Chimera, that was the name of the thing on my cup. A fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Not something you’d want to meet on a dark night, or any night for that matter. I turned the cup around, watching the chocolate-coloured liquid swirl above the red mythological creature. How many times had I done the exact same thing, I wondered. Fifty, a hundred, a thousand even? Then it struck me, I was stuck in this one moment of time, forever drinking coffee out of this same cup, forever looking at the hideous beast and wondering of its provenance, pondering its manufacture, forever gazing around my cluttered kitchen – piles of papers, vitamins, medications on my table, washing up stacked in the sink.
In that moment I realised it was the only moment, the only particle of my life, sitting at that table, drinking coffee from the Chimera Cup, as I called it. And everything else – going to bed to read about breeds of cat, punctuation, violent ecclesiastical communities, you name it, driving to the supermarket, phoning people who were never there, going to shops that always seemed to be closed – happened in the fleeting twenty-four-hour gaps between those coffee-drinking moments.
The toaster clattered and threw a piece of wholemeal bread into the air to land in a dusty corner of the worktop. But then, didn’t that happen every day? Or every iteration of this ongoing moment? I retrieved the toast, wiped the dust off, buttered it and spread it with Madre de Othello marmalade.
I bite into the toast, close my eyes and savour the woody taste of the seeded bread, the tangy Seville orange, the crystals of sea salt in the butter, chewing relentlessly till it diminishes to a swallowable paste. Then a mouthful of dark coffee brew, sweetened with too many spoonsful of unrefined sugar, swilling it around my mouth, experiencing the multiple flavour sensations as it flows over my tongue and cheeks, then the reviving jolt of caffeine that is really the whole point, the essence of drinking it.
“Ben, old man Donaldson wants your report after lunch.”
“What?” I say, “Are you sure? I’ve got it down as Friday.”
Marcy nods her chestnut curls. “‘Fraid so, Benny boy, you should have paid attention to that memo the other day. Better get those figures together pronto!”
I turn my thoughts from her tight red cardigan to my screen and start pulling up all manner of spreadsheets. No lunch for me today.
After an hour, I’m feeling calmer, I’ve got my head around the sales figures for the different agricultural vehicles we sell, from tiny 65cm-wide Sirio tractors to giant trucks with wraparound cabs that look like something out of Doctor Who. It just needs a summary that’ll penetrate the old man’s thick skull, but first I decide to grab a sandwich. My mouth waters at the thought of soft white bread slathered with butter, layered with tangy cheese and brushed with verdant green chutney.
Crossing the road on the short walk to the canteen, a motorbike pulls up. I recognise the red helmet with white stripes. It’s Fanny, from the HR department.
“Hiya Ben, fancy a ride?”
“What? No chance, Fan, I’m really busy. Anyway, I’ve got no helmet.”
Fanny is prepared. She reaches behind her and throws a sparkling silver helmet over. She laughs, “Come on Ben, just a quick spin!”
So, I’m holding onto her leather-clad body, feeling slightly silly in a suit and tie, but exhilarated by the roar of the engine and the smell of sea air as we zoom along the promenade. Up above, seagulls wheel in the blue sky. It’s late summer, but a cool day with a fresh breeze. I realise I’m happy, just to be out, riding on a thundering petrol-smelling bike, my arms around a gorgeous young woman.
Then she’s pulling up at a remote dune, removing her helmet, laughing, blonde hair tumbling down over her black leather jacket. Then it’s coming off, along with the trousers and a green top. “Come on Tom, get your kit off, I need screwing!”
The day’s warmed up as I strip my suit and tie off, pulling my shirt off, hoping I don’t look too pale. Fanny is quite dark-toned, I think her mum is Romanian or something. She’s pulled off her bra and panties now and I feel her warm flesh against mine, smell the sweat and scent of her face as our lips meet and I feel her flickering tongue.
Then there’s a crashing sound. I look up and see the toast has landed in the same dusty corner again. I take a sip of strong, sweet, milky coffee from my Chimera Cup. Another 24 hours gone.
Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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