Posts Tagged ‘serial’

Coffee Sensibility: Part V — the steaming conclusion

As I stared at Mr. Purvis standing in the door with a pink slip in his hands, I gripped the edge of the counter with both hands to keep from swooning yet again. The revelation that he had been duckwrangler508, my illicit internet romance, had already shocked my system beyond endurance. Now, to see that my rejection of him would lead to this? My bosom heaved with emotion.

With his back to me, he began to speak. “Miss Vanhese. I’ve come to apologize for my behavior. I realize I put you in a compromising position and I want you to know I had no intention of doing so.”

He turned to regard me, and I noticed for the first time that his eyes were a steely, piercing blue. “Will you forgive me?”

I nodded, momentarily overcome.

He took a step forward, looking at the page in his hands. “I hope this will make things easier for you.”

He laid it upon my desk, and turned without a word. I glanced down and the first words made my blood pause as if all caffeine had drained from my heart.



Employee: Keith Purvis

Reason for request: Personal


The sound of the lock opening pulled my attention away from the paper, the import only beginning to make its way through my distracted senses.

“Wait!” I cried, stretching out my hand. “Have you done this for me?”

His back to me, he nodded.

I trembled to think he could display such sensitivity. Yet, I must unburden myself and display my guilt, guilt as vile and dark as reheated coffee. “Mr. Purvis, I must tell you I did not present myself honestly to you.”

“Nor did I.”

“When you needed help, the solution I offered was not mine. It was from tech support.”

“Miss Vanhese, you know barista’s salaries are not enough to live on.”

“Of, of course, that is why tips are so important.” I stuttered, confused by this sudden, unmerited change in subject.

“My dear Sophia, don’t you recognize my voice?”

I gasped. With his back to me, I was able to separate his voice from his figure and realized that he was my tech support liaison. For a second time that day, I cried, “You?”

“After the first call, I deliberately asked a question that had no answer, hoping you would call again. I should have told you then. I planned to tell you today, to tell you I would be leaving the store. I know I don’t have the right to ask you this, but,” he half-turned his head, displaying his fine profile, with its high, noble forehead, “once I transfer, is there any hope…?”

I pressed my hands to my lips too overcome to form words, but my soft cry must have signaled my acceptance. He turned and seemed about to come to me, then stopped himself and simply nodded. “I will keep my staff list then.”

“Oh, yes.”

He unlocked the door and let in the customers who waited, wondering, on the street.

“Mr. Purvis?”

He paused and turned to face me.

“Will I see you on the Web?”

He smiled then, and I caught a glimpse of a spirit as wild and untamed as organic Kona beans. “Of course.”

I watched his retreating back, ignoring the clamor that filled the internet café, content with the knowledge my Ducky was only a mouseclick away.


Coffee Sensibility: Part IV

Coffee Sensibility: Part IV

When my eyes fluttered open, a shock coursed through me that rivaled the strongest cup of Java. I found my head cradled on the lap of my manager, Mr. Purvis, duckwrangler508. Keith.


He regarded me with tender eyes. “Did you never guess?”

“Guess? How should I guess when I know you only as” I sat up, shaking with barely suppressed emotion. Simple spyware would have sufficed; how dare he trifle with my feelings in this manner! “Am I to be fired now?”

“It’s not like that.” He laughed out loud and I shivered. How often had I wondered what duckwrangler508’s “lol” sounded like? “I was too embarrassed to ask you out.”

This was the reason his eyes followed me everywhere, that he came so frequently to the internet café, that I received so many memos? With a rising sense of violation, I pushed myself to my feet, suddenly conscious of the unnecessary hours he had spent in the internet café, scrutinizing me and gauging my reaction to his advances. My indiscreet blushes must have pleased the coward.

I turned my back and picked up a mug with shaking fingers.


“Miss Vanhese, please, Mr. Purvis. I am your employee and I hardly think further intimacy is appropriate.”

Had he argued his case at that moment would I have relented? Perhaps. But the door to the internet café opened and a wave of customers came rushing in, braying with laughter. In the edge of my vision, I saw him deflate and walk away.

Pushing my feelings to the side, I forced myself to concentrate on my customers and their endless pleas for coffee. The hour passed in a daze; each order from a customer was a welcome distraction from the anguish assailing my heart.

My laptop chimed.

I saw a new email in my box marked urgent. duckwrangler508 – RE: plz

How could I face him? I deleted it unopened and, lest I be tempted, emptied my trash folder, consigning him to a random memory.

The bell above the café door rang as the last customer left with his steaming cup of Maui Moka, light on the chocolate. In that precious moment of quiet, I recognized that my earlier anger had not been directed at my Ducky, but at myself for the deceitful role I had played. Why had I pretended to more knowledge than I possessed?

