An intense sun punished Atlanta for another day. The slight elderly woman had balked at the idea of venturing out in the heat, but the protesting of her stomach convinced her. She collected her parasol and went to the apothecary.
Upon entering, a spicy scent greeted her. Polished pine shelves held familiar bottles of tinctures and jars of ointments.
As she walked past a shelf of shaving mugs and bristle brushes, she spied Doctor Mooney behind the counter. He was grinding something with a mortar and pestle. Looking up from his work, he spoke. “Afternoon, Mrs. Beeman. What brings you out in the heat?”
She approached him with purpose, never letting her gaze leave his eyes. When she reached the counter, she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Doctor Mooney, I need some bitters.”
“I see. For an uneasy stomach?”
“Yes. I‘ve tried mulberry tea, but it isn’t working any more.”
“Hot weather makes stomach ailments feel worse, but I can help you, though. I’ve got something better than bitters.”
“I don’t want peppermint.” She whispered the last part of her reply. “It makes me belch.”
“Oh no, this isn’t peppermint. I’ve been working on a tonic for digestive problems. Some folks are saying it works wonders. Would you like to try it?”
“Yes, yes. Anything besides peppermint will do. I need relief.”
He turned his back to her and reached for a bottle. Expertly, he added something to the contents.
Curious, his customer inquired. “Was that seltzer water you added?”
“More or less. Usually my customers drink my tonic right here, but I’m sending some home with you. Sounds like you’ll need a second dose. Drink half of this today, and finish it tomorrow. Be sure to put the lid back on tight after you open it.”
“Thank you, Doctor Mooney. Please put it on my account.”
“All right. Good day, Mrs. Beeman.”
She walked the three blocks back to her home, her hair damp from the heat and falling out of the comb that held it. Her parlor wasn’t cool, but at least it was out of the sun. For a moment, she sat and fanned herself until her curiosity got the best of her. She opened the bottle of dark liquid and sniffed. It didn’t have much odor, so she took a sip. Expecting it to be bitter, she was surprised when it was not. In fact, she found it sweet and pleasant tasting, and she enjoyed the mild bite of the bubbles that burst on her tongue. Drinking half of the bottle was not difficult to do.
In a little while, the annoying pain in her gut did diminish. The tonic had worked better than either bitters or mulberry tea. In addition, she found it had given her a little boost of energy.
That night, a welcome thunder shower cooled off the city. When she woke the next morning, she finished the bottle of tonic, but not because her stomach was still bothering her. Instead, she found herself looking forward to drinking it.
The clouds lingered until mid morning, blocking the scorching sun. Mrs. Beeman decided to go for a walk. Strangely enough, she found herself heading in the direction of Doctor Mooney’s apothecary. She nodded to the driver of a passing carriage as she entered the store.
Doctor Mooney smiled. “How did the tonic work, Mrs. Beeman?”
“It really did help. I’ve come for more. I‘d like another bottle, please.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have any more at the moment.”
She tried to hide her disappointment. “Oh?”
“Yes. I don’t have any more mixed right now, and it’s going to be awhile before I do. I believe Doctor Pemberton has a similar tonic he is making, though. In fact, we’ve compared notes. Go to his apothecary and inquire.”
“Thank you, Doctor Mooney. I hope it’s as good as yours.”
Mrs. Beeman lifted her chin and turned to leave.
As she was walking out, Doctor Mooney called after her. “Mrs. Beeman?”
“Tell Doctor Pemberton I sent you.”
Mrs. Beeman smiled. “Certainly. By the way, what should I ask for?”
Doctor Mooney rubbed his chin. “Odd name. I believe he calls it Coca Cola.”
*Author’s note: This is strictly a work of fiction and in no way suggests that Doctor John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia did not solely invent the formula for Coca Cola.
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