The Nose

Writing Prompts: General Fiction

(Coffee is illegal and you have to single handedly smuggle it into the country.)

I was exhausted, discouraged, ready to quit. How could coffee be important enough for anyone–me!–to risk everything to get it from the plantations in South America to the voracious coffee appetites north of Mexico?

Inside the Colombian Coffee Plantation That's Run Entirely on Water -  Comunicaffe International
The plantations are amazing. Hardworking people, and the plants smell wonderful!

I didn’t carry it myself. Part of my job was to find and train carriers, whose reward would be to stay in America, if they wished. If not, they were paid well for their efforts, and some of them became quite wealthy. Others died.

Coffee became illegal in America back in the late 21st century, when the countries that produced it were found to be creating inferior beans, but charging a huge tariff, which of course resulted in outrageous high prices for consumers. So it was only natural that a black market would develop. What wasn’t natural at all is that I would become a part of it! I’m not adventurous, or brave, or addicted to coffee. Nor was I born with criminal tendencies.

I am, however, gifted with a nose that can’t be rivaled. I can tell whether a coffee bean on the bush is of poor, good, or excellent quality, just by the smell. You may wonder about that, because unroasted beans typically don’t have much of a smell–except to me. I don’t know why. It just is, and it is that “gift” that landed me smack in the middle of the coffee smuggling business.

Could I quit? Don’t think I haven’t tried to figure that out! But we live in a high-tech world of Big Brother, what with cameras and drones and microphones and all that, never mind the nearly invisible chip that all babies receive upon birth. We can run, as people used to say, but we can’t hide. Can’t even remove the chip, because it’s embedded in our brains. I’d love to have a chat with the evil genius who figured that one out.

I was not the CEO of the outfit I worked for. I was actually considered a necessary evil, because I didn’t like the work and I made sure everyone knew it. I had to travel all over, anywhere coffee was grown. Africa, South America, and Central America mostly. It was interesting, but terrifying to me because I HATE snaky places! Too bad they can’t grow coffee in the Arctic Circle! ‘Course, I’m not real crazy about frostbite either. Sigh.

So. I keep a go-bag packed and ready whenever the call comes in that I have an e-ticket waiting at such and such an airline, landing in such and such a place to go inspect the new bean harvests before they are either roasted or sent green to other handlers. I was also expected to be on the lookout for new talent, because everyone knew I wouldn’t live forever. It wasn’t going to be easy to replace my nose!

I’d met a lot of delightful people over the years. The ones I enjoyed most were the ones who worked the hardest. Planting, cultivating, guarding against disease and pests. I’lll never forget the woman who could catch a bug on the fly and squash it between her thumb and pointer, shake it off and find another one. All day. Good grief.

I hate locating a grower who’s tampered with nature and created a poor quality bean. I have to report it, of course, and that grower will either destroy his entire crop or lose his life. Coffee smuggling is a cut-throat business. No mercy.

I wonder, sometimes, if people understood that their morning joe was so costly in terms of life and limb, if they’d just stop drinking it.

I know I have. It has a strong undertone of blood when it hits my tongue.


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