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These stories are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2017 Frye Martin

Coffee Contes Image

What is a conte? Pronounced “coont,” it is a short story or novella. Coffee contes are stories to enjoy as you sip your coffee, tea, or any time you want a break. These are stories to sip to.

Conte #1 Image

One Sip Brought Escape

Read time: Approx. 5 minutes


        When Gemmina looked up from the table and from her cup, she saw a slightly bewildered look on Harrison’s face. It was only her first date with him—not even a date. It was a prelude to a date. The two had met for coffee. She wondered what she could have done so soon to bring that look to his face.
        “What’s the matter?” she asked him.
        He seemed to shake the whole thing off. He looked as if he’d have like to erase the previous few minutes.
        “No,” he said. “Nothing.”
        “You sure?” she pressed.
        Did she want him to tell her that he wasn’t that into her, that he’d suddenly realized that he was wasting his time? She knew that the answer was yes. She had no interest in wasting her time, despite the fact that she’d thought that things had been going very well. Maybe even a little too well.
        “Okay,” he said, and he braced himself. “I, uh, I was having a good time. I really thought that you were, too. I don’t want to, you know, mess it up, but… when I just looked at you a second ago, it really seemed like you were gone.”
        Gemmina blinked. “Gone?”
        “Yeah, you know, like you had left and I didn’t know where you went. I know that sounds crazy. Hey, you’re back now, so let’s just—“
        “Wait,” she interrupted.
        Gemmina thought back to that moment when she’d raised her cup, just moments before she looked up from the table and saw his startled face.
        “I was somewhere else,” she said as it came rushing back at her.
        Then she told him about it. She couldn’t contain herself. It poured out of her.
        “I remember taking a sip of this coffee. It was a little too hot, and I was just about to tell you to be careful since yours might be too hot also. But before I could speak, I felt something different. Like there was a breeze over my shoulder. And I turned around to look and see how a breeze was blowing at me through a wall. I saw that there was no wall where I was. I was on a mountain.
        “How could I be on a mountain when I was just inside this, honestly, over-priced coffee house, which I must admit is more comfortable than my apartment? I wasn’t even the only one there. There were other people there who looked like me, regular people, and none of us looked like we should have been on a mountain. There was a guy in a business suit. I noticed him because he looked like he wanted to yell or to panic, but each time he look a sip from his cup, he calmed down for a while. There was also a strange colorful bird there with a very long tail.
        “It was all so comforting for some reason. Everyone there was living whatever life they were living, only we were all able to just take a break from it for a little while. When I finally got tired of looking at the brilliant sky, the huge, fluffy clouds, the man in the suit, and the magnificent bird, I just took a sip of my coffee again. It was the perfect temperature by that time. The taste of it was soothing and energizing and exciting and delicious all at the same time. And I just had to come back to ask you what kind of coffee is this?
        “But then I looked at you, and I saw your face, and I forgot to ask.”
Harrison watched Gemmina’s face with an intense focus. She immediately looked embarrassed.
        “And, yes, I was having a good time,” she told him, “and I know I sound crazy. But I’m back now, so let’s just—“
        “So I wasn’t there?” he asked.
        Gemmina gave Harrison a questioning look.
        “I wasn’t on the mountain? I sure could use a get away. Frankly, I’d love to go there with you.”
        Gemmina smiled. She released a relieved breath. She’d have loved to go there with him as well.
        “Hold your cup like this,” she instructed him.
        She took her coffee mug into her hands. He mimicked her perfectly. They exchanged knowing glances.
        “Okay,” she said. “Get ready to take a big gulp.”

Conte #1 Image

The Truth Is In The Dregs

Read time: Approx. 8 minutes



        The night was black without a ray of moonlight, and the rain had only just let up. There had been howling winds, rain that fell in heavy sheets, and deep thunderous rumblings, which set the scene for things so perfectly that it made the four people stand and glance from one to another nervously.
         “Where are the police?” one asked.
        That one was Percy. He was the patriarch. Tall, commanding, he still had the posture of a military man even though he was advanced in age—the oldest in the group. They only felt safe because of him.
         “I called ten minutes ago. It sounded as if they’ve had a lot of other calls already. I can try again.”
        That was Darlene, the teacher. She lived next door to Percy. There was talk here and there that she was dating Percy, or trying to, or wanted to. His wife was still fresh in the ground, so to speak. Darlene’s romantic past was a mystery. All they knew was that she’d come to the neighborhood alone.
        After a sigh, came this: “Is there any need for us to wait around?”
        Those words came from Hema, known to everyone as the Indian lady. While the others looked scruffy and out of sorts, Hema’s clothes were pressed and prim as always. There was not a hair out of place. Her makeup was perfectly applied. It was three in the morning.
         “Should we even be here at all?”
        Shay asked that question. Shay was the youngish, black professor with her hair in braids, some of which poked out of an expertly tied silk scarf. She was the department head of Multicultural Studies at the local community college. She was the youngest of them, yet she was visibly the most tired.
         “I think someone should stay here … out of respect,” said Darlene.          “I’m telling you now that if you find my dead body anywhere, I’d really like for you to stay with me—or it—until I can be properly looked after.”
        Darlene had said it. She was the first one to come out and say it. They were standing over a dead body, the body of their other neighbor, Margaret Hefler.


