The coffee tasted expensive, not like the scalding watery mud you got at gas stations or donut shops. It was warm, dark, and when she swallowed it, the sides of the back of her tongue were left with a faint impression of chocolate and cinnamon. The beans were a perk from her job – her morning ritual was rooted in manually grinding them with an antique burr mill grinder she found at a flea market and cooking her coffee the Norwegian way, with an egg. Rain pounded the tin roof and swept down the double glazed plastic framed windows she had lifted from the trash bin behind a local home improvement warehouse. The firs and hemlocks she planted swayed in the wind outside, and her little house creaked. She started building the 400 square foot home on an abandoned lot purchased for $20,000, ten years earlier. It was hers in a way that money couldn’t buy. Her hands had touched every square inch of it, her hammer had pounded every nail.
Her connection to the outside world consisted of an old cloudbook and a high speed mobile data puck which she kept powered up on an array of 12 volt storage batteries connected to PV panels epoxied to the roof. The property was cordoned off by a rusting chain-link fence which made the lot look both forbidding and uninteresting. She kept the gate padlocked. No one ever bothered her here. She worked at a coffee roaster down the road which specialized in importing shade-grown beans from Nicaragua and roasting them for a number of expensive coffee shops in Portland. She liked her privacy and the solitude provided by living in this edge city.
She finished the coffee and a plastic cup of Greek yogurt, pulled on a pair of well worn jeans, and layered a wool sweater and breathable rain jacket over her t-shirt. The keys for her 30 year old Volvo 240 station wagon were in her backpack. She took them out, zipped up the backpack, pulled the door to the house shut behind her and threw the backpack on the passenger’s seat. The car groaned to life, its agricultural four cylinder engine still working well after untold hundreds of thousands of miles. The heater even still worked. She pulled out of her lot after unchaining the gate. There was no one on the road at four in the morning – it was an easy and automatic drive to the roasting company’s warehouse five miles down the road. The wipers whipped furiously back and forth, really not doing much other than churning up the water on the windshield. The rain was coming down terrifically hard, but that wasn’t a problem, it was a straight shot to work and she could still see the colors of the traffic lights.
Burt shouted at her from the gantry far up in the brightly lit space, “I see you made it in through the hurricane this morning! I thought that boat of yours might float away!”
“It would probably sink first!” She shouted back. “How’s Mel doing? I haven’t seen you since you got back from Vancouver!”
“She’s doing. Asleep right now, this weekend was rough. She had a terrible bout after the last round.”
“Give her my love!”
“Will do. See you in 30.”
Burt always stopped by her station after his receiving shift was over to say ‘hi’. She had known him and his wife for five years, and they were probably the nicest people she knew. Burt had been laid off his old job working at an engineering firm, and was so thankful to get this job, he had invited the entire company to his place for a pig roast every year since.