Chewing on his breakfast sandwich and sipping coffee, Echo was going through his morning loop – fake news, funny photos of cats, updates from his friends, that kind of thing, when the intercom rang. He ventured that it must be the courier as he was not expecting any guests at such early hour, and buzzed the person in, without verifying his guess.
It was the postman, indeed and, after exchanging package for Echo’s signature, he bid farewell and ran up the stairs to the next flat. As he walked to the kitchen, Echo inspected the package – it was from Amazon. He pried it open and packs of ground coffee greeted him, proudly flashing all the familiar stickers – fair trade, eco, green, ethically gathered by raccoons, they had them all.
He was putting the final two packs in the kitchen shelf, as he felt a strange crunch, and a foreboding premonition sparked to life. Hanging over his head, it threw a dark shadow from his thick eyebrows down to his cheeks, casting his otherwise perfectly blue eyes obsidian black. Time came to crawl as he mustered courage to look down. He finally lowered his gaze and scanned the packs, searching for that deceiving indicator. There it was – “Gourmet Whole Beans”. His eyes zoomed in. “Whole Beans”. Whole. The letters grew bigger and bigger as his eyes kept zooming in, until they occupied all of his vision. Beans. G-o-u-r-m-e-t-W-h-o-l-e-B-e-a-n-s.
He grunted and, after stashing the two offenders away, returned to his computer. “Bean grinder”, he typed into Amazon’s search box and the screen was instantaneously filled with machinery of all shapes and religions. His gaze drifted between the options as he was discovering his stance on the subject. The cheapest one looked like it was meant to be ground by beans. The second cheapest was a shabby-chic manual one, labelled “vintage”, and had COFFEE spelled on front face, in tacky capital letters. The “Krups twin blade coffee mill” looked kind of alright, he thought, but it was electric and emanated seriousness that Echo wasn’t sure he had the right level of commitment for.
As he finally clicked the “Buy now” link, his mind presented its rationale to him: layered on top of basic fiscal mathematics, were analogies from previous experiences, collected rules of thumb, counteracted subliminally injected marketing messages, and the potential of the purchase weighed against the impact on his daily routine. Compatibility, effort, elegance, noise levels, and bang-for-buck, were all considered in the equation, his mind assured, and for a moment Echo wondered if it was really his.
When the grinder came, he stored it away, and forgot about it till, two months later, the coffee ran out. Still a little sleepy, he then unboxed the machine and plugged it into the mains. He opened the pack of beans with scissors and, after filling the grinder, moved the rest to a jar. He had read a little about coffee and beans in anticipation of the impending change in rituals.
As he took the first sip, his eyes dilated in ecstasy, his tongue twisted in pleasure, and his nose flared, willing to block all other senses, so it could consume the wild substance in solitude. Billions upon billions of little sparks went off in his brain between synapses, creating a sea of new connections between concepts, colors, and numbers, in response to the prepared brew. The oily, savoury cover tickled his taste buds and the scent first cleansed and then elevated his ability to smell. His cheeks blushed in climax and his mind cried out in shock. He could smell words, hear colours, and see sound, and the world was never to be the same again.
In the weeks that followed, he learned all he could about the magical beans. He attended “coffe lovers unite”, “coffee forever”, “coffee singles”, and every other coffee themed meetup he found. He upgraded his gear and acquired one of each device, manual or otherwise, capable of squeezing out the sensational gold. He was really good at his job but, with his interest completely lost to coffee, there was nothing he could do to save that – he left his old world behind and became a barista, and discovered that, actually, he was really good at it.
People from all over the world flew, drove and rowed in just to taste his coffee. The working hours were awful and the pay wasn’t good, but he loved what he was doing. Cup by made cup, wrinkles sprouted on his forehead as time went on, and soon he became the eldest barista in the coffee house. Then the eldest barista in the country, and finally the eldest in the whole world. And, without him noticing, his senses slowly deteriorated, until his coffee wasn’t what it used to be, anymore. At the age of 43 he passed away from overdosing flat white.
* * *
The short buzz of intercom rang while Echo was reading his morning news. He could hear it cascading through the neighbouring flats and, soon after, somebody let the postman in. A minute later three knocks announced him at Echo’s door. The postman gave him a package and, after waving a goodbye, ran away.