        Margaret Hefler was an old woman. The last time age had come up, she’d admitted to being 79 years old. That had been years ago. She could have been anywhere from 85 to 90. No one had properly kept count, least of all Margaret Hefler. It was entirely possible that she had died simply, as people of a certain age are considered to do. Not that a heart attack or a stroke is simple. It was possible that she went in the very way that everyone hoped to go—merely floating away quietly, peacefully, even happily.
        The trouble was that Margaret Hefler was laying on the floor. Aren’t people supposed to float quietly away while asleep in bed? The good news was that there was no blood or any other fluids on the floor, though there was what looked like a coffee stain that ran down the front of her robe. She hadn’t been shot. She hadn’t tripped and cracked her head open.
        It could have been simple and peaceful. Her face didn’t look peaceful, however. Who dies peacefully with their eyes open?


        The four of them decided to stay. Darlene’s words had convinced them. Margaret Hefler had been a respectable and respectful old lady. She’d made them all cakes and pies and breads and biscuits when they’d come to the neighborhood. She had preceded all of them. There were two things about Margaret Hefler that everyone knew. She loved to bake and she loved her tea.
        She had shared enough with them over the years that they could share a little of their time with her at the only time that she’d ever really needed it.
         “She seemed to be in such good health,” Hema said with a heavy tone. Her voice was always so light, so upbeat.
        Percy turned his neck stiffly toward the body. “Do you think it was her ticker?”
         “Maybe I shouldn’t say this,” Darlene started.
        That was exactly the phrase to grab everyone’s attention.
         “Doesn’t this all seem odd? Doesn’t anyone think that maybe …”
        Percy perked up. He tried to hide it, but there was a bit of a smile on his face.
         “You think that there’s something foul here?”
        Darlene immediately went to defending herself. “Well, I don’t know about that, but she’d been having problems with Mrs. Darden down the street ever since she accused Margaret of adding dog hair to her biscuits.”
        They all felt uncomfortable. They’d all eaten those biscuits.
        Hema said, “Everybody knows that was all nonsense. I don’t think Margaret even gave it a second thought.”
         “Well,” Percy shrugged. “Faye Darden could hold a grudge like a camel.”
        The women looked at him.
         “Like a camel?” Hema asked.
         “Yeah, well, I’ll tell you that story at another time. If you want my opinion, that woman is capable of anything. They say she killed her first two husbands. But she’s as old as Margaret and it is three o’clock in the morning. I just don’t see her coming down here in the middle of the night.”
        As Percy spoke, he took chairs from the kitchen and positioned them near Margaret Hefler’s body so that they could sit down. Shay went to the old woman’s favorite chair and bent over to examine something. Her backside poked out at the rest of them.
        Darlene shivered. “All I can say is that something is not right, though I can’t quite put my finger on it. Why was she awake so early?”
         “It must have been the thunder,” Hema said. “It could wake anyone up.”
         “Margaret Hefler was as deaf as a doorknob,” Percy volunteered.
        ”Oh,” Hema tilted her head. “Perhaps that’s why she always seemed so rude in conversation.”
         “You know something?”
        Shay interupted the other’s new topic of discussion. Margaret Hefler did have a tendency toward over-talking people and staring blankly at them for extended periods of time. That was all a part of aging, they thought. Hearing loss, poor conversation, rudeness—they thought it was all just a part of aging.
        Shay called their attention to something else. She was standing straight again, but she was still there next to Margaret Hefler’s favorite chair.
         “Maybe the truth is in the dregs,” she said.
        Darlene looked startled. Hema chuckled. Percy frowned.
         “Dregs? What are dregs?”
        Darlene gave him a look as if to say, “Silly man.”
         “Dregs are the silt that remains in the bottom of your cup after a hot drink, like tea,” Hema explained.
        Percy nodded, then frowned again.
         “Do you think her tea has something to do with this?”
        Shay pursed her lips. “Mrs. Hefler was a tea-lover like no other, wasn’t she?”
         “Oh yes,” Darlene said and she gave a fond smile. “She went through pots of tea every day. She must have had a bladder made of steel.”
         “So, could her tea have killed her?” Hema asked doubtfully.
         “I wouldn’t think so,” Percy answered.
         “No,” Shay said, “I wouldn’t either. It’s just that she was such a tea-lover that it makes me wonder why there are coffee grounds in her cup.”

Thank you for reading!

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These stories are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2017 Frye Martin