Coffee-chocolate ~ dark urges

Coffee-Chocolate ~ Short fiction
and art
by Mo Conlan

Annie had a tricky stomach. Over-the-counter pink tablets weren’t working anymore, so she went to see Suri Patel. Annie and Suri had been friends since rooming together in college a decade earlier. Now Suri was Annie's doctor.

“How much coffee and chocolate are you eating?” Suri quizzed Annie.

Annie shrugged.

“A lot?” Suri prompted, more accusation than question. A lot of coffee and chocolate had been Annie’s MO since college days.
“I want you to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Suri said.

Annie nodded. “Okay.”

“And no more coffee and chocolate.”

Annie jolted upright on the exam table. “You know I live on coffee and chocolate. And chocolate’s good for you.”

“It can be,” Suri said. “But you are wrecking your digestive system.”

Annie flashed her a rebellious look. “Just give me a stomach pill.”

“Won’t do much good if you keep aggravating it. But it’s your stomach – you have to live with it,” Suri said. Then, ominously – “There are more drastic measures.”

Driving home, Annie thought about the tub of Black Satin coffee in her pantry. The smell as she scooped out the beans and put them into the coffeemaker-grinder each morning. The music of the first few perk-perks.

She loved pouring the brewed coffee into the silver urn that had been her grandmother’s and sipping it from mugs made by her potter mother. She liked the lift the caffeine lent her days in the cubicle of a giant insurance company.

Annie’s mouth watered thinking about her stash of Hershey’s dark chocolate nuggets with almonds – better than pills for an energy low or emotional emergency. And the jar of homemade hot fudge sauce in the frig melting slowly over a mountain of vanilla ice cream, food for the gods.

I won’t tell Victor what Suri said, Annie decided. Her husband worried about her stomach. If she gave up coffee and chocolate, Victor would, too, in solidarity, Annie knew. It wouldn’t matter to Victor, though. He didn’t care what he ate and drank. Victor cared most about the numbers he juggled in the same company where Annie worked, only Victor was way higher up the corporate ladder.

Annie knew, though, that she would not actually be able to keep news of the coffee-chocolate ban from Victor. She had little self control.

Really, she thought, the whole coffee-chocolate thing was petty. The world was full of big, serious problems. Global crises. Coffee and chocolate meant nothing in the big scheme. Really nothing. But, her chocolate-coffee-loving inner brat remained greedy. To this brat, coffee and chocolate were everything.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Victor asked when Annie arrived home wearing a beaten-down face. “Did you get fired?”

“Worse. Suri says I can’t have coffee and chocolate anymore,” Annie wailed, pointing to her stomach.

Victor folded her into his arms. “I’ll buy us some carob bars and we can have tea instead of coffee. No real harm. No harm.” He patted her back.

“I hate carob. Mother used to make me eat it when she was a hippie. And tea is just a lame excuse for coffee,” Annie sobbed.

That night after dinner, Victor fixed them each a cup of peppermint tea. He drank his with exaggerated relish. Annie stared at her cup, tasted, then walked to the kitchen and poured it down the sink.

“You are going to do what the doctor ordered?” Victor called after her, his tone querulous.

“Of course,” Annie said.

She was pretty sure this was a lie.

Next morning, Annie padded into the kitchen and opened the coffee cabinet. There was an aching space where the tub of Black Satin coffee had been.

She rummaged through the kitchen garbage can hoping to find the coffee tub. Not there. She opened the snacks cabinet – no Hershey’s nuggets.

She scoured the refrigerator for the precious jar of homemade fudge sauce. Gone. Victor must have taken it all with him when he left for work early, she thought. He was going to be her enforcer.

On her way to work, Annie stopped at a coffee shop and paid a shocking $3 for a large coffee to go. Even from a cardboard cup, the caffeine worked its magic.

At lunchtime, she trotted up a few blocks to a McDonald’s and ate a salad, drank a chocolate milkshake and finished with a chocolate sundae.

