• Casey Dunn

Portrait Writing: Enjoying Coffee

Updated: Jul 2

A short story based on the painting Enjoying Coffee by Anonymous


Okay, so, if I was being completely honest with you right now, I’d say that the coffee is whatever and I’m sick of your doting eyes. But, of course, that’s not even going to be close to what comes out in the form of words today. Smile. Drink the fucking thing. Get the hell out. Repeat it one more time. Smile. Drink the fucking thing. Get the hell out. Sing it to the god damn heavens! Smile. Drink the fucking thing. Get the hell out. Great. Terrific.


Shana had spent the better part of the morning getting over the small crink in her neck from another restless night. That marked four since she found out that she was to be married to Douglas Peters. A wealthy business man from Pennsylvania. It was Shana’s idea that her suitor be chosen for her. She had recently misread the tragedy, Eastern Love, a book that was outdated upon its conception by Reg Dundly. Since that moment she, like so many twenty-seven year old spiritual Americans had changed much and more of her life. Some would say in a desperate attempt to find meaning from an otherwise meaningless world. But those people are insufferable and ruin a good cup of tea.


Other than being wealthy in business and from Pennsylvania, not much else was known about Douglas Peters. He was by all accounts those three particularly uninspiring facts and, as has been just previously stated, not. much. else. Shana first met the man when her father and mother and step-father and step-father had introduced the two over biscuits. Not the British kind. The six of them spent the afternoon talking about the world, or at least the very little they all collectively knew about it. At the end, Douglas told one of Shana’s step-fathers that “she will do”. Shana heard this. She did not like what she heard. Of course, she could end the marriage right there and then, but Shana was a bit of a coward. And besides, Akshaya and Kiara didn’t Love each other at the beginning of Eastern Love, Shana thought to herself. Neither was alive at the end, but again, you misinterpret one crucial sentence and everything becomes daffodils and stardust.


The second time Shana sat with Douglas Peters was about to happen in just a matter of moments. It would be their last before they were wedded. In preparation, Shana had constructed the mantra of “Smile. Drink the fucking thing. Get the hell out.” It wouldn’t be enough to keep her wits about her. You see, Shana was about to discover the depths of her cowardice.


Douglas walked in a little flummoxed. He hadn’t tipped the valet and he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to. He came from new money and that sort of thing had certain blindspots. But he was nearly positive the young lad had looked at him for what was longer than appropriate. Of course, he didn’t have cash, he could have asked about Venmo, but he didn’t, he must move on he thought, he must. His quite acceptable soon to be wife stood before him.


“Hello,” he said.


“Hi,” she said.


“Good cup of coffee” he mentioned when he had a sip. Certainly not enough to know whether it actually was a good cup of coffee. Though he couldn’t tell the difference even if he had taken a longer drink. Which he wouldn’t. So why did he feel like he should?


“Yeah.” She responded. Smile. Drink the fucking thing. Get the hell out.


She did not. They did not. Those were the last words they spoke for the entirety of the morning and afternoon. It would be six years before they got past the formalities. And another ten before they started having great sex. But by then the sex was fueled by resentment and loathing. A wonderful spice for the weekends, though no salt or butter.


Shana was sitting in a shopping mall when she tasted good coffee for the first time. It was good to her. The person she was with grimaced and said, “this coffee is trash.” This was the same person who secretly called Shana desperate for being spiritual… you see how insufferable those types of people are? This worthless person had worth for a moment though, as Shana realized that she had taste, desire, want. Should she have known this before? Possibly, but some people don’t. Shana did not. She had been a coward. But suddenly, she was feeling a lot less cowardly. She left the paltry company she was with and made her way to the house she had lived in for the last sixteen years. She walked past her two children - both of whom were collectively as interesting as their father- straight up to Douglas, and demanded a divorce.


Douglas breathed a sigh of relief. He was supposed to tip the valet all those years ago and he was supposed to drink that coffee just a little bit longer. He was supposed to do all the things he hadn’t and he was finally getting the opportunity to set things right. He signed the papers and the two talked as much as they had before.


That evening, the last in that house, Shana reread Eastern Love. When she was done she looked back over her life, over all that it had been, all the choices that she made, all the boxes that reminded her of the cowardly moments, and some heroic ones. Then she smiled. She drank her fucking coffee. And she got the hell out.

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