Ellen stepped forward.

Joe held out the cup and smiled. “Sixteen ounce half-caf vanilla-bean soy-latte with hazelnut syrup and a double shot of espresso?”

Ellen nodded quickly and accepted her cup with a mumbled thanks before shuffling quietly toward her usual corner. Joe returned to the waiting line of cups and picked up the first one. He squinted at the scribbled name and drink order. He made a mental note to ask his manager if he could work the cash register next time Kaila had the same shift. Her penmanship stank.

After a full minute of decoding Kaila’s hieroglyphics, Joe finally translated the name, or what he assumed to be the name. Dylan. He stretched his lips into his customary smile. Dylan came in regularly. Like Ellen and several others, he always ordered the same drink. Joe checked the order, hoping it might serve as a Rosetta Stone by which to decipher Kaila’s writing in the future.

Either Kaila’s writing was worse than Joe ever dreamed, or the order wasn’t Dylan’s. Joe looked around. Maybe regular-Dylan just wanted a change of routine, but more likely Kaila wrote the wrong name on the cup. His eyes scanned the tables near the counter, then froze.

Joe steadied himself, as well as he could, with his sweaty palms against the counter, waiting for his lungs to remember the proper way to breathe. It wasn’t regular-Dylan. It was high-school-bully-Dylan. Tormented-me-five-days-a-week-for-four-years-Dylan. Put-me-in-the-hospital-for-saying-hello-to-his-girlfriend’s-friend-Dylan.

Kaila slapped his arm, “Wake up, stupid. The hot guy over there is waiting for his drink. If you’re not going to make it, at least take over the cashier so I can.”

Joe started to hand over the cup. His bottle of antidepressant capsules rattled in his pocket. Joe pulled the cup away from Kaila just as it brushed the tips of her fingers. “Nah. I got this one. You’d probably mess it up trying to impress him anyway.”

Kaila shot several verbal bullets in his direction. Joe retorted with a scathing demand to know what exactly she wrote on the cup. With a flip of her hair, Kaila turned back to the cash register.  Joe slipped out the bottle of fluoxetine. He emptied eight of the capsules into the cup before Kaila pointedly banged a waiting cup on the counter. Joe poured espresso and white chocolate syrup into Dylan’s cup before Kaila could notice the powder.


Joe’s hand shook as Dylan ambled over. Dylan flashed a wolfish smile at Kaila. Kaila giggled and put on her “come and get me” face. It  always looked more like a “someone slipped oysters down my shirt” face to Joe. Dylan seemed to disagree. He reached for his cup without looking at Joe. Joe pulled back slightly, second-guessing his actions.

The small movement caught Dylan’s attention. “My drink? Hey! It’s Josephine! Long time no freak.”

Joe forced a smile. “Hello Dylan.”

“Good to see you, man. Brings back old times. I see your nose never did grow back right.”

“You broke my arm.”


Joe pretended to laugh.

Dylan punched him, not quite playfully enough, in the shoulder. ”Hey, no hard feelings, right, man?”

Joe held out the cup. “No hard feelings. Enjoy your drink.”

Poison coffee