Suri said to eat more vegetables, she congratulated herself.

Deception became her daily routine. Worried that Victor would smell the coffee and chocolate on her breath, Annie bought 12-packs of mint chewing gum. She chewed so much her jaws ached.

“You’ve got gum breath,” Victor said one evening as he kissed her.

“I just thought the gum might help with, uh, you know...”
Victor smiled approval. “Good girl.”

The more Annie sneaked chocolate and coffee, the worse she felt. The guiltier she felt, the more she craved chocolate and coffee. She was consuming twice her usual amounts. Her stomach was in a constant uproar.

She began arriving home late from the office, getting another coffee fix in at the end of the day. This made her so wired she couldn’t sleep.

One morning, Annie looked at herself in the mirror and barely recognized the blotchy, puffy-eyed face of the woman who had been a homecoming queen candidate.

Victor, suspecting something, became more vigilant about coffee and chocolate contraband. Annie – though getting her main fixes outside – increasingly resented this. After she found carob bars instead of the chocolate she’d hidden at the bottom of the laundry hamper, she cooked two of the bars on her George Forman grill and served them to Victor for dinner.

He smiled indulgently. Annie smiled back, thinking of the bag of Hershey nuggets stashed with the elderly widow next door, Mrs. Periwinkle. Annie could come by and eat a few nuggets any time before 9 at night, when Mrs. Periwinkle went to bed.

“Just taking a walk, darling,” she called to Victor one evening as she stole across the back yard to her neighbor’s and knocked on the back door.

“I need three nuggets, fast,” she blurted as Mrs. Periwinkle opened the door.

“Oh, dear,” her neighbor said, “have you thought about seeing a doctor?”

“I have – she told me to stay away from chocolate and coffee,” Annie confessed.

“I was thinking of, well, a different kind of doctor, dear,” Mrs. Periwinkle said. “My son is a psychologist. And, really, such an understanding sort of man, like his father.”

Over-caffeinated and miserable, Annie said, “I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

The next afternoon, Annie walked into the office of Gary Thornton Periwinkle, PhD. He had a nice smile and amused brown eyes. He looked like a man who might be fun to have coffee in bed with, Annie thought. She could actually smell the coffee.

“Do you like your work,” he asked her.

“No,” Annie replied.

“What about your husband?”

“Not that much.”

“What do you like?”

“Really good coffee, Hershey’s dark chocolate nuggets with almonds – and I like to write.”

Doctor Periwinkle laughed. “I’ve got a fresh pot brewing in the next room. Can’t live without the stuff. Want a cup?”

Annie nodded, breathed deeply and smiled. Her stomach felt a bit better.

She needed only two sessions with Doctor Periwinkle. A few weeks after the last one, Annie quit her job and moved out of the house, on a “trial separation” she told Victor. But she knew it was over.

Annie found a two-bedroom apartment and reserved one room for writing. She earned enough as a barista at a nearby cafe to pay the rent.

Victor and Annie divorced and he started dating a woman with no food obsessions. Annie felt off the hook. Victor really was a nice man, and on the way up.

After awhile, Annie began dating Gary. He was fun to have coffee in bed with. And on some occasions, to have chocolate mousse in bed with. They liked to browse bookstores, stroll to cafes and dawdle over coffee. During one of these dawdles, they got engaged.

It was a small wedding and reception. Annie wore a short mocha-colored silk gown. Mrs. Periwinkle and Suri Patel, Annie’s attendants, wore dark chocolaty brown dresses.

Suri was all smiles. She thought Annie’s improved stomach health was due to the effectiveness of her coffee-chocolate ban. So, she was puzzled by the chocolate wedding cake and coffee bar.

“Sometimes a little chocolate and coffee are good for you,” Annie whispered.

Comments, stories, chocolates?

After coffee-chocolate, taste one of Kathy's short stories.

Patty has a similar take on the theme of chocolate.