Dream Quest One Second Writing Prize Winner -
WINTER 2015 - 2016
of Ponca City, Oklahoma - USA
COFFEE & SUGAR
The coffee is especially bitter today. The young woman thought
as she tried to down her beverages in short sips. Figures.
She sat in a quaint coffee shop and listened to the soft conversations of those around her. A group was huddled at
a table against the wall discussing the day’s news. Someone else was laughing mildly in the corner while their companion
told yet another joke. She watched out the window as strangers ran past in the gray day. Someone sped by while barking orders
into their phone. A family strolled by while holding tightly to their umbrellas; it was spring, but the weather looked gloomy.
She took another sip of her coffee. Today was like
any other day. Her alarm had gone off like it always does. She had stopped for a cup of coffee. She would soon head to a
job she disliked, an office she would want to leave right as she entered. She would work, take her break, work some more,
probably get yelled at by her manager, keep working, and finally clock out for the day. She would head back to her empty
apartment, crash on her bed, and start the process all over, again, and again. This was her life, after all; the routine
The woman knew she was no one special.
She had unmanageable hair. Her eyes never shimmered or sparkled. Her face had no adorable features framed on it. Others
had often called her simple – when they actually talked to her. Deep down she understood that, ultimately, her life
She took another sip and began to
question why she did not just throw the coffee away. It was really bitter, and no one would really care if she did just
toss it. Nevertheless, she drank it while staring out the window.
Soon the world began to fade away from her. The conversations around her began to muffle out. The outside chaos turned
into a whir. All she saw was the cloudy sky which soon became a blur to her conscience. She no longer felt like she was
in the world. She felt lost in her own thoughts. She felt empty. She felt nothing.
The creak of a chair brought her back into reality. Across from her sat an old man wearing a white café apron.
He did not look at her, but instead was fixated down at a small packet he was twiddling with in his hands. The woman could
not make out what he had, but instead blinked shockingly at the ancient stranger who was now at her table.
“My wife used to do that,” the old man said out loud.
“Excuse me?” the young woman replied.
The man beamed. “Ah, my wife. She was the loveliest thing I have ever seen. She never thought of herself as
anyone special. Little did she know that she was the world to me; beautiful hair, bright eyes, and the biggest, splendid
smile ever blessed to a human. She must have been insane to marry a wretch like me.” He gave a slight chuckle.
The woman couldn’t help but laugh along. “Your wife sounds like a wonderful woman.”
“Yes, definitely. Best thing to ever happen to me. I would never take a minute back that I was with her, even
after she died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
He lifted his hand. “Thank you, but that was a long time ago. I greatly missed her, I do, but I also know she
would not have wanted me to stop living my life because it was time for hers to end.”
The woman gave
a slight nod and began staring into her coffee, speechless.
“You really do remind me of her,” he said. He has studied her. “Are you okay?” The woman
peered up at the man and just as quickly looked back down. “I’m fine. It’s nothing, really. I’m just
The man continued to study her. “Yep,
my wife used to say that too, especially right after I caught her staring at nothing. Her eyes would look like the world
had just faded from her, as if she herself had faded away. It used to honestly scare me.
But every time I saw her,
she would begin to smile – the one I told you about – and she would turn and look at me. When I asked her what
was wrong, she would say it was nothing. I knew she had a pretty stressful life, but… I always assumed everything
was fine…” The old man trailed off.
The woman continued
to stare down.
“The last year of her
life she became so sick, from seemingly nothing. Right before she died, she and I were sitting in the hospital and she looked
up at my sorry self and said, ‘You remember those times you caught me staring off? Those were the times that everything
felt truly bleak. My world felt like it was collapsing on me. I didn’t know what to do. Just when everything felt
unbearable, you would always – without fail – walk in. Then I would smile, because despite everything that was
wrong with me and my life, I would realize that I had you. You were the best thing that happened to me. You saved me.’”
The man looked up at the young woman with watery eyes. “She died the next day, but I will never forget what she said.
I will never forget her, especially since I constantly wish I had done something to help her.”
The woman stayed completely silent, staring into her coffee cup. The old man continued to look at her knowingly as
he began to stand up. “I love my wife. She taught me how to stop assuming that everything is fine, especially when
it is not.” He smiled. “The world is full of many beautiful things; anyone would be able to see that just by
knowing you. I don’t know what you’re going through, but I hope you know that whatever it is you are not alone.
When it feels like no one sees you, someone is always looking toward you. When it feels like no one is dying to talk to
you, there is always somebody ready to listen. When it feels that no one cares, rest assured, I know, there is someone who
loves you. There is a bright future ahead of you; I just hope you stick around to see it.”
The old man reached over and placed a small packet on the table in front of the young woman. “Thank you for
listening to my old man’s tale. Sorry about the bitter coffee today,” he said as he walked off. The woman looked
at the packet that read
“sugar” with tear stained eyes. With shaking hands she poured
the sweetener into the bland cup and took a
of the bitter-sweet coffee. She looked out the window with weary eyes, and watched as people rushed
by, and she gave a little, splendid smile.
# # #
A short story
by: Mallory Moore
About the author:
I am a very youthful adult
of 18 years (of age). I'm also someone who just wants to encourage and help others dream of a brighter tomorrow.