Decorticate

On days like these she closed her eyes and let the warm scent of spring carry her back to the porch by the pecan trees, where she would half read, half daydream while her brother decorticated pecans with a pen knife like a Old West surgeon extracting bullets from a cowboy’s thigh. Spring in New York was lovely, but it was a lifetime away from those evenings in the New West, and sometimes she sat on the train into the office, half reading, half daydreaming about retiring early, getting out of this post-modern Dodge and retreating to the pecan trees.

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Franklin suffered from the anxieties of being an unusual find among the baristas who worked behind the counter at Delcy’s cafe. It wasn’t that he was the only guy who knew how to operate an espresso machine or that he possessed a unique capacity to make milk foam just the way demanded by the 8:07 regular, Daphne, a large woman with a yappy terrier and dangly silver earrings that sloshed against her jaw bone as she pursed her lips and nodded her head absentmindedly while she waited for her medium decaf low fat latte. It also wasn’t his knack for anticipating customer’s pastry requests, although he prided himself on his ability to guess who might pair a chocolate croissant with tea or with coffee.

Rather, Franklin obsessed over the correct spelling of each customer’s name, worrying constantly that he had misheard a spelling passed, usually whispered or mumbled, over the low counter, garbled by the sound of the espresso machine or the steamer. Franklin saw each paper cup as an imprint of a personality, a reflection of an individual character, and so as he moved to put down the letters in black Sharpie his body sometimes literally convulsed when he had to muddle through the spelling of Stephanie or Lindsey or Stephen on his own, clinging to the hope that the spelling he adhibited on the curved surface of the cup would not deviate from whatever common or unusual spelling the customer possessed.