Is there a writer in u? Or are you in a mood to read some short interesting stories? Here's the Story Section for all tastes.

So you stop by the local java boutique on your way to work, expecting to grab a quick cup of coffee.

A dozen people form a line, and you decide to wait.

Big mistake.

At the counter, a woman places her order.

"Yes, I'll have the triple Vesuvius mocha yaka with two shots of caffeine-boosted truffle oil over a layer of powdered armadillo dust and a splash of French vitamin water," she says. "And I want the pineapple ring on the bottom, not the top."

The guy behind her, not to be outdone, puts in an order resembling a home mortgage.

"I need a Guatemala Jambalaya with organic dried prune musk and a layer of your low-cal frappa-latta marshmallow silk," he explains. "And make it a venti."

The smiling employee, stoked by four free cups before the sun came up, responds: "Would you like that with a dash of haggis?"

You get the picture.

Coffee no longer is coffee. The 25-cent cup of Joe at the corner restaurant died along with the Age of Reason. The caffeine jolt in the morning has been replaced by a complex biochemical reaction designed by the pharmaceutical industry.

Coffee no longer is a drink but a fashion statement that extends deep into the psyche and invades the wallet. Cut out your daily dose of shade-grown Ethiopian Sidamoko and you become a simpleton. You also discover an abundance of cash you never knew you had.

The modern cup of coffee is not so much poured and served but packaged and presented. It is not small, medium or large but tall, grande or venti. It is not sipped but absorbed. It is a rarified indulgence.

Like wine, coffee comes with its own terminology. A good cup can't simply be rich and satisfying but must hint of raspberry notes and floral aromas. It has a "mouth feel" and, of course, a lingering finish.

A vogue vessel of coffee also links its owner to exotic, equatorial locales. Hip and savvy, it comes with its own earthy sense of place, what the French call terroir.

All these things percolate in the morning coffee line, where the cash flow supports a well-roasted empire. People fall all over the Poison Dart Frog Mocha, get up extra early for an Eggnog Creme-de-Menthol, and are willing to pay a fortune for a cup of Komodo Dragon Drip. For sheer calorie count, nothing beats the Sand-Blasted Arabian Bean Supreme.

But what of the poor stiff who just wants a traditional, unadorned cup of coffee?

You endure the fuss, foreign names and hydraulic machines that sound like the Blue Angels taking off.

You watch employees hover over a single order as if giving it birth, writing the customer's name on the side of a cup, insulating it with corrugated cardboard, then calling its owner to come fetch the pampered product.

Then, when your turn arrives, you sheepishly place your order, defying all that is modern and stylish and trendy.

"I'll just have a small cup of the house blend," you say.

The woman behind the counter responds with a blank stare.

"Sorry," she says. "We haven't made that in a while. Can you wait until we put on a pot?"

Sure, why not. After all, it's only coffee. :)

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