A Special Brew
A Special Brew
Nat awoke feeling the chill. After a warm September, he had yet to begin to heat his apartment, but now there was a coolness in the air and a definite harbinger of the coming winter. In mid-October, fall had definitely arrived—not only on the calendar, but also in Nat’s aching muscles. After arising and getting his morning shower he descended to the street and heard the sound of rakes and even, at an early hour, the smell of burning leaves. He felt invigorated by the seasonal change, the crisp air filling his nostrils with the sense of fall leaving the bother of a torrid summer behind. His routine morning walk to the corner to get a paper and a coffee turned into a significant stroll as the distant sounds and scents drew him to a street fair. As he explored the vendors and enjoyed the ambience of the fair, he smelled the crates of apples, the mounds of produce and the carts offering fall flavored muffins and drinks. He was drawn to the stand with the longest line. There was a sign indicating a “new” seasonal special pumpkin latte. He didn’t mind standing in line as everyone seemed to be enjoying the break in the extended summer heat and welcomed the fall. When his turn finally came, he announced his order to the young barista. “I’ll take the new, special pumpkin latte. Please hold any nutmeg, I’ve got a medical issue.”
“Right, you got it. And what’s the name?
“It’ll be a minute.” The barista waved at the line signifying the vigorous but welcome business. Nat was not at all put off.
He felt good, in fact the best ever, “No problem.”
Nat leaned against the kiosk, examined the crowd and was amused by the various outfits and differences in his fellow citizens. His community was truly a crazy quilt of people brought together from multiple ethnicities and regions. He could see shorts and sandals as well as Uggs and woolen pants and parkas. Finally, his order was ready.
The barista offered up his cup and muffin and announced, “order for Nate.”
Nate, Nat, he was accustomed to the common error in his name. It was no problem. He paid and standing there took the first delicious swallow of the pungent nectar. He knew instantly that something was different. “Excuse me, I asked for no nutmeg. Does this have nutmeg in it?”
“Yeah, I guess I forgot.”
Nat’s first instinct was to put the brew down, but contrary to his previous experience, he did not have a clogging of his throat or a tightening in his chest, and the taste was fantastic. “That’s okay. I think my allergy must have passed. He took his muffin and latte and exited to the street. He passed a pumpkin stand, and noticed a striking young lady struggling with an oversized gourd. She was a tall strawberry blond with a slim waist and a definite athlete’s body.
“Can I help you with that?” Nat was willing to help her with anything she desired.
“Do you think I need the help? She giggled. “I know what you’re thinking, this pumpkin’s much too big to carry away, and you’re right.
“Well, I’m here and happy to help.” A look into her big blue eyes assured him that he would carry the load as far as needed. They lugged the pumpkin to the corner and down to the parking lot. As they walked, they chatted. She was Lora and was fairly new to the city from a rural area, and realized how foolish as it was to buy such an over-sized pumpkin for an apartment dweller, but she was drawn to it by memories and fondness for her upbringing on a farm. Nat commiserated as he had similar rural upbringing and was, himself, transitioning to a new life as a recent college graduate in a new job as a reporter, proofer, go-fer at a local paper. They instantly clicked. Since she had no local friends yet, she invited him to her small apartment to help carve the pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. He felt she was all too trusting to invite a total stranger to her home, but it seemed innocent.
The afternoon went better than Nat could have predicted. Lora turned out to be a sweet genuine person who was looking for a best friend, but apparently not opposed to the idea of more. Nat had the same idea, but had the experience of spoiling relationships by expecting too much, too soon, so he was fine to let the relationship simmer at whatever temperature she desired.
All too soon, the jack-o-lantern was complete. It’s smiling face seemed more hopeful than horrific. They placed it on a
window sill facing the street. All it needed was a source of illumination to make it more visible from street level. Nat couldn’t
believe how quickly the day had passed. Twilight was approaching. He suggested that they go to a local bistro to get a bit of
dinner. She smiled at him and said that where she came from it was called supper. He countered and agreed that that was the
term he had grown up with as well. Dinner was as successful as the rest of the day had been. The more they talked, the more it
seemed they had known each other all their lives, and were destined to know each other forever. As they walked back to her
apartment, they held hands. Nat felt he was more floating than walking and got the strong impression that she felt the same. At
her door, Nat felt a moment of awkwardness but leaned forward and gave her a peck on the cheek. Her response was to tell him
that she felt they were old friends, or more. With that she gave him a short but meaningful kiss squarely on the lips. Nat awoke to a bright light burning his eyes and the sound of a clanging claxon. He felt the sting of a needle in his wrist
as well as the pressure on his face of a mask. He remembered the tightness in his chest from his previous experience with
allergic anaphylaxis and after a moment remembered the offending pumpkin latte. Soon a masked face hovered above him and
said, “Gosh, welcome back, we thought you were a goner for a while. You should be feeling much better soon.” He did. His
breath and strength returned almost to normal and he was able to sit up and remove the mask. A nurse came in to take his vital
signs. At first, he manifested his dislike for emergency rooms by ignoring her, but then an errant strand of strawberry blond hair
brushed across his face. As she made an apologetic gesture, and repositioned her hair he noticed her face, her blue eyes and
finally her name tag--LORA!