I surrendered to a bout of frenzied weeping. How I longed to seek him out, but even should he accept my apology, our differing stations must keep us apart. Did not the district employee handbook frown upon fraternization such as this? To pursue a relationship with my manager would surely raise questions about my character.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, I gathered my sensibility and prepared for the next invasion of customers. The bell rang. In the unexpected silence that followed, I heard the sound of the door’s lock clicking into place.

Turning, I saw Mr. Purvis standing at the door, with his back to me. He turned the sign to “Closed.” In his hands, he held a slip of paper; it was pink.

Coffee Sensibility – Part III

Coffee Sensibility: Part III

A thousand tortured thoughts flew through my mind as I waited in the vacant chatroom. Where was my beloved duckwrangler508? What if my reply had been lost in cyberspace? What if the address were wrong and he waited elsewhere, convinced I had spurned his attentions? What if a customer wanted coffee before he arrived? What if Mr. Purvis noticed that I was not working?

Before my fears could spiral beyond control, a familiar handle entered the room.


I smiled to see him there and blushed as I realized he had arranged for a private room.

hi” appeared upon my screen in deep blue Times New Roman. Bold, of course, suggesting classic masculinity and yet, the font itself gave the impression of subtle restraint.

I hesitated; no girlish exuberance of pink or purple would do. I pulled on a forest green Garamond, then in a coquettish whim, added italic for a feminine slant.

hi,” I typed back.

duckwrangler508> were u waiting long?

exitreal297> no I jst got here

duckwrangler508> thnx 4 meetn me

exitreal297> happy 2 ive enjoyed yr emails

duckwrangler508> im glad

The immediacy of real time paralyzed me with sudden awkwardness. Gone was the leisure to review each sentence, to consider and ponder possible misinterpretations. What could I say to express my raptures of delight?

exitreal297> cool

I hit enter and instantly wished I could call the letters back, even as they appeared on the screen. I hoped he would not think me too forward.

duckwrangler508> my name is Keith

His name! My hand rose unbidden to press against my chest as if in an effort to keep my heart within.

A new line appeared. duckwrangler508> can i ask yrs plz?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! My fingers shook upon the keys and I accidentally hit the caps lock key. Thankfully I caught my error and backspaced, before sending, “Sophia.

duckwrangler508> Sophia 🙂 thts a pretty name

exitreal297> thnx

duckwrangler508> yr msgs hv meant a grt deal 2 me

exitreal297> rlly?

duckwrangler508> yeah

exitreal297> u dont need much, do u

duckwrangler508> just u

How tempting it was to read deeper meaning into those five simple letters.

duckwrangler508> r u set up 4 vc chat?

Voice Chat? I swallowed nervously. Things were going so fast and yet I had little time before the lunchtime rush of customers arrived. To hear Ducky’s voice meant more to me than I could say, but did I dare risk it? I glanced at my manager. He was staring at me, as if daring me to step outside the lines.

Why had I not waited until I was at home before responding? Oh, the woe, the heartache, the sharp pangs of remorse I suffered as I stared at his invitation.

I dropped my eyes, and stared at the cursor blinking accusingly on the screen.

exitreal297> sorry

duckwrangler508> 2 bd

At the same moment, I heard, “Too bad.” As I frantically reached for the volume control, I realized the voice came from across the café.

My manager stood and faced me. “You have a lovely voice.”

Beyond him, I could see his computer screen with a chat room glowing upon it–the same chat room I had shared with my beloved Ducky. There could be but one answer.

A rushing grew in my ears louder than the hissing steam of a latte, the room swam with black specks like Indonesia Toraja Sulawesi grounds spilled upon the floor and I swooned from my seat.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exciting installment.

Coffee Sensibility: Part II

I bit my knuckle in dismay.

How could I meet for a chat in real time with my manager sitting in the café with me? And yet–how could I deny my longing to be with duckwrangler508?

It had begun innocently enough. I subscribed to the newsgroup for a new inventory system, which my manager had installed on our system, and dutifully skimmed each digest I received. Several times, I saw duckwrangler508 answer the questions of others, and each time he helped them with kindness, consideration and humor. I admired his gentle graces from afar, too shy to introduce myself. Then one day he posed a question no one could answer and by strange chance I had once experienced the exact problem he described–what was more, I knew how to resolve his dilemma.

But here, alas, is the point of my downfall. The solution was not mine. I had spent many hours on the phone with my tech support liaison struggling to resolve the error, though the final solution turned out to be a simple one. The details are not important here, but know that I presented the answer to duckwrangler508 as if it were my own. He responded with effusive thanks both on the group and in private correspondence. If only I had stopped there, but I did not. Emboldened by my success, the next time he posted a quandary, I took it to my tech support liaison and then presented duckwrangler508 with the solution given to me.

