Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREED (avarice, particularly for wealth and things) (01/22/15)
TITLE: A Cup of Tears
By Jody Day
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I looked for my elderly, reclusive next door neighbor as I came outside for the morning paper. He picked his up at the same time, and ignored my “Hello” as usual. Something compelled me to add, “Would you like a cup of coffee, Mr. Jordan?” before he slammed his front door.
I’d received a package of dark chicory coffee for Christmas from my Louisiana cousin. I had enough left for one more pot. Loved the stuff so I took myself to the corner grocery store to restock.
“We do carry it, Ma’am, but it only stays on the shelf one day. Someone buys the entire order the day it arrives.” The manager slapped price tags on boxes of macaroni and cheese with machine gun precision.
“Really? Well, could you save me back one or two when you stock them?”
“If I can remember. Maybe you should call on Thursdays when our shipment comes in.”
“Will do. By the way, who buys all that coffee? A restaurant?”
“Can’t really give out that information, Ma’am.”
“Of course not. Well I’ll call next Thursday to remind you. Have a great day.”
The fact I’d just learned about the store’s coffee order peaked my interest. Bought for gifts? Shared with neighbors? Just a greedy so and so? I couldn’t imagine why anyone would buy 48 packages of coffee every week.
The next morning Mr. Jordan didn’t come out for his paper. After three days I began to worry. Crazy, I know, but I ventured to his front door and knocked.
“Mr. Jordan?” No answer. The unlocked door made it easier, but my pounding heart complicated things. A deep breath, and an “if anything has happened to him and I didn’t check” thought pushed me through the door.
“Mr. Jordan? Are you all right?” I found myself standing in a room stacked to the ceiling with boxes. Coffee. Dark, Louisiana roast. Of all the greedy, selfish… Not a sound or a light on, I stepped along a pathway lined with boxes, irritated to the max. The furniture, or actually the lack of it, astounded me. Boxes of coffee stood neatly stacked everywhere, in every room. Was this greed or some kind of sick compulsion?
I called his name one more time as I entered a bedroom. Coffee boxes surrounded the twin-size bed. His frail frame barely raised the blanket from the mattress.
I stepped toward his bed, trying to see in the dark room. The boxes in front of windows blocked out the morning sun. An almost inaudible moan rose from his lips.
His pale pallor and labored breathing frightened me. I called 911. The light switch I searched for yielded nothing. Did he even have his electricity turned on?
“Helen?” His slight whisper had a pitiful whine to it.
“Who? No, it’s Jan from next door. You expecting someone?”
“You came back. You were supposed to…meet me for… coffee.” His labored breathing and coughing made it difficult to speak. “I was going to… propose. I shipped out that night. I’ve been saving it for…. you. You came back.”
His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he tried to talk. I realized his dehydrated state and rushed to find the kitchen and some water. Two coffee cups and a single red silk rose in a vase posed next to a framed black and white photo. A very young and beautiful dark haired girl in a Women’s Army Corps uniform smiled like a dream. I opened a black velvet jewelry case that nestled in one of the coffee cups. The ring dazzled the sad, lonely room.
I don’t know when his dementia set in or how long he’d been collecting coffee, but I could guess the reason. A jilted lover tried to recapture her heart year after lonely year.
His color is better these days, and I really enjoy his smile when I visit him in the nursing home. I can’t help it if he thinks I’m his long lost love. His nurse always slips me the beautiful engagement ring, and I give it back to her when I leave.
They are sweet to brew up a pot of chicory coffee for the two of us. They have a lifetime supply now.
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