get the job done.

Things have changed since then. Now, I know how to differentiate between the four essential components of coffee tasting and, with confidence, can steer unsophisticated customers away from an unexpected sip of highly acidic brew. I know all the ins and outs. The Yin and the Yang. You might say I'm the f..king Java Zen Master. For example, just the other day, I helped someone pick out the French Press brewer that was most appropriate to their needs. Talk about a close call. Before I caught his eye, the poor shmuck was ogling some cheap drip model.

But I'm not just a retail troubleshooter. I've also been known to give out some pretty useful information to the people who know how to ask right. Need some help selecting a roast that is full-bodied and smooth, one with a rich, yet intriguing flavor? No sweat. Will that piece of chocolate pound cake taste good with a cup of Sumatra? You betcha. I've got all the bases covered. Still, people come in sometimes and try to ask me trick questions. They want to see me slip because they're tired of being intimidated. They want to return to their safe, happy-go-lucky world of Folgers Crystals and non-dairy creamers, where there aren't any more tough decisions. They want me to admit that all this gourmet coffee stuff is bullshit. Wimps. Getting to the inner circle ain't no joy ride. You've got to become a connoiseur. But they come early in the morning on weekends anyway, because they figure that their only chance is to catch me when I'm groggy. Fat chance. These bozos can try all they want. It won't change a thing. Come hell or high water, I know the score and, even on my worst day, I can tell the difference between the Ethiopian Harrar and the Panamanian La Florentine.

But I'm the last of a dying breed, a bright morning star fallen from heaven. There aren't many of us real aficionados left in the world. These days, people will eat or drink just about anything without thinking twice. People get hungry. They scarf down some Chicken McNuggets. Their throat gets a little parched, they reach for that six pack of Zimas. I won't even bring up cigarettes. Since all the bad tobacco press, its like people are smoking Camel Lights just to earn sympathy points from the trial lawyers. I think it's pretty ironic. We live in the richest country in the world, and all we can get around here is Styrofoam packaged crap. It all makes me want to puke. There's nothing to believe in anymore. No standards. One day in the faculty room at school, I shared this feeling with some crazy fundamentalist I work with. I knew I had made a mistake as soon as the words left my mouth. She told me that she was surprised to hear that kind of statement coming from a religion teacher.

"Jesus is the answer," she told me. "He is the foundation we rest on, if only we let him into our hearts."

I nodded politely in response and gave her a smarmy half grin, but I think she was waiting for me to go into holy convulsions or something. So, I quickly thanked her for her advice and got the hell out of there. Jesus the answer? Maybe a long time ago, sweetheart. But I heard God's supposed to be dead now. And I haven't seen anything in the world to convince me otherwise. Besides, when's the last time belief's gotten anybody anywhere. Never. No, I don't think I've ever believed in anything...except maybe a good fillet mignon cooked medium rare and a double shot of espresso.

There. You made me say it--my barista creed. I'm not ashamed though. It's gotten me through some pretty rough times. Besides, I've never met anyone who believed in anything else quite as much. Yeah, they're always people like my Pentecostal friend in the faculty room who are constantly slinging the name of Jesus around. But they're kidding themselves really. They don't believe in the Son of God, or the incarnation, or the resurrection of the dead, or any of that other weird crap that people stopped trying to understand a hundred years ago. They believe in the feelings they get when some preacher tells them that they're saved and that the rest of us poor slobs are getting the axe. I guess that's okay if that floats their boat.

Me, though...I've never given much credence to feelings. You can't trust them. Plus, I've found that people can and will get worked up about just anything. I once saw this nut job I used to room with in college get all teary eyed at a Michelin tire commercial because they used this cute little baby in it. He said it reminded him of his kid brother when he was younger. I kicked him out shortly afterwards. I haven't talked to the guy since. Somebody told me recently that he moved out of state somewhere. I bet he made the journey on a set of four brand new Michelin tires.

Now coffee is something different altogether. Something real. It doesn't change with your mood or the weather. It's there when you wake up in the morning and when you're shaking off sleep at night. It burns your tongue when you're careless. It's a holy relic. Manna from heaven. This is the gospel I've come to proclaim to you. These are the tenants of the new religion. Forget all that other garbage you were fed in church. I am the foul-mouthed prophet and the sh.t kicking priest. I am the voice in the desert, saying woe unto you who use burnt coffee grounds and unclean filters. You will not escape the bitter mouthful to come--the f..king gall and the goddamned wormwood.