It seemed I now faced a beverage of my own making, a cup of instant coffee that threatened to destroy the grounds of our relationship. duckwrangler508 wanted to chat in real time. What was I to do if he asked me a question I could not answer? Should I set aside the mask of netspeak and reveal myself? Would he be repulsed that I was not a computer savant, but merely a barista?

And yet- he had been thinking of me. A flush of pleasure crept through my veins as I realized my last message had been unrelated to computer issues. Was it possible my dear Ducky–as I called him in my most private thoughts–felt towards me as I to him? Before conscious thought could dissuade me from my choice, I pressed the reply button, and let my fingers dance over the keyboard.

“duckwrangler508,” I wrote, “b 🙂 2 meet u anywhere u say. exitreal”

With my heart trembling in my chest, I sent my missive spinning through the Web. Had I sounded too eager? Should I have delayed replying so as not to appear as if I waited on him?

I left my laptop connected to the Web and tried to focus upon my work. I had not long to wait. It seemed my Ducky was as anxious as I was, for he replied instantly with an e-mail reading simply, “now? here?” and a link.

I glanced at Mr. Purvis, still engrossed in his work. All the customers had left the café in the mid-morning slump–surely Mr. Purvis would not begrudge me this small outing–and so, with a small shock at my own audacity, I wrote, “yes. c u there.”

I hit the send button and clicked upon the link Ducky had provided.

A new window opened and I waited through the agonizing second while the chat room loaded. The hourglass upon my screen let fall its sand with maddening slowness; each pixilated grain repeated the same vanishing descent so the pile at the bottom grew no larger while the top grew no smaller. How like the fruitless tasks that filled the hours of my life with meaningless purpose. Is it any wonder I was beguiled by the sense of worth I gained from my beloved Ducky?

The hourglass vanished and the chat room lay before me, empty.

Tune in tomorrow for Part III.

Coffee Sensibility: A Story in Five Parts

Having decided that the cellphone story was, in fact, dull, I’m going to reneg on my promise to finish it via email. It fails because my initial idea was for a high adventure serial, but that was in the scenario where I could send 1000 character texts instead of 160. Action sequences build no momentum in such a short span.

If I come up with an idea that will work well in that format, I might try it again. Meanwhile, I’m offering instead this very silly five-part serial.

Coffee Sensibility

A story in Five Parts

by Mary Robinette Kowal

The bell rang over the door to the internet café. Filled with regret, I closed Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and lingered for one more moment in the 1800s. A customer pushed through the door, pulling my unwilling mind to the present. Ah, to have been born in a time of gentility rather than be surrounded by jittery professionals whom I could barely convince to savor their coffee.

I made the double lowfat-latte with Kenyan beans, enjoying the moment of isolation created by the hissing steam. The customer took no note of the perfect layer of foam atop her latte as she made her way to the bank of computers along the wall. No doubt she would surf the web, paying little heed to the intricacies of the Kenyan.

And yet, I must confess I felt some attraction for the Web and what it held. Ignoring the book I had been so eager to read, I turned to my laptop with a mix of apprehension and excitement and opened my e-mail. Would I find the very thing upon which my hopes depended, or would my longing be dashed as though a Grimac espresso machine thrown from the heights? I watched as mail downloaded with alacrity from the server to my inbox.

I deleted the endless spam, forwards and offers to transfer money from an offshore account, till at last I saw it. My heart beat faster, and my hand trembled so the mouse vibrated upon the screen. There, amidst a wasteland filled with vagaries of communication lay a single glorious epistle. had written back.

I eased the mouse over the subject line, caressing the letters, RE:?4u. I wanted to lengthen the anticipation that filled my bones with a throbbing like a thousand pounds of Guatemala Heuhetenango Organic beans being ground at once.

My reverie was broken as the door to the internet café swung open and my manager, Mr. Purvis, strode in. He was a tall, heavy-set man, florid in his complexion, whose gaze now fixed upon me like a double-shot of Jamaica Blue Mountain espresso. I minimized the window, embarrassed that he had nearly caught me with personal correspondence.

Flushing, I wiped down the counter as he crossed the café. Mr. Purvis donned a headset and logged onto a computer directly opposite me; he stared intensely at the screen but at any moment I feared he might look up.

I tidied for another minute until I could stand it no longer and opened the illicit window. With but a single click, the message blossomed upon my screen.

“hi exitreal297,” I read, shivering as I imagined his fingers upon the keys. “ive been thinking about yr last email. would lv 2 chat real time. what do u say? duckwrangler.”

Chat in real time? The screen dimmed, and the café spun like the burrs of a grinder. Did I dare?