As Echo was picking up the final two coffee packs to put them in the shelf, he felt in them the crunchiness that shouldn’t be there. A chill of disappointment and treason ran over his spine, and he knew that he must have, by mistake, ordered whole beans instead of ground coffee. A quick glance verified his suspicion. He nimbly put all six packs back in the box and carried it over to his computer.
Finding the returns section in Amazon turned out to be a no-brainer, and soon a printable page was generated for him that he sent to the printer. He waited a few seconds for the familiar buzz of cogs and belts to start, but nothing happened.
He walked over to the tiny wordsmith to look at its indicators, and found the neglected machinery complaining about lack of ink. Echo retrieved a fresh cartridge from his desk and opened the hood. The printing head dutifully drove out to centre, carrying the old cartridge on top of it. Echo swapped it with the full one and closed the hood.
The printer sounded a low-pitched beep, followed by a strange whirr and then exploded, taking with it Echo, his flat, his house and, in fact, the whole street.
* * *
Three month had passed since the original ordering mistake, and Echo was running out of coffee, the two packs of beans mockingly staring at him from the kitchen shelf. He ordered another batch and, when it arrived, he found that all six packs were bean coffee. Although he wasn’t looking for blame, he found that the mistake was on Amazon’s side. With his mind on work, he shrugged the issue away, thinking that he will deal with it when the time comes. That time came a week later.
Yawning, he walked into his kitchen in pyjamas and turned on the electric kettle. He grabbed the coffee jar from the shelf and, after seeing that there was nothing left to scoop, put it back. What to do, the thought probed his brain, but then he realized the question was a rhetorical one.
He took the hammer from the toolbox and it sunk into his hand with assuring determination. The wisdom of generations seeped from the instrument into his palm and up into his body, filling Echo with overwhelming sense of unity with handywomen and men who had passed this tool from mother to daughter to son, to dog, to cat, to mouse, and back to mother, on and on, connecting humanity in a karmic loop, unend, since the very beginnings of civilization, since the very first hammer, the hammer he was holding in his hand.
Flashbacks of his childhood jumped to life in the backs of his eyes replaying episodes from long ago as crisply as if it would have happened just yesterday. All the hours of watching his mother using the tool. How, in her hands, it gained its true potential with no task unfit, fixing meals and mending clothes with elegance he hadn’t seen ever since. And his own first meager attempts at using it to make friends. A tear rolled down his cheek but he wiped it away – no time for sentiment.
Echo returned to the packs of beaned coffee, and tore at the first one. It refused to open. BANG, he hit it, and a dent in the cutting board marked the point of impact. BANG, BANG, BANG, he relentlessly swung the tool, fast and loose. The package finally gave in, peppering the kitchen floor with beans. He let out out a curse and, as he crouched to pick them up, a painful realisation snuck into his mind, swelling his eyes with tears. He wished he had spent more time with his mother, learning the ways of hammer, learning how to be one with all. He wiped his eyes for it was not the right time for sentiment. No – it was time to crush some beans. Pulling himself together, he let out a shaky, snotty snortle. How many beans were there in a package, he wondered to himself. But then again – did it really matter?
* * *
I guess that was the last of it, Echo thought, looking at the shelf from which the two mistakenly ordered packages were looking back at him.
He turned on the electric kettle, fished out a mug, and dropped one of the Dragonwell tea bags, shaped as tiny pyramids, into it. Tetrahedrons, he let the word roll in his head.
The cravings for the brown brew faded with each passing day and, after a week, they were gone completely. Tumult-free, his cleansed soul glittered in sunlight as brightly as a diamond. Serene, his mind became a crystal clear lake at half past four in the morning somewhere in the centre of Tibet. He began meditating daily and during his meditations he found his perfect mix of western philosophy and eastern mysticism. He now saw life for what it was, and moved away from society. He saw the matrix, and there was no spoon. He became one with the nature, and gave up all his worldly possessions. With the sole exception of the monthly delivery of tea in those tiny pyramid bags.
One day, many years later, as he was moving the supply from the box to the shelf, he felt a strange crunch that shouldn’t be there. The placid, translucent lake of his mind froze over, and the gaps in time between seconds stretched into infinity. He slowly lowered his gaze to meet his hand. “Whole bean tea,” the package said.