Coffeehouse Collections: Ep 1
Wee Bean Coffee Roasters - La Plata, MD
Coffeehouses and writers, a coupling that has stood against the tests of time. (I am sure that the Odyssey was orated under the canopy of coffee trees, but someone may have to fact-check that for me.) Welcome to a new series called Coffeehouse Collections, where I visit small shop coffeehouses and show you what I have written during my stay there.
For the inaugural post, I visited Wee Bean Coffee Roasters (Wee Bean), a coffeehouse nestled in La Plata, MD. Wee Bean is not wee at all, once a food truck that visited local farmer’s markets, to now a hot spot in town. It is really a great example of what happens when you keep working on accomplishing your dreams!
While I worked on mine, I ordered one of their newest drinks; an iced Baklava-inspired beverage with almond milk and butter pecan cold foam, (featured after post); it was truly heaven, and three layers of it, to be specific!
Now, here is what I wrote during my stay;
The gauze rasped as Magnus wound it around his right hand. His eyes watched as his newest wound, an opening in his palm, was sealed away behind the fabric as if he was paving over a break in a wall, a cocoon to shelter the veins that had been severed, a shield to the world. Last night, the splitting of skin had awoken him, ignited nerves tearing into his subconscious, and uprooted him from a dinner scene with a late family member he hadn't seen in forever. He had woken up to burning and erupted from his sheets, watching in the dimness as he unraveled, the wound opening up and staring at him with a dripping ruby pupil, searing into him, a word, "weak."
Magnus looked up at the round mirror in front of him. Sunlight filtered in through his window and now washed the items in his room gold, as well as carved out his cheekbones, which had risen more and more these past few months. He turned his head this way and that, examining his face. Seeing so many patients, he had forgotten how his beard was now etched in silver, how dark his eyes were, how his black hair curved into waves after washing his hair the night before, and how pale his skin was.
You look very handsome, Maggie.
Magnus offered the mirror a smirk, averting his eyes to his outfit, now a trademark, a black collared shirt rolled to the hinge of his elbows just right, black jeans, and black dress shoes.
"The dead have risen," Ms. Dyer said. Magnus shifted to his left to see Ms. Dyer standing in his doorway, a mug in her cup and her bird, Yellowknife, perched on her shoulder.
"So has the living," Magnus said, brushing over his shirt.
Ms. Dyer clicked her tongue; she rolled her eyes. Yellowknife echoed the tick, and Ms. Dyer sighed at her feathered companion. Yellowknife lifted from his perch, fluttering off to supervise the two on the window frame by his bed.
Magnus looked to the bird, who turned his head this way and that, leaning in with a beady eye staring.
Magnus said, “Are you comfortable?”
Yellowknife clicked his tongue. Magnus nodded. Ms. Dyer poked his side. He looked down at her.
Ms. Dyer said, "Do you have any appointments today?"
Magnus re-tucked his shirt into his jeans.
"You know, I moved out of my parent's place to avoid interrogations," Magnus said.
Let her tease, Maggie. I love it when she teases, it reminds me of your grandmother.
I was never that brilliant.
"I will stop talking until you pay this month's rent," Ms. Dyer said.
Magnus caught her eyes in the mirror. Ms. Dyer tucked her smile in and swayed on her feet, looking down at her mug before sipping her coffee.
Magnus narrowed his eyes at her.
"I always pay on time," Magnus said.
Are you sure?
"Do you? Then I guess I am overdue for silence," she said.
Write that down. Overdue for silence.
“Silence? What do you mean by that?”
Ms. Dyer shifted on the balls of her feet. She pointed at herself, her eyes gilded.
“A kiss, or …. you can guess my name,” she said. She looked up at him from the lip of her mug and drank, the skin near her eyes crinkled.
Magnus turned to face the real Ms. Dyer, her eyes shining on him. She was a few years younger than him. Her hair was sheathed in uninterrupted black. Her skin was healthy, a splatter of freckles curved from the apples of her cheeks to the arc of the cheekbone, kindling the golden eyes that studied him.
"Ms. Dyer," said Magnus.
Ms. Dyer batted her eyes at Magnus, moving the mug away to hold at her chest.
