by Scott Macmann
Aron opened the file cabinet next to his desk, and retrieved the tarnished red coffee can. Holding it close to his nose, he pulled back on the plastic lid to take a deep breath of the strong Arabic roast coffee.
“You smell wonderful,” he said.
Three desks away, a chortle erupted from Jake Kuna. “He’s talking to his coffee can again.”
Aron frowned. Once more, he inhaled the heavy oil-laden scents of faraway places, sighed, and closed the lid. Charlatan. That man knew nothing of coffee. He drank the floor sweepings from the break room coffee machine, and knew no better. He was scum.
With a firm metallic clank, he set the can down on his desk, and stood.
Aron was not tall. With dark eyes, dark hair, and a slight build, he presented an unthreatening appearance.
“Jake Kuna.” He turned to face his persecutor.
Kuna leaned back in his swivel office chair. His smirk transitioned to a broad smile before returning to a smirk. In his hand, he held a steaming cup of swill that the corporation called coffee. It rested on his belly.
“Ooh. What’s wrong, Aron? What’s the coffee can saying?” He laughed and tilted his head to a pair of coworkers standing off to the side. “With my luck, it’s probably telling him to kill us all.”
Aron took several slow, steady steps toward Jake.
A female from another row of cubicles spoke out. “Jake, don’t talk like that. You’re scaring me.”
Jake Kuna laughed again. “Don’t anybody worry. Old Aron here is as sweet as a fly, ain’t you? Just because your best friend is a coffee can. Nothing weird about that.”
Some laughs tittered around the area.
Aron fixed his gaze on Jake. Looked him straight in the eye. “Don’t speak of what you don’t know. I’ve tired of your harassment.”
The smile faded from Jake’s face. He sat upright, and took a drink from his swill. “Mm. Excellent coffee, Aron. If it wasn’t such a good cup of java, I might take offense at the word harassment.”
Aron stared back at him.
“We’re just having a good time. We all want to have a workplace that is fun and relaxed.” Jake stood and towered over Aron. “Maybe you need to take a walk before something happens that isn’t so fun and relaxing.”
Aron stood his ground. “You need to mind your own business.”
Two sets of hands and arms looped around his elbows from behind. “Come on, Aron. We’re going to the cafeteria.” They pulled him away from the triumphant Jake Kuna, who stood in the middle of the aisle pounding his chest and barking. A small group laughed and cheered.
Aron’s coworkers dumped him at the elevators like a bag of beans, and headed for the parking garage with their whispers and giggles. For a moment, he debated a quick visit to the vending machines for some stale-dated sandwich lost and forgotten long ago. Dented. Dust covered. Left in a dark corner of a dim side street, far from the babble of cabs and camels.
How much for this old can? This can that hums at me. That vibrates in my hands. That smells of heaven.
No. Nothing needed from the corporate cafeteria. Aron spun on his heel.
Seeing the door to the restroom, urination seemed sensible to avoid an inefficient extra trip later. But inside the men’s toilet, the laughter stopped when they saw him.
Jake Kuna had turned the entire building against Aron.
Kuna. A man more stupid than any other, more incompetent than any other, and louder than any other. He inserted himself into every situation and conversation. Aron had been at the corporation longer but they pushed him aside to make way for the brash one.
Aron flushed the urinal, and washed his hands. Water in his cupped hands. Added soap. Rinsed. Added soap again. Rinsed again. Added soap once more. Rinsed one last time.
He dried his hands with the no touch dryer.
No point delaying the inevitable. He would return to face that man. Aron would not be dissuaded or diverted again.
Yet Jake Kuna was not at his desk. Damn the man. It was a deliberate act upon his part.
Three steps away from his own desk and chair, a tingling sensation swept through him. He stopped in his tracks.
Someone had moved his chair into the aisle.
Eyes widening, perspiration soaked his shirt.
Someone had taken his red coffee can.
He lifted the keyboard. Not underneath.
It wasn’t on the floor.
Tightness gripped his chest. Not someone. No. Jake Kuna. That evil swine. None other would do this.
Where could he be hiding?
Watching and laughing from one of the huddle rooms? From the break room?
Aron rushed to the rescue. He would not be dissuaded or diverted again.
He skittered around the corner into the break room, and came to a full stop.
Jake Kuna lay face down on the tiles in a large pool of coffee, and a small pool of blood. On the counter sat the red coffee can, and next to it the lid.
Next to the lid was Aron’s Djinn, who wiggled his fingers at him.
Oh shit. Outside the break room, the office was typical early afternoon quiet. That wouldn’t last.
He moved further into the room. “What are you doing?” His voice was a hiss.
The Djinn allowed a quick grin, and shrugged toward the can. “He let me out.”
Aron took a careful step around the body, and grabbed the can and lid. “Get back in.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I’m not saying you did anything. Get in the can.”
“You don’t have to say it.” The Djinn pouted. “I didn’t hurt him. I surprised him. He slipped.”
“Look, I don’t care how it happened. You’ve got to get in the can. Now, before someone sees you.”
“Big fatso. Not surprised he slipped.”
“Oh, my God. We can discuss this tonight. Get in the can.”
“Yes, yes, tonight. Get in the can.”
The Djinn paused. “I don’t want to.”
Aron reddened. “I don’t have time for this.”
“You always say we’re going to talk but we never do. You just sniff me. Strange, you know.”
“I swear, we’ll talk. And I won’t sniff you.”
“I didn’t say I don’t like it. But it is strange.”
Aron held the open can out. “Get in now.”
“Take me to the movies.”
“You never take me anywhere. I want to go to the movies.”
Aron smacked his head with his hand.
The Djinn rose from its spot. “Don’t do that, Aron. You’ll hurt yourself.”
Aron felt hope. “I’ll take you to the movies this weekend. I promise.”
His Djinn smiled. “You’re the best. And can we stop for coffee afterwards?”
“Djinn, of course.” He inhaled once more the heady aroma. “You know I love coffee.”
A Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Scott Macmann spent fifteen years in the infantry and military intelligence helping win the Cold War before he’d had enough. Today his quiet life includes writing fiction, local writer groups, and helping others learn more about the writing craft. On occasion, he has been touched by the muse. Scott has one published novel. Find out more here.