One of Cupid’s Casualties by Charles C Cole

One of Cupid’s Casualties
Charles C Cole

I stepped inside the bustling java joint for an early wake-up jolt. Large mirrors on the walls made the place seem like a carnival funhouse for pouty mommas’ boys on their way to the first day of their first grown-up job.

An attractive female barista attended the needy. I was in the back, waiting my turn. I knew all about lines, having ignored protocol now and again. The barista stared at me! Had I once left without paying? Had I complained about the service? Had Calendula been complaining about me?

Perhaps the fedora gave me away. It had belonged to my father, a cop who’d died in the line of duty before I was old enough to understand what duty was. In other words, it was the closest thing I had to a uniform. It should surprise nobody that my ex had once nicknamed me “Hat.”

I backed out: I wasn’t caffeinated enough to patiently stand in a long line for coffee. I retreated with the intent of returning when there was a lull, as if there was ever a lull. Let’s just say, sometimes people bothered me. I had come to that point in my career where I was more comfortable around a roomful of anxious exotics, with their needs on their sleeves, than around my fellow humans, often twitchy and inscrutable.

I wondered what the city would be like if the roles were reversed, if humans were the minority and exotics came up with standard practices. Would ingesting coffee and sugar products still be a thing or would humans crave a pocketful of “worry crystals” and sage cigarettes.

I’d gotten half a block when a female voice called out from behind me: “You in the hat! Mr. Two Extra-large, stop already!” It was the barista. She had escaped! And with an order!

Did I do something wrong?”

Detective Avery. That’s your name, right?” A prospective client? What was really in those cups?

Call me Joe.”

These are for you.” She had my coffee in her hands, my daily grind, even though I’d never made it to the counter! Was this some new form of telepathic folklore creature?

I never ordered them.”

You would have.” She handed me the order. Something primal stirred where my stomach was supposed to be. Her badge said “Cassie,” as in Cupid’s former flame.

I’m confused. Did Calendula, the rosebush lady, call you and tell you I was coming? Or is something else happening here?”

I haven’t seen her today,” said Cassie. “That’s why I figured you came for yourself.”

She’s out. An issue with her roots.”

Poor dear!” said Cassie, and she sounded sincere. “She’s one of the good ones. She talks about you. A lot. And the hat. And what you do for your clients, the exotics. I’m not an exotic but I have friends who are.” A kindred soul. Relief.

Me, too. More and more,” I said. “Don’t you have to get back?”

I wanted to ask: Do you know Cupid?”

I nodded, careful not to get in too deep. “He’s been a client once or twice.”

Did he really make me fall in love with him? Did he tell you? Isn’t that against the rules?”

I don’t know the rules; I’m just plain ol’ human, like you. But, for what it’s worth, he told me he’d never done it before. It’s just that he fell so hard for you.”

Guys do that all the time, just because I look in their eyes, make them a fresh cup of coffee and smile at them. That’s called good customer service.”

True. But imagine being Cupid, seeing what love can do, the damage it can cause when it goes off the rails. I don’t know why he responded, why he thought there was more going on. I’ll bet he’d never been so scared in his life! He tried to make it a sure thing, no risks, but it was still too much for him, too close to home.”

Tell him: he didn’t need magic,” said Cassie, “that I’d noticed him. He was charming without being over the top. Different without being eccentric. Pleasant without being oily. Tell him I’m hurt that I wasn’t worth wooing the old-fashioned way, but I forgive him. I was mad for a bit, but it’s okay to come back. He doesn’t have to hide.”

Every once in a while, I meet an exceptional human who wends her way through our chaotic, gimme-mine society with dignity, grace, and an altruistic core. Why can’t people see a perfect role model when she’s standing right in front of them?

For just a moment, our eyes locked. And I thought: Cupid, don’t you dare! Cassie must have thought the same thing because she snapped to attention: calm and professional, order delivered, message received, back to headquarters on the double before there’s a riot of unruly men-babies.

I’ll pass the word along, Cassie,” I said. “Anything else? How do I pay you for the coffee?”

The rosebush lady and I have an arrangement; you’re covered.”

You’re more than that coffee-and-bagel boutique deserves, you know that. You give me faith in the human race. That’s a rare magic I don’t see often, and I see magic every day. I apologize for not doing more to stop Cupid. I like him, but he’s got a scary power that I hope he never uses on me. I don’t know what makes him tick. It must be a heck of a temptation. I don’t know how he manages it. But I know I couldn’t do what he does.” Truer words were never spoken.

One of Cupid’s Casualties by Charles C Cole 1

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