He stepped closer to her, the woman shifting in her stance, her eyes never leaving his face.
Magnus looked down at Ms. Dyer, who looked up at him, her eyes lidded now, her eyes set on his face, the warmth like a fasting fire. He roped his arms around her waist. She pressed against his chest. The mug grinding against his sternum Her breath gave under his hands, pulse ticking under his fingers. She looked at his mouth, then up at his eyes.
Kiss her, would ya?
Stop it, Aberdeen, go on, sweet things, go on.
A chuckle shifted from Magnus’ chest. Ms. Dyer tensed in his arms. Her eyes sharpened, skimming across his face.
Between her teeth, she said, “What?”
Magnus shook his head. He looked into her eyes, her eyebrows furrowed over them now. He tucked a piece of stray hair behind her ears. She relaxed under him, placing a hand on his chest, first a fist, then unfolded palm over his heart. Magnus looked at it. How small it was compared to his body. He pulled the mug away from her other hand and let them both settle on his chest. He met Ms. Dyer’s eyes, burning again, singeing his skin. He pulled her in close, breathing in the notes of the woman; sun, garden roses, sage, thistle, cedarwood, all pouring from her. Her eyes leaped from his lips to his eyes. He caught them mid-pounce, raising her chin to him. She swallowed. Her fingers cloyed at his clothes.
He leaned in, breathing her ashen ingredients. She closed her eyes.
“Your name is Esmeré,” Magnus whispered.
Her eyes flashed onto his face. Magnus smiled. She exhaled through her nose, and rolled her eyes, pushing herself farther into him. Breath caught in his throat. His fingers hooked into her robe. Her lips pulled apart, her teeth shining in the growing light.
“I could wake up to you saying that,” Esmeré Dyer said, her voice raspy.
Esmeré tilted her head. Her eyes caught the dawn like metal.
I didn’t say anything. Twit.
Esmeré hummed, grinning at him. She pulled at his shirt, watching the fabric wrinkle like paper in her palms.
“Come back from your appointment to pay me some more, ‘kay?”
Magnus noted how small her hands were. The tan fingers were flexing in the new folds of his shirt, so close to the skin.
“I never miss a payment,” Magnus said.
Esmeré hummed, nodding to the shirt. Yellowknife clicked his tongue. She looked up at Magnus, and she furrowed her eyebrows, pulling him close to her. Her eyes passed over the ruffled shirt, again and again, her fingertips brushing over a section of the threading, and her eyes dipped into a frown.
“You are getting too deep,” she said. Her hands pressed into his ribs, then lifted away. Magnus tensed, holding his breath, imagining that she could see the bones flex as he breathed through the shirt now. Esmeré looked past him, raising her hand for Yellowknife, who fluttered in a haze of yellow onto her hand.
She turned her heel and padded down the gilded hallway, Yellowknife’s ticks clicking off the walls and down the stairwell as they wandered down to the main floor. Magnus exhaled, leaning against the threshold of his room. He wilted, the room filling with the wash of his breath, a rasp as he ingested air. He looked up at the hand that grasped the frame, wrapped in fresh gauze, his fingers fringed with bruise, sinews flexing in his finger, ornate against his paler skin.
The town of Arcat held its breath as Magnus broke foot on the cobblestone streets. He could feel their eyes through the glass of the storefronts, the whispers rasping the edges of his ears as he passed patrons hunched in the shadows of balconies, vultures waiting for the carcass to break open, the feast of gossip that would fuel Arcat until he returned to reap once more.
Do they always whisper?
They are looking at us.
No, him baby, at him.
Today was an appointment with the Moore’s, one of the oldest families in town, Phillip served as a judge for over forty decades. Flora, his second hand, served as the universal guardian for children in the elementary school for just as long. They had two children, now residents of the distance. Arcatians stated that they had seen the daughter last Winter solstice and the son on Valentine’s day. Magnus didn’t know of them much, just that one was a teacher and the other’s middle name started with a “T.”
Magnus exhaled. His breath burned against his sternum. He laid a hand over his chest, grazing over the remaining ripples from Dyer. He inhaled, his lungs shifting to make room.
