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In the grounds | Zero Readers

In the grounds

by | Issue #1, Issues

Her coffee
could wake the dead,
quite literally.

This secret menu was real.

The body lay on three tables
pushed together
while his father sipped mint tea
in a corner after hours.

The recipe, simple:
too many beans
dark, oily
crushed by screaming burrs
water, too hot
in an antique espresso machine,
made of hammered brass.

The too much of it all,
became pure alchemy,
though she and her tip jar
always sat empty.

Once an act of love,
now a simple bread job
gone stale.

A drink against nature
cascaded into a tiny white cup.
Then she dolloped icy milk
into the noisette from hell.

From her apron pocket,
she pulled out a nutmeg seed
the size of a lump in a throat.
With a tiny metal grater between her fingers,
she dusted the coffee
with sparks and spice.

The father looked up from his tea
as she pressed ceramic to
cold lips.
Dark coffee
and darker magic
slipped down the desiccated throat.
A moment, a lifetime later,

                               the body breathed

His blue eyes, now turned brown,
stared up at her.

Live or die? she asked
because you always had to ask.
Live, he said
because everyone always said live.

Except,
she would never know why
her mother had said die
and would spend the rest of her life
brewing and wondering.




Nathalie Lawrence was once a bureaucrat but now works as a technical writer in Chicago. A long time ago, she studied to be a mechanic. Alas, she received a slightly wrinkled degree in English and Nonfiction Writing from George Mason University instead.