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New Years Babies


The possibly true story of Juan Valdez

Romancing the Bean 
A Series Of Short Stories

By J. B. Blocker

the Caffeine Cowboy
  In a little over 1000 years, coffee has been elevated to the second most traded commodity after oil and the most prepared beverage in the world. 
  From Kaldi the goat herder who is credited to have discovered coffees kick, to the French Lieutenant who brought it to the New World, stories abound.
   I’ve got a long list of these stories if you’re interested. Most of them are true! At least parts of them are!
   The story I am about to share may or may not be true. No matter, it is close to my heart and carries a modern day lesson somewhere inside.

   Our story begins on a New Year’s Eve. In a small community hospital in South Texas, two young couples await their firstborns. All the while the hospital staff anxiously anticipate the race for the first birth of the New Year. Two expectant fathers pace into the midnight hour. As the town clocks strokes of midnight end and the New Year begins, simultaneous declarations of triumph announce two births!
   It is a tie! For the hospital and even the state of Texas, the firstborn pair of the new year are named Juan and Josephine. 

  The cherubic Josie captivated every eye. Her thick raven hair was a halo surrounding an angelic face with smiling rosy lips, large dancing eyes, and creamy white skin.
  The boy would be christened Juan. With big brown eyes and eyelashes too long to be fair, he won the heart of his nurses with his first burp, wrongly diagnosed as a smile.
  The proud parents were effectively bound by the shared birth of their first born jewels. As if fate had not already joined the two infants, the hospital staff completed the bonding by declaring them to be symbols of the time and the community itself. These two beautiful children were born for each other!

   Josie and Juan’s parents became fast friends as their children learned to crawl and then to walk. They bathed, diapered, potty-trained, and grew together.
  As time passed, they remained an inseparable pair. If one was missing, the other was sought. Their mutual reliance and comfort grew with them. Juan bravely disposed of insects and frogs, while Josie remembered the important things such as homework and when it was due.
  When teenagers wore each others bracelets, Josie wore Juan’s. When first kisses were being considered, who was never in question? They were christened together and graduated from each school together. They had been facing each and every cross road and challenge of their young lives...together.
  Their engagement was no less a surprise than the timing of it. They would receive their high school diplomas and be remembered as the couple who had it all. Josie was easily the Valedictorian, and Juan admitted that he was Salutatorian by association. She made him want to be great! On the day following their graduation, they entered the adult world as man and wife!  The New Year prediction seemed to have been fulfilled.
  Their union was inevitable for our two young lovers. They were all they knew, and all they needed to face adulthood.

COLOMBIAN COFFEE?

  Juan took his place in the family business. For generations his forefathers had operated the Twenty Mule Team Transportation Company. His father had moved to America to open the distribution for his families Colombian grown coffee. Juan would begin traveling to the mountains of his Colombian cousins to help oversee the families coffee interest.
  He had been looking forward to studying the production aspect of coffee after harvest. He would now not only learn the methods of harvesting, but also cleaning, drying, and grading.  This greatly interested Juan, but his main responsibility was to bring the coffee efficiently from the remote plantations to the loading docks.
  The adventurous Juan would often act as a mule team driver delivering the harvest from the more remote areas. His family bought coffee from dozens of other small plantations scattered throughout the mountain ranges and then prepared them at their own plant. This was all important to the chain of supply and demand.
  The young lovers both knew that Juan would eventually become the head of a giant of the coffee industry. “I might even flood the United States with Colombian coffee!” he teased.
  Josie enrolled at the local university and began studying for a Business and International Law degree with a purpose. They would be a team in all they pursued. While Juan was learning his part, she would be legal counsel he could trust.
  She had kept a part-time job working with her mother as a clerk at the county courthouse while she attended university. Everyone loved and adored her, so she had plenty of friends and family around her when Juan would make the trips to Colombia that often lasted weeks.

  Every morning that they were together, Juan and Josie shared a pot of Juan’s Special Blend on the verandah of their little stone cottage home with a glorious view of the Rio Grande valley. His great grandparents on his mother’s side had built this love nest for their first home many years ago. They loved to welcome each new dawn in the light of their love and the morning sun. 
  They contemplated their future as they viewed the orchards that separated their home from the 17th century mission chapel on the edge of Juan’s family ranch.
  There was an elegantly conceived and beautifully manicured cemetery at the foot of the hill behind the mission where Juan’s ancestors were laid to rest. It was sheltered under giant oaks and scattered about were all sizes of willows that had been planted at the head of each grave.  Some were as young as the most recent family death and many were older than memory. As the family legend was told, ‘The willows do not weep; they are just waiting to dance’.
  The true beauty of the willows was the way they danced with the wind as it passed through the graveyard. It was as if the spirits came to life. The garden was dressed and maintained with love and respect. Pathways of stones and flowers led to the chapel and on to the Hacienda where Juan’s parents still lived. Our newlyweds knew that the only thing that would ever separate them would be the grave, and even that would be comfortingly nearby.

  Over the next five years, Juan stayed in Columbia longer and more often. Josie hardly ever complained but she didn’t really like his new friends who now flew Juan in and out on their private jets. The volume of coffee shipments had skyrocketed, making Twenty Mule Team a shipping giant. Juan now wore silk shirts and gold necklaces.  He smoked fat cigars from Cuba and drank expensive scotch and he occasionally required her to attend luxury diners with the wives of his new found friends. Suspicions began to invade her uncomfortable visions of life with an international playboy as she laughingly began to refer to him. 