He looked at his reflection in the storefront. Translucent on the glass, the eyes of others peering into the overlay of his face, neck, eyes, and shirt. They were divets in his peripheral as he looked at his hand over his chest, now shivering, just holding fabric.
“You are getting too deep,” Esmeré said.
His shirt was a shell of where he came from, bunching over his shoulders graciously, laying without interruption of his body. Esmeré’s hands pressing against his ribs stitched his memory how she found them so quickly, after noting them for how many days before.
They are staring.
Magnus broke his gaze from himself to the shop patrons gawking at him with wide eyes, wayward mouths, and furrowed eyebrows.
“They always do,” Magnus said, resuming his walk toward his appointment, past the stores, and the murmuring people into the quiet of living space, toward the only brick house masked with ivy, Moore’s family home.
It was a quaint home. It was a cottage with black shutters and door, white curtains drawn closed at the windows, making the tangled face look like it had clairvoyant eyes, knowing all of what was going on within without letting the world look through its lenses.
Magnus minded the bristled tendrils of ivy that were weaving their body across the grout of the front steps, fronts reaching out to shadows, including his shoes, that passed over it.
Seems like a dump.
Do you know what’s a dump? Your attitude, Aberdeen.
Good one, Clare.
“Shh,” said Magnus. His reflection blinked at him from the gloss of the front door—the black paint etching out his cheekbones, his jawline, his eyes.
His hand hesitated over the doorknob, glinting in the sunlight, for the guest, for the Moores inside their home. Breath caught in his throat. His bandaged hand fringed with bruises reaching out toward the door.
Let him be.
What is he doing?
Magnus swallowed. Words stuck to his throat, cleansed with breath.
His pulse caught in the web of his throat, building pressure in his head and amplifying blood and thunder against his skull.
What is wrong with him?
Magnus gritted his teeth.
Magnus exhaled, catching himself onto the door and holding the knob in the palm of his hand.
“I’m fine,” he said.
Are you sure, Maggie?
The knob clicked as he turned it, opening it to a dim hallway decorated with pictures. He scanned the entrance, stepping into the interior. He could hear the wash of socks on the hardwood down the hall. He noted a coat hanger with shoes arranged neatly beside it to his right.
The rasp of socks gained a voice. A figure appeared at the end of the hall. A little face with little eyes leaned, Magnus imagined Mrs. Moore squinting at him like she had done to not so quite intelligent questions.
“Are you Mr. Magnus?”
“I am,” Magnus said. He tucked his bandaged and unbandaged hand behind his back.
“Okay. Down here, please, I think it may be time,” Mrs. Moore said, a pitch to her voice. Magnus nodded. He motioned to the coat hanger and the shoes.
“Would you like me to -”
Mrs. Moore waved a hand at him, “No, that isn’t necessary, please.”
The woman disappeared to the left of the hallway. Magnus noted how salty the air was from tears and prayers. There was a mist to the house, and it filtered out light. Besides the day that pooled at the foyer, the house was dim.
Rude, isn’t it?
What? She invited us for a service, and she won’t let us get comfortable.
She invited Maggie, Aberdeen, not us.
That’s right, we are the sales pitch.
What? Adults are speaking, kid.
Go on, Maggie, go on.
Magnus padded down the hall, noting the decorations as he moved onward. A family portrait when the kids were young had askew bangs, a fishing trip with father and son, a framed art project featuring a sunflower in a broken vase, an African mask, a canvas print of a psalm.
Magnus paused at a picture. A man was standing against the front door of the Moore house, his arms crossed in front of him, looking off at a distance with gray eyes.
He looks like he’s your age.
Magnus narrowed his eyes. The man had a scruffy beard, bags under his eyes, and accented twenty-something-year-old. But what held Magnus tight was the pattern of the man’s right hand, engulfed in gauze. Magnus flexed his, tensing as his bones were restricted by the tethers.
Magnus exhaled through his nose, studying the still hand.
A crown of white appeared in the corner of his eye. He turned to Mrs. Moore, her eyes glassy. She looked him over, her mouth a thin line. Magnus bowed his head to her.
