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The Best Cup

Elizabeth Mollies was about to make the greatest cup of coffee in human existence. Neither before nor after would there be a cup as good. If you drank it black, you’d begin to think that maybe you should try a little milk now and again. If you dumped spoonfuls of sugar, you’d realize that this cup did not need it. If you drank tea, you’d finally get the craze over the bean. Even Plato himself could not have imagined a more ideal image of the drink.

And yet, all she had was a dusty, old espresso machine that had been new, once. A relic from her wedding, and subsequent three-year marriage for which the engagement seemed a longer span of time. The thing seldom pumped out the velvety dual streams of steaming foam, and on that day it helped make the perfect cup, Elizabeth didn’t even notice for she was cutting up some raw vegetables while the motor choked and ground as it normally did.

When she finished the pull, it was at the absolute perfect moment, when the grounds had not just that instant made the saturation limit. She got her grounds from a local coffee shop — and she did not even like to get the most expensive variety. But when she had got them, you see, there were just enough trace amounts of favoured and aromatic beans from previous grinds left in the machine. Thus, taste of roasted coffee was pure, though amplified by a mystery of flavours that the conscious mind could not quite detect, but soothed a feral need for hidden secrets.

Her tap water had been out, you see. Building maintenance. So both the machine and the kettle were filled with glacier water. And these particular bottles the water came from had been frozen in a mountain of ice — the inside had never been exposed to poisons or pollution. Before these bottles landed on the shelves of a local low-rent grocery store, the water had not been water for thousands of years, frozen atop a mountain in British Columbia, isolated from the machinations of mankind.

So as the water from the kettle gently streamed over the edge of the ceramic mug, the water mixed with espresso in a culmination that had been waiting thousands of years to occur. An event whose beginning transcended human existence. The crisp memory of the alpine air mixed with the muggy sensation of tropical Africa, it amplified the notes of either, swirling around in a storm of untapped sensation to come.

The few spoonfuls’ worth of milk she poured had come jointly from a cow who was at the peak of her fertility and existence, mixing the perfect blend of her own health into the nourishment that never reached her offspring. Clouds atop the beverage swirled as traces of fat pooled atop the surface, mixing in underneath turning black to earthen beige. The sugar she added, raw sugar, had aged in storage and on shelf for the perfect duration to saturate the fluid more perfectly than was statistically possible.

Though as she stirred the cup until she could feel no more granular collisions, Elizabeth’s eyes glanced over to the clock on the stove. “Shit!” she claimed, and shoved her rubber lid on the travel mug, grabbed her bag, and headed out the door, for she was late for work. She sucked back as much of her coffee in-between answering emails on her phone while stopped at red lights.

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