  Josie had never thought past a life without Juan, but they had grown apart in many ways.  She didn’t quite trust everything he told her anymore, yet he was always good to her.  She had begun to search for spiritual liberation. Even so, that liberation came reluctantly and slowly. She had never known or even thought of what she might be missing. She never questioned love, or love making, or even their coffee!
  Juan’s sudden and tragic demise came with some mystery that was never to be fully determined.

  Somewhere in Colombia, Juan had become lost in the remote mountain-grown regions. By the time he was found, he was weak and burned by the roasting sun. Juan could only leave a dying message of eternal love to be delivered to Josie along with his body.
  Josie could not be consoled over Juan’s questionable death. She became numb and fully expected to never feel again.
  The support of her mother and friends provided her the strength to keep her job at the court house. Everyone thought that they understood her grieving soul, but how could they. Her only comfort was the nearness of the cemetery and the view of the chapel with its steeple as she sat on the verandah of her cottage.
  Every morning, the young widow prepared a single cup of Juan’s special blend and sat on the porch that faced Juan’s resting place. She recalled past mornings with her only love and swore that there could never be another. Her memories were not as rich and deep, yet she found comfort in them.
  Every evening, she quietly sipped her coffee on their verandah and prayed to Juan’s spirit, “Oh Juan, no one can take your place.”
  Over two years had passed with Josie still in mourning. Was she mourning something missing from her life, or was she still mourning Juan?  By now she had become a project for her family and friends.  Her mother knew she must help her oldest child break the monotony that had become her life. She had to get out, taste life, go out with friends, and perhaps date! Her sisters would help. Everyone would!

Getting Over It
  Josie was still a young woman of exceptional beauty. Many potential suitors had been rejected without the least consideration. She was certain that she had experienced the greatest of loves with Juan.
  Even, Juan’s family began to urge Josie to rediscover herself and explore the possibilities. They had dealt with their own grief and pain and had moved on. She should do the same.
 
  The newly elected Sheriff, J.B., was an old family friend. He had been a faithful deputy for many years and had just won his election to replace his mentor by a landslide. He was very popular and everyone considered him to be a symbol of leadership in their community. He had also long been an admirer of Josie since their days in school.
  But her heart had always belonged to Juan, and J.B. respected that. Even so, it didn’t take a lot of encouragement from well-meaning friends and family to spur an interest in pursuing her. The county courthouse buzzed with free-flowing conversations full of good intentions and plenty of advice.
  “Take her to a dance! Take her to the county fair! Become a catholic! What about a nice dinner or movie? Act man! This girl is a prize!” expressed all the well-wishers.
  The retired Sheriff and J.B.’s most trusted friend reassured him. “All she really knows of men is Juan. Go charm her. She can’t really know what she’s been missing. I never liked that SOB and I’m sure he was up to no good.”
  Josie’s mother saw the possibilities and joined the others with her own little hints for the new sheriff.
  “The new movie!” she proposed. She knew that her daughter really wanted to see it. “Josephine shouldn’t have to see it alone! She always goes by herself! Just ask her to go.  ‘As a friend’!”
  And so, he did.
  The movie was one that deserved reviewing over dinner. The pleasant evening led to another movie and then a Z.Z.Top/Stevie Ray Vaughn concert in nearby El Paso. That one took a lot of urging! Following cautiously behind came more frequent outings and a growing friendship.
  Josie’s routine really didn’t change too much. She still mused and reminisced every morning over her one cup of coffee that she now barely tasted. If anything, she was beginning to think that she didn’t really like it that much. It seemed to taste as empty as her life. The little teasing of aroma with not much real flavor no longer masked the stale aftertaste. Still, Josie said her prayers each night as she faced the cemetery from her verandah. “Oh, Juan, you were so magnificent. How could another ever replace you?’
  She thought about J.B., but how could he compare?  It really wasn’t fair to him. The morning and evening coffee with Juan’s memory would never change. Even if no one else understood, she had never shared herself with another.
 
  One evening, the movie had been romantic. The wine at dinner had been worthy of a second glass and then a third. As the pair reached Josie’s cottage home, decisions were not being made, but options were being entertained from both sides. For the first time, Josie allowed herself to be kissed by another man. She softly participated.
  J.B. wanted to stay a little longer. He couldn’t bear to leave her again. It was a glorious Texas night with the moon and stars as clear as his mood and his mind. “Maybe we could just sit and talk a while on the verandah and have a cup of coffee.” he hinted.
  He knew this was a big step for Josie. He had even brought his own coffee blend!
 The sheriff was no fool. He knew of Josie’s twice daily coffee ritual and frankly, had never much cared for the coffee blend Juan’s family had made famous.  He had been experimenting with a home micro-roaster.  He seemed to have a real knack for roasting and blending and was very enthusiastic about his new hobby.
  While our Romeo sat on the patio, the young widow solemnly prepared J.B.’s coffee for two. “Oh, Juan, I am so lonely, and you are never coming back!  Please forgive me!” she prayed as she prepared a pot of coffee. 
  The aroma of the coffee was intoxicating and complex. Josie’s senses seemed to come alive! She didn’t remember coffee smelling so good! A whirlwind of confusion swirled into her thoughts and feelings along with the steaming vibrant brew.
 I don’t know the extent of the intimacy that followed that evening, but we can guess. You see, coffee for two was served the next morning.
  Oh, and she is no longer JosieValdez!
- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962. Email: jbnorthtexas@gmail.com 

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