“Apologies,” Magnus said. He met the wife’s gaze, softened by the tears. She nodded, looking through him as if someone had said hello at the door. Magnus shifted, the corner of his eyes aware of the man leaning on the threshold.
“Come, he’s ready,” she said, her wispy voice now edged. She slipped into the room again, and Magnus followed her, entering what seemed to be a study. The walls are etched with bookcases with old spines bristled to Magnus. After mulling over yellowed chapters, the air was marked by tobacco, layered from musings. The entrance arched into the rest of the study. A fireplace crackled on its logs, watched over by a rich portrait of the judge in red robes, smoking a pipe, looking down the bridge of his hooked nose. The wall where the fireplace roared was the color of dark green, refracting the gold casting of the fire in the absence of books. A lithe bed was settled before the fire, and laid on it canvased by numerous blankets, Judge Moore, staring up at the ceiling.
It’s a shame. The world loses another human with class.
Magnus turned to Mrs. Moore, who stood to his side, crying as she looked at her husband. Her age-rippled hands ran over each other furiously, turning over her rings as they passed by.
Comfort her, Magnus, poor thing. It is so much to lose your heart.
A half-whimper escaped Mrs. Moore as Magnus placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned to him, the light of the fire etching out her crow’s feet and smile lines. Silver tears ran down them. Magnus grinned.
“You had a lot of years, didn’t you,” he said.
Mrs. Moore nodded, her eyes glassy. “Yes,” she said. She sniffed, looking over at the bed, “62 years, two kids, I can’t tell you how many dogs.”
Magnus chuckled. Mrs. Moore looked up at him.
“I wouldn’t trade anything back. I know it is his time, but it doesn’t make it hurt less when it is here,” she said, running over her hands.
“It hurts because of how you loved him, and 62 years, that must hurt the most, but Mrs. Moore, you also have a good amount of memories to fill the rest of your years, even the bad ones or the ones where he didn’t get a chore right,” Magnus said.
Mrs. Moore chuckled, wiping away her tears.
“No, he was wonderful, always was,” she said.
She crossed to the bed, and Magnus followed. Judge Moore’s heavy breath broke past the clatter of the fire, his chest rising only for a moment before fading in the blankets.
“You were the best, honey,” Mrs. Moore whispered.
Judge Moore looked past them at the ceiling. His mouth was agape, lips were forming obscured shapes of words.
Magnus looked down on Mrs. Moore and nodded, unwinding the bandage from his hand, walking around the socked feet of the man to the other side of the bed, his eyes on the judge as he rotated the fabric, the hiss of gauze entwined with his breath and snarl of fire.
“It will be a minute or so,” Magnus said. He placed his unwound gauze in a pocket and put his hands over the judge's chest.
Let her have one more kiss, Maggie.
Magnus’s eyes shifted to Mrs. Moore. The woman whimpered as she hovered by his cheek, her face shining silver with tears.
“I love you so much, Phil, don’t be shy when you watch over,” she said, and she sealed her words to his mouth. Breath caught in Magnus’s throat. He looked down onto the man, so small and frail, and soon to be silent, and thought of the gaps behind in the mouth of Arcat.
“Okay, Mr. Magnus,” whispered Mrs. Moore, “Alright,”
Magnus nodded and inhaled, flexing his fingers, so his palms rose flat above the judge’s chest. He exhaled, the breath searing past the sternum. He sputtered and turned his fingers, closing his eyes and inhaling through his teeth, letting his muscles churn throughout his body; shoulders, back, calves, toes. He exhaled.
An exhale entered the air, and the smell of smoke came to Magnus’s senses.
“Oh, Phil,” whimpered Mrs. Moore.
Coldness spread across Magnus’s palms. He exhaled through his teeth, breath burning his throat. Metal washed over his tongue.
The coldness sank into his skin. He exhaled, and his head felt weightless.
The ice broke through the canals of his veins, sending the essence of the man through Magnus. Static droned in his skull, the soul taking root.
