Flash Fiction Friday: The Coffee Shop

Poet and Every Day Poems editor Tania Runyon continues her Friday forays into the world of flash fiction using prompts from The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. We take play very seriously around these parts, and one big reason is because of the unexpected ways that experimenting with other genres can open up your writing. Is there a style of writing different than your usual fare you could play with? You might be surprised at what happens.


Instead of grinding the coffee beans at opening time, the store manager slit open a burlap sack of Fair Trade Honduran Sunrise and let the beans spill over the table.

“This is urgent, people,” she announced. “Find it, and you’ll receive a free cup of coffee every week for a year.”

College interns in heels, burnt-out moms with newborns, and factory workers ran their hands through the beans, which hit the floor like rain on a tin gutter.

“What does it look like?” a man in a blue suit asked.

“Look like? It’s a diamond ring in a bag of coffee.”

Just weeks before, the vice president’s daughter, Maxine, had visited the Honduran packing house as part of a PR project. She was overcome by the glory of all those coffee beans, the smell like wood and rain, like toucans opening their wings and sailing into the sun. She ran her hands through the mountains of coffee, lifting the beans to her nose and closing her eyes. The fairly-treated worker shifted uncomfortably as the beans made contact with Maxine’s nostrils, spilled down her blouse, and trickled back onto the conveyer belt. She plunged her hands into the coffee again, this time with the force of a ninja ripping out a heart.

“How did she not notice right away that her ring came off?” one of the interns asked, younger than the manager but sporting one of those damn Coach purses.

“Sometimes it happens,” she snapped, scowling at the intern’s railroad of diamonds on her finger. “Coffee gets distracting.”

A day after the factory visit, the packing house was told to stop shipment of the bags in order to find the $184,000 ring passed down from the fiancé’s grandmother. Too late: the coffee had been shipped to three different states, thirteen stores. All were asked to slice open the bags and search for the ring that morning before pouring the beans into the grinder. The manager who would oversee such a find would receive a $1000 bonus.

“Keep digging!” The manager yelled.

“Wait. I think I found something!” the man in the blue suit called out.

“What! Where is it?” The manager ran over.

“It’s. . .it’s. . .my God! The most beautiful bean I’ve ever seen!” He held it up to the light. A preschooler stepped forward and stared, mouth open.

The manager exhaled. “You know, I’ve been here since 4:30am,” she said.

“What? Don’t you have a passion for your job?” he sneered.

“I’m under a lot of pressure.”

“Yeah. That cappuccino froth can be a real bitch. You’re like a 9/11 hero or something.” The girl with the Coach purse giggled.

“Get out of my store, asshole,” she blurted. Immediately one hand flew to her mouth and the other flew out, Jackie Kennedy-like, as if she could grab what she’d lost.

The man squinted. Then he laughed. “Dig for this, lady.” He grabbed his crotch and walked to the door. “I’m getting my coffee at the Mobil station. Oh, yeah. And making some phone calls.”

The diggers stood silently, the preschooler clinging to his mother’s leg. The manager flung a handful of Honduran Sunrise at the window then slumped down at the table with her head down, beans glittering under her hands.

Photo by 96dpi, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan, author of A Thousand Vessels.


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  1. says

    I love this, Tania. Somehow right now, with patience in short supply in the NorthEast after the storm, I feel like I could walk into a coffee shop and maybe actually see this happen today :)

    Great images. Right there with you. Well, with the coffee beans :)

  2. Jon says

    mmmm I could smell the earthy delicousness wafting up into my face as I imagined the warm beans cascading over my arms and hands. I could imagine standing under the flow like a shower letting the smell permeate my skin.


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