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Photo: Daria Shevtsova

Café of The Dead : 2.5 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 13/09/2020

The coffee was good.

First thing, and for the rest of the day, with no one else to have your back; when you’re out on a limb, punching above your weight and in the dark, but in broad daylight.

Call it Java, or your morning Joe, even if the franchised Starbucks tasted fake.”

Call it Java, or your morning Joe, even if the franchised Starbucks tasted fake. Ultimately, the brew here was her best friend. All the real ones had left. Survive this, she could survive anything.

“Ma’am Paris, thees latte, from Mr. Mark.” Three-quarters of a shot dunked in steamed milk, not foamed, not frothed, one Canderel. “Same like your usuaaall.”

7 a.m. DXB, and the friendly sounds of Filipino English were already jamming her synapses. It was an accent she couldn’t quite grasp, like Glaswegian and South African – Yaarh . . . And one, that would be ringing in her ears now for hours.

The milk flavoured coffee was more caffe machiato than latte, but she’d quit correcting people. And this one was an innocent. 

“Thanks, Dan. He’s here?”  Mark, ‘The Strategy Man’, Williams. Forced to share a table, they hit it off over a year ago during the 10 A.M. rush for elevenses.

“No, Ma’am. He see you sitting outside here alone, when he drive past to Parking. He called to order you one more.”

What was Mark up to? The Board take-over his company had been mounting for months over hers, a recalcitrant subsidiary, also the Group’s most profitable, wasn’t easy going on anyone. He wins, and she was gone. Same as the other senior execs queuing at the counter. Beyond the oil they were paid to continue pumping out of the Caspian, what were they, but corporates on borrowed time? Cramped together in the small space, the final nail in the coffin appeared to be imminent. Or would it be a mass grave?

Counting down. -Photo: Stas Knop

Back when they were producing 100,000 barrels a day and were the darlings of several Stock Exchanges, Dan would bring bespoke coffees directly to their desks. (Hers always came with a doodled smiley face.) Then, overnight, security became an issue when the take-over talks started, barring him from entry. Forget that this flagship Presto, with outlets in all the Group’s petrol stations, was where the agents of both sides mingled.

Speak of the Devil, there goes Nadim, their Chief Auditor. Clutching his cuppa, he’s taking it upstairs, throwing her shade as he goes. The waiting around to know your fate was made all the more dangerous by plotting snakes such as him.

Not unlike Mark. The coffee meant they were buddies of sorts, but only for as long as it suited. Did it portend a poisoned chalice? – A new role she could only fail in? Goodwill already in his pocket, was her free will also for sale? Or was it, a precursor to hemlock, to kill all hopes of ever coming out alive? Then again, when it was time, it was time.

Moving in-house from practice, before, it had always been teas. Here, she was a caffeine addict.

Photo by Igor Haritanovich

“The smoothness of the beans cradled in your hand, the way its aroma envelopes like a cloud. It made the inevitable less real, yet all the more vivid.”

The smoothness of the beans cradled in your hand, the way its aroma enveloped like a cloud. It made the inevitable less real, yet all the more vivid.

“Dan, it’s yours. Bring me an espresso, double shot, three sweeteners.” Smart in his uniform and cap Dan always served, regardless how dubious the order.

Chin-chin . . . Drunk on dark thoughts swirling in her head, she downed the goop in a gulp. Laughable really, how they were all gathered; this bitterest of saccharine farewells, a fitting closure for so many dead careers.

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