Magnus gritted his teeth as he stood, friction singing every vertebra. He closed his eyes. He flexed his hands. The ice receded, numbing his bones and blood as it evaporated until warmth resumed and filled its places. Magnus exhaled, relaxing his shoulders and releasing empty air from the palms of his hands. He turned his head to Mrs. Moore, who stared at him, her hands clasped in front of her mouth. Magnus nodded and she exhaled, placing the hands on her chest.
Judge Moore stared past them, a grin on his face.
“Phil,” she whispered.
She looked at Magnus, putting on a smile, and said, “You know, our son was an Archivist, he serves a town over, and Phil, he was always interested in how he could ferry souls, let them live through him - so thank you, thank you so -,”
Silence struck Magnus, washing over him in darkness and silence. His legs went quiet. The muscles evaporated to the bone, pulling him to the earth. Magnus let it be anchored, or if he tried, he didn’t know, his souls calling as if to save him from the silence.
A click plucked Magnus from sleep. Another made him shift, the electricity of slumber sizzling in the sinews of his limbs. A click broke open his eyes only to be blinded by the light, thunder brewing in the fibers of his face. He closed his eyes again, baring them against the sun.
Dyer’s voice said, “Take it easy,”
Magnus shifted, peeking open his eyes, “Where -”
“You collapsed after exhuming Judge Moore,” Ms. Dyer said. She stood at his side, and her mouth dipped in the corners. Her eyelids flickered, fingers tracing over his overlaid hands.
Ms. Dyer swallowed, “I came running,” she said.
Magnus looked around the room. Everything was white, accented by the tools that hung on the wall and the monitor that noted the rhythm of his heart. Magnus shifted in his bed. Breath caught in his throat. Sweat beaded his forehead. Thunder filled his skull.
“I can’t hear them,” Magnus said. His sternum caught tight.
Dyer pressed her lips together, furrowing her eyebrows at their hands.
Silence rustled in the membranes of Magnus. He flexed his hands, filing through them; Peter, Carla, Alma, Moses, Clare, Aberdeen, Russi, Mr. Moore, Pearl - Silence spoke clear, wiping away their memory from bone, and Silence whispered, appearing in the tears on Dyer’s face.
“I know you can’t,” Dyer said. She squeezed his hands together, and her eyes met his, reflective and dim.
“I know, being an Archivist is a lot, carrying all those souls, the appointments, but, you were getting too deep, I could see it,” she said, her voice a rasp.
“The doctor said you were holding so many - too many - that you broke, Magnus. They aren’t coming back,” Dyer said. Her body shuddered. He could feel her quaking by the tremors in her hands.
Magnus looked at them. Her fingers intertwined with his. Static buzzed in his brain. He flexed his fingers to hold her close to his palm, her skin so warm against his and vibrating as she sobbed into her chest.
He tensed, and faceted his hands onto Ms. Dyer.
Ms. Dyer said, “Magnus? What is it?”
He wilted, turning in to listen for Alma, the lilt of her voice still fresh.
Just a few words, Maggie. The others are passed on, but they asked me to say something.
Magnus nodded his head, staring down at the white blanket.
Moses says thank you. Russi wants you to pluck flowers for her every day. Every day, you hear? Pearl wants you to put meat on your bones. Carla wants you to dance. Clare wants you to kiss that woman, for goodness sakes. Aberdeen wants you to shave, I won’t say anything else, you know him.
Magnus leaned further in, he furrowed his eyebrow.
“What about Judge Moore?”
Oh he understood, Maggie, he said he truly gets how his son must feel, and he thanks you for that. He is happy to wait for Mrs. Moore.
Magnus smiled, squeezed Ms. Dyer’s hand, and looked up at her. Tears tickled as they ran down his face. Ms. Dyer blinked at him, her lips pulled into a small frown, and nodded her head. Magnus looked down at the bed, blinking at the white sheets.
He asked, "What about you, Mom?”
Ms. Dyer pitched her hand around his.
Alma clicked her tongue.
Heal baby, I want you to heal, eat, run in fields, kiss, and heal.
Thank you so much for reading the short story for today, and thank you Wee Bean Coffee Roasters for offering such an awesome atmosphere to write it! Please comment what your thoughts were about Archivist and what coffee shop I should visit next! Cheers!