Syren
Originally posted by Bardock42
Your stuff is not bad. Especially since it's about coffee. I mean, who doesn't like coffee?

But we have a special forum for General fiction: The General Fiction Area. I will request this thread to be moved there, I am sure you can continue your stories there.


Bardock, this is Poetry AND Prose wink

Dr Zaius - I've conformed, I want to be a 'real aficionado'. I'm an atheist and yet I feel a gutteral urge to create a shrine to coffee. Fantastic.

Bardock42
Originally posted by Syren
Bardock, this is Poetry AND Prose wink

Dr Zaius - I've conformed, I want to be a 'real aficionado'. I'm an atheist and yet I feel a gutteral urge to create a shrine to coffee. Fantastic.

Hmm...accepted.

FŽanor
Originally posted by Syren
Bardock, this is Poetry AND Prose wink



thank god. else i've had been told not to post my rooftop stories nosweat

Dr. Zaius
Originally posted by Syren
Bardock, this is Poetry AND Prose wink

Dr Zaius - I've conformed, I want to be a 'real aficionado'. I'm an atheist and yet I feel a gutteral urge to create a shrine to coffee. Fantastic.

Again, glad you like it. So you like Sui Generis, huh? He was a fun character to write. Although, I have to admit, he's a bit too intense for my tastes. ;-) Still...I do share his passion for coffee. More's a-coming.

Syren
Can't wait big grin

Dr. Zaius
An encomium for Italian cooking...

Having just returned from a dinner at the house of some of my dad's friends, let me say the following: God bless, Italians! Cent' anni!

Let me describe the richness of the evening..

Preparatory to everything, before even entering the house, one must pass the Rosemary bushes growing in the garden. Rosemary, in the humid afterglow of a south Louisiana twilight, smells like...heaven.

After warm pleasantries are exchanged, cocktails are served by Mr. Dijonni. "Gin and tonic, please," I say. "Bombay Sapphire."

Ten minutes later... "Another, please."

Conversations in the den turn towards the fine points of fresh water fishing and the proper means of preparing Gulf-caught Pompadour. Grilling is generally agreed upon as the best method...seared on the skin side with some butter, lemon, and minced garlic.

The migratory habits of Menhaden schools in the Gulf and various bagatelles of the fish meal industry are briefly touched upon before Mrs. Dijonni calls us to table.

Situated on the kitchen counter we are treated to steaming plates and casserole dishes full of:

1. Homemade crab meat stuffed ravioli in cream sauce.
2. Bow tie pasta cooked in pesto.
3. Grilled Italian sausage links.
4. Grilled slivers of garlic infused pork loin.
5. Fresh cut broccoli, sprinkled with Parmesan, sauteed in butter and
garlic.
6. A cauliflower casserole.
7. A basket of freshly baked bread.
8. A salad dressed with cherry tomatoes and hunks of mozzarella.

Conversation grinds to a halt as the 5 of us eat with utter incredulity at this ridiculous display of lovingly crafted bounty. Wine is served, of course. We start out with a bottle of Pinot Noir, move on to a Merlot--no-make that two Merlots--and finish up a with a Chianti.

When we briefly come up for air, talk turns to favorite World War II movies. Mine included "Das Boat" and "Enemy at the Gates." Dad, turned grumpy with age, said he hated movies now. We all laugh...

With the rustle of table linen and chinking of china,comes the desert plate full of pralines and chocolate cake. Mrs. Dijonni places a steaming hot pot of coffee on the table to sober us up a bit. To no avail...

Shortly thereafter, comes the tinkling of shot glasses...

Syren
clapping

Are these inspired by your own personal experiences or are they completely fictional? I very much enjoy them regardless happy

Dr. Zaius
The last one was taken straight from last night's ridiculously large dinner at the Dijonnis'.

I'm afraid the quality of the writing suffered somewhat, since I was more than a little under the influence.

I need to post more of the coffee story. I haven't had time lately.

FŽanor
It's all good stuff. At least in this we are compadres of a sort...it's good to know that I'm not alone in writing verbal diarhea(sp) other than poetry, even if I tend to be a bit long-winded.

Dr. Zaius

FŽanor
Originally posted by Dr. Zaius
LOL. It's always good to find others in the midst of diarhea!! I think. wink hehe..I once said to a friend on here that you have to sift through a lot of caca in order to find that one bit of a gem to appreciate anything.

Syren

FŽanor
Originally posted by Syren
Diarrhoea wink thanks...the spell checker on KMC bites it wink

Syren
Miss Dictionary at your service eyes

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