April 23, 2092
Judson was awakened by the deep voice of his phone: “Judson, your mother is calling.”
At first irritated, he responded, “Oh great!”
The phone spoke again, “Do you want me to take a message?”
Then Judson remembered what was happening – his grandfather, Papa, in the hospice facility. “No, I’ll talk to her.”
Papa was very ill, not expected to recover. Could this be that call?
No, it wasn’t. But the dying man was asking for Judson. He told his mother he would get there as soon as he could.
After showering, dressing, and eating a breakfast of Quiknute and coffee, Judson left his apartment and went to the parking garage. He entered his vehicle and gave driving instructions: “Comfort Hospice, south parking.” He relaxed in the seat and drank his coffee and waited to arrive at his destination.
Of course he thought about his grandfather. One hundred years old. Judson and Papa had always been close. Judson respected him – didn’t always understand him – but definitely respected him. More, deeper than that – loved him. And he had no doubt Papa loved Judson.
Arriving at the hospice, Judson went directly and quickly to the familiar room. His mother met him at the door and nudged him back into the hallway.
She said, “Judson, he’s got something on his mind. I don’t know what, but he wants to talk to you alone. Maybe he’s getting ready to pass.”
Curious and dreading, Judson re-entered the room and went to his grandfather’s bedside. His eyes were closed but he was probably awake. Judson lay his hand on the old man’s arm.
“Papa,” he said gently, “Papa, it’s me. You awake?”
Papa opened his eyes, formed a weak smile, and quietly spoke: “Glad to see ya, Judboy.” The nickname he had called his oldest grandson since he was an infant.
Judson smiled, “Hey, old boy, how you feeling?”
“Oh, not too bad. Won’t have to put up with this much longer, though.”
“Mom said you want to talk about something. I’m listening.”
“Judboy, I want you to get me some coffee.”
“Coffee? Okay. Now?”
“Yeah,” the dying man answered.
“Be right back.”
Judson left the room and found the snack station. He wasn’t sure how much coffee to get so he chose the largest serving available and instructed the beverage kiosk to dispense the Grande Coffee. The machine door opened and a gray colored 6-ounce cup appeared then was filled with the transparent tan liquid. The kiosk spoke in a soothing high-pitched voice: “Enjoy your coffee, Judson. It meets all standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Cultural Approval Institute.”
Judson chose the same for himself and carried the two room-temperature drinks to his grandfather’s room. He handed a cup to Papa. The old man looked at the coffee and handed it back to Judson.
“No,” he wearily said, “I want coffee. This is scam coffee. I want true coffee.”
Judson didn’t know what to think. He said, “Papa, this is coffee. It’s the only coffee there is.”
“No, it’s not coffee,” said his grandfather, “And it’s not all there is. I know it’s what we’ve been drinking and it’s been called coffee, but it’s not coffee. And it’s not all there is. Judboy, I want true coffee. Listen, go to your mom’s home. In the basement, there’s an old suitcase. It’s mine. It’s blue and orange. Find it, open it, bring me true coffee. Please.”
The young man thought his grandfather must be experiencing dementia. He left the room and found his mother. He told her what had transpired and asked, “Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?”
His mom thought a few moments and shook her head slowly and answered, “He does have an old suitcase in the basement. I don’t know. You may as well go get it.”
So Judson went to his mom’s home, rode the elevator to the basement, and asked the inventory kiosk for a blue and orange suitcase. The kiosk gave him specific directions for the location of the case then asked, “Would you like me to retrieve it for you, Judson?” He answered in the affirmative then the kiosk left and returned with the suitcase. Judson took it upstairs and opened it. He rummaged through old clothing until he found a massive strange-looking container – it must have held close to 16 ounces. To Judson’s amazement, the word “coffee” was written on the outside of the container, with the date “January, 2044.” Next to this container in the case was an even stranger looking object. Heavy black lettering spelled out “Coffee Maker. Follow these directions.” Judson was more than puzzled.
He took the “coffee” and “coffee maker” into the kitchen and began following the written directions. When he opened the “coffee” container he was overwhelmed by the astonishing fragrance. He put water in the “maker” then the amount of “coffee grounds” as directed and plugged the power cord into a wall outlet. He watched and listened to the “coffee maker” for several minutes. Suddenly it made a sharp shrill momentary sound he had never heard before, then nothing. Assuming the process was complete, Judson took a cup from his mom’s cabinet and poured. He was blown away. The “coffee” wasn’t a transparent tan liquid. It was almost black. And it was hot. He knew it was too hot for him to drink so he waited a couple of minutes, with astonished anticipation.
Finally, Judson lifted the cup of ancient beverage to his lips and took a tiny sip. Blown away again! Bold, rich, satisfying! This can’t be coffee! It’s what his grandfather called it – true coffee!
Judson quickly poured the rest of the true coffee into a beverage carrier. He got in his vehicle and instructed it to take him to Comfort Hospice, south parking. He wanted to drink with his grandfather but couldn’t wait. He poured another cup of true coffee and drank heartily.
But he was excited to take it to Papa. How long had it been since he drank true coffee? And why so long? Judson’s thoughts advanced. What is that stuff that we have been calling coffee? Why is it called coffee? Papa’s right – it’s scam coffee. But why? Why are they lying about it? Why are they scamming us?
Judson looked out the window of his vehicle at everything around. The check points. The armed sentries. The various units of students and workers being led to and from their assigned stations. The Safekeeping drones flying overhead. The digital street signs everywhere with constant scrolling messages: assurances of safety, invitations to government sponsored orgies and drug festivals, promises of prosperity, announcements of banishments, encouragements to flee your conscience, summons to no-limit entertainment. Gleaming government offices, educational centers, and theaters. Piles of rubble. Burned out buildings. Dead animals. Crashed and broken vehicles.
Then Judson was struck by a thought that had never entered his mind. A question he wondered if he should dare ask even in his own mind. He looked at the cup of true coffee in his hand and thought, “What